This article is intended to highlight:

  • The urgent need for project schedulers
  • The proper use of project schedules as a project management tool
  • The important role project schedulers (skilled project team members) play in supporting projects from initiation through completion

In recent years, projects have become increasingly more complex, dynamic and costly undertakings for both small and large organizations. As a result, detailed project schedules are needed (more than ever) for planning and detailing the scope of work into smaller, more manageable components for effective and efficient project management. Nonetheless, the concept of project scheduling and proper use of project schedules have not received recognition for their positive impact on increasing project success. The lack of visibility and adequate knowledge of the proper uses of project schedules—as a project management tool for workload and resource planning—has left an unnoticeable gap in the lifecycle of projects, programs and portfolios. It’s not surprising to find a number of project, program and portfolio managers with very basic to no knowledge in project scheduling. Managers with such limited understanding miss out on the true essence of scheduling by repetitively confusing project schedules with project timelines or project roadmaps. The bottom line is that a project schedule is not synonymous with a timeline or roadmap and should not be used interchangeably or misinterpreted in the project management profession. 

In reality, an experienced project scheduler is the only team member who is well-equipped to use a schedule as a day-to-day project management tool that supports project leadership in guaranteeing the completion of project and program activities on time, on budget and with acceptable quality.

Experienced project schedulers are like ninjas. They develop, manage and maintain detailed project schedules with precision and ease. They view project scheduling as an art and science because it involves both creativity and systematically organized sets of knowledge and principles. After they’ve mastered the craft, they use a combination of advanced scheduling techniques and dexterity to create dynamic schedules that can be used to manage project:

  • Deliverables 
  • Activities
  • Milestones
  • Deadlines
  • Risks
  • Stakeholder Communications 
  • Stakeholder Expectations
  • Performance 
  • Reporting
  • And More

At this point, you may be wondering why project scheduling and the role of project schedulers are still emerging as opposed to being well-established entities within the project management profession. You may even be asking yourself:

  • What is a project or program schedule?
  • What is project scheduling?
  • How can a project schedule be used as a project management tool for complex projects and programs?
  • Who is a project scheduler and what is his/her specific role on a project team?
  • How does one become a project scheduler? 
  • Are textbooks, YouTube videos or self-directed online training courses sufficient learning tools to become a project scheduler?
  • Is there a one-stop-shop that houses various pieces of information about project scheduling that can be used to help someone become a savvy project scheduler?

Project Schedulers vs. Project Managers Project schedulers are solid backbones of every project. Yet, there is an imbalance between active projects, qualified project managers and experienced project schedulers across many projects. One full-time project manager is no longer sufficient to manage all the complexities, dynamics and demands of a project or program. The significantly lower number of project schedulers, in comparison to project managers, requires urgent attention to further improve project success rates. Augmented support is also required in schedule management, resource management, scope management, quality management, risk management and stakeholder engagement. This is where project schedulers fill the gap. When you think about the ratio of project managers to project schedulers, again, you may ask yourself:

  • Why is there such an imbalance across multiple projects in today’s global environment?
  • What other factors could have led to this imbalance?
  • Could it be that project management training programs and modules, including PMP certification materials, lack adequate learning objectives on how to use project schedules as a tool in project and program management?
  • Could it be a lack of hands-on, real-life scenario training with experienced project scheduling experts and instructors?
  • Could this be a result of a missing instructor who has extensive knowledge and years of practical, real-life experience in both project management and schedule management? The answer is probably Yes!

Who is the Missing Instructor? He is a certified project manager with a strong passion for project scheduling and schedule management. He has several years of practical, real-life experience using Microsoft Project to develop and manage project schedules for multi-year, multi-phase projects and programs with complex dependencies, deliverables and deadlines. His goal is to train as many project schedulers as possible, using real-life experience and scenarios to help bridge the gap and balance the number of project managers and project schedulers.  Stay tuned for upcoming posts to learn more about the missing instructor , gain additional insight into project scheduling and answers to questions you might have from reading this article. References: Lewis, C. & Caliste, A. L. E. (2010). Scheduling is now a career: what you need to know. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2010—North America, Washington, DC. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. Pulse of the Profession 2017 (2017) PMBOK® Guide – Sixth Edition (2017)