How to Create and Manage your Project Timeline

June 1, 2021

Companies choose to outsource software development because of the significant cost reduction. Along with this reason, this strategy is more about utilising the top engineering talent and most effective technologies. Even with these benefits, there is always the challenge to ensure that the developers finish your project within the timeline.

It is imperative to get an insight into the outsourcing partner’s delivery processes so that you can offer your clients their expected high-quality results. You must assign your project leader or manager for collaborating with the outsourcing team. Your project leader’s primary task is to keep outsourced, especially internationally outsourced, projects on budget and track, thus ensuring project delivery is done on time. The manager is responsible to help the outsource team to understand your business goals and plan a project management timeline.

Project management timeline

A project timeline is a sequential or progressive breakdown of all the tasks and subtasks that need to be finished to complete any project. This timeline marks the beginning and end of your project. The project manager or leader is the one who manages the project and is accountable to adhere to this timeline.

Here’s a step-by-step example to help you create a project timeline. These 6 steps will teach you how to build project timelines that will put you in charge to ensure the project’s timely delivery.

1. Form your project brief (goals, time frame and dependencies)

The project brief acts as the roadmap that explains everything about the project from goals to risks. It is necessary to keep all the project stakeholders aligned with the plan. Here are some questions you must answer in your brief-

  • What is the time frame expected for the completion of the project?
  • What are your goals for the project?
  • Which external and internal stakeholders are a part of the project?
  • What are the roles of these stakeholders?
  • What can be defined as key milestones for this project?

Once you have your project brief and goals outlined, you can start creating a project timeline.

2. Catalogue all of the steps you need to complete your project

You need to create a list of all the tasks and subtasks throughout the project planning process till the final delivery. Divide the project into both big and small steps. Any task that aids in completing the project on time and within the budget should be included in the list. At this stage, do not worry about the order of the steps that come later.

3. Allocate the amount of time each step of the project will take to complete

After you have compiled a comprehensive list of the steps involved in the project, you should estimate the time each step will take to complete. Avoid an unrealistic approach and provide your team with enough time to finish the task within your overall time frame. This step helps you to properly schedule and sequence each task to create a project timeline.

4. Figure out dependencies and sequence of steps

As you map out the steps of the project, you will realize some steps can be carried on simultaneously while some cannot begin until another step is finished. Therefore, some steps are dependent on others. This is precisely why a timeline is so important, it is needed to visualize each step and who is responsible for each step. You must have defined roles for everyone to avoid timing and resource conflicts which might lead to delays.

5. Draw your timeline using project management tools

A project management tool is better than the excel files or spreadsheets that we use daily. These tools are specifically designed to help manage your project. Not only does it reduce the time one has to invest in creating the timeline but allows you to continue managing your timeline after the project starts. With the right tool, your timeline will be incorporated into your underlying work and will always stay up to date.

6. Share it with all the project stakeholders

Once you have built your timeline, it is necessary to share it with everyone who is involved in the project. In Step 1 you had created a list of the major project stakeholders, sharing your plan with them will bring everyone in sync. Use a project management tool to make this process easier, quick and seamless.

Role of a Project Manager

The project management timeline is in the hands of your project manager and they have to make sure that all the processes and plans are being executed as per the timeline. Here are some tips to meet the outsourcing project timeline and have a smooth and timely project delivery-

Define realistic expectations

As an outsourcing company works on satisfying your expectations, this is the first and most important tip. You must have a calculative approach to set your goals according to the resources at hand instead of over expecting. Ensure to conduct thorough requirements and cost-benefit analysis before beginning the design and development of the software. If you neglect to do so, you are setting your customers and yourself up for disappointment. Realistic expectations will help you meet your deadlines, keep the project running on time and be aligned with your financial objectives. This will also reduce pressure on the outsourcing team and help you communicate effectively.

Active involvement at every step of the project

Since the project is yours, the timeline is also yours. Your project manager should constantly be involved at every step of the project instead of waiting at the other end for the outcome. They should be updated about all the developments so that they can effectively follow the project timeline. You can divide the project into several phases to facilitate reviews of each phase. The key to meeting the project timeline is the cooperation between your company and the outsourcing team, therefore you must review their work and communicate any changes and expectations.

Have clear communication

You must have heard so many people say that communication is paramount. It helps everyone to understand what’s going on. The project manager should be able to convey what your company needs your outsourcing partner to know about, like about your organisation, customers and procedures. This will allow your outsourcing team to get in sync with you. Lack of clarity by your company may give way to scope creep. It means the inclusion of additional features or functions of a new product, requirements, or work that is unauthorized. By devoting time to unapproved tasks, the project team wastes the original time and budget assigned to the project and the end product is not what was promised. Therefore, define clear communication channels. Avoid unmanaged contact between the client and the developer team.

Organise effective kick-off meetings

A kick-off meeting marks the beginning of the project or any phase of the project. It is the first meeting between the project team and the project stakeholder, who can either be external or internal. It is where the project manager assembles all important stakeholders including the sponsor, internal & external customers, and different groups who are assigned for the execution of the project. This helps to bring everyone to a common understanding. This is also a great opportunity to present the stakeholders with information to plan for a robust risk evaluation exercise on any foreseeable uncertainty.

Choose the correct tools for project management & tracking

You will need technology to keep a track of all the communications, approvals, updates, milestones, sprints, tasks, budgets and deadlines. There are a plethora of options of project management software available in the market for you. The right tools will make communication and collaboration easier between the stakeholder and the outsourcing team. This also allows you to conduct regular project checks where the leadership team reviews each project based on various guidelines. Project management and tracking enable all team members to be in sync about the progress of each project.

Benefits of a project management timeline

The 5 tips mentioned above will assist you in executing a clear and effective project management timeline. Once you have made the project management timeline, you can always go back to reassess and make changes according to your current project requirements. You will find planning a project management timeline beneficial in many ways. Some of the main benefits are-

  1. It helps to divide the project into phases, tasks and subtasks which gives clear directions and priorities.
  2. Everyone, both inside and outside the company, is in the loop at every stage of the project.
  3. Since every team member is assigned a specific task, there is accountability.
  4. The communication is kept clear regarding due dates, approvals, project details etc. Therefore, everyone is on the same page.
  5. A project management timeline helps the manager to keep an effective tab on the hourly employees and billing
  6. Improves resource management.

Outsourcing software development is a common practice today but it has its challenges. The above-mentioned 5 tips not only improve project delivery but also help to evaluate risks. All software development projects involve a deadline, therefore these tips will help you to save time, cost and increase revenue. In addition to the tips mentioned above, you must consider and treat the outsourcing team as your partner. As the stakeholder company, you need to be aware of the project delivery processes of your outsourcing partner. This enables you to function systematically and achieve your goals by overcoming hurdles or removing roadblocks between you and the potential vendor leaving no risk of not having your project delivered over time, over-budget, or of sub-par quality.

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