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Alternative methods for scheduling projects

Introduction

The main method approach for scheduling projects centres upon the use of Gantt Charts.  There are however alternative approaches. This paper examines some of the alternative approaches to project scheduling within the context of Project Management.

alternate  Approaches to project scheduling

Improved approach incorporating uncertainty in Bayesion networks

One of the pressing problems in the production of project scheduling is how to deal with the issue of uncertainty.  The use of Bayesian Networks is a recent approach to project scheduling that has been adapted for this purpose.  Uncertainty looking across variables like time, cost and resources for each activity.  Bayesian networks will deal with both uncertainty and causality in project scheduling. This method incorporates Critical Path Analysis (CPA).  (Neil, M. 2012).

Handling uncertainty in projects is central to the control of risk management in projects.  One of the most widely used methods to assist in this process is critical path analysis.  Most PM software applications e.g. Microsoft Project, facilitate CPA as an extension of the Gantt Chart function used to supply base information.  Where more advanced causal relationships exist this approach can be enhanced by the use of incorpration into Bayesian Networks.  The use of this approach is that it can be very powerful  where planning situations require statistical inference.  In particular where a specific event may be influenced by other variables in play which in turn may lead to different outcomes.  This is extemely important when trying to determine the start and finish times and how potential delays may be determined against planned events. (M.Neil, 2012).

In addition to advantages in project scheduling, this approach facilitates decision support and risk management.

use of pert charts

PERT charts are another graphical illustration of a project schedule.  These charts illustrate sequences of tasks and the critical paths that need to be completed in order for the project to remain on time for the scheduled completion deadline. These charts also encompass various attributes  like latest start times, earliest finish times and the slack times that exist between tasks.  This approach is an alternate view to the Gantt Chart for the tracking of entire projects and an extremely useful in the identification of potential bottlenecks in the project.  Fig 1 illustrates the basic concept. (Gido, J. 2008).

The Work Breakdown Structure is an important part of this process in that it sets out the foundation date in a structured framework.  That is the relationship between activities and tasks with the projected completion dates.  The chart is completed by the identification of task durations from start to completion. Each task being connected by connecting arrows.  These show duration, start time and completion time.  From this the critical path is determined that illustrates all of those tasks that must be completed on time to avoid project delays.  The critical paths on projects are usually colour coded in red. (Kerzner, H. 2009).

CONCLUSION

There are a range of different project planning views that facilitate the scheduling of  the project through it’s’ lifecycle.  Most of this spans  from the initial Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) of the project. The Gantt Chart is perhaps the most widely used schedule by the Project Manager.  There is however a need to examine other views of the planning schedule in order to determine a more holistic view of the project.  The PERT chart is one of the most powerful representations in project planning in the determination of the critical path and potential problem areas.  (Parviz F. R. 2005)

References

Jack Gido, J. P. (2008). Successful Project Management. New York : Cengage Learning.

Kerzner, H. (2009). Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. London: John Wiley.

M.Neil, V. N. (2012). Project Scheduling: improved approach to incorporate uncertainty using Bayesian Networks. London : University of London .

Parviz F. Rad, V. S. (2005). Project Planning Techniques. New York: Management Concepts.

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