Why Your Project Schedule Is Important

You are in business to make a profit. If your schedule does not support this objective, why do you schedule?

When the question is posed about the importance of the Project Schedule, Project Teams are generally quick to respond to how important it is. When pursued further, I find all believe it is important to have a schedule, yet few seem to understand the true purpose and what the Project Schedule should and could do for them.

When the actual Project Schedule is evaluated, I often find little evidence that the schedule is in any way set up to support the true objective.

Do we still understand the true value and purpose of the schedule?

There are several reasons why, to my mind the true purpose of the Project Schedule has gone amiss. Key contributors to my mind are:

  • A deterioration of skills.
  • We have forgotten the nature and the definition of a project.
  • The evolvement of the project world.
  • The availability of project software.
  • We have forgotten the true purpose of the project schedule.

These elements individually, and today, mostly combined leads to the demise of the quality of managing and execution of projects and thus, The Project Schedule.

McKinsey & Company, a Global Project Consulting company in a study found that projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and run up to 80% over budget.

They also in their study claim that the Construction Industry has since the 90’s been one of the slowest industries to adapt to change regarding adapting business strategy in line with changes in market requirements.

Project Teams are quick to acknowledge the fact that their project schedule is not to standard and although they recognize the significance of the Project Schedule, they mostly attribute the cause as a result of a deterioration of project scheduling skills, or unrealistic schedule demands from clients.
Although this is true, the problem stem beyond this and my personal view is that the cause of the deterioration of project scheduling skills, results from the fact that today, project teams fail to recognise the true value and purpose of the project schedule. Because of this, they fail to apply the necessary due diligence required to satisfy the requirements for establishing a sound Project Schedule.

It is true that the world is a changed place with everything happening quicker and faster and clients imposing shortened schedules on contractors.
Unfortunately, some laws and principles have not changed to keep up with the pace.

The speed of light and sound and the laws of gravity has not changed.

Although we have managed to change some processes with the introduction of scheduling software, this has not changed the planning and development required to establish the data required to set up our schedule.

With tightening timelines, Project and Project Schedule set up is more important than ever. Contractors who fail to recognize this will remain under pressure and will need to be satisfied with depleted profits.

Besides the pressure created by shortened schedules, this also results in more changes resulting from clients attempting to fast track up front engineering.

For the contractor un-identified and un-controlled changes are one of their highest risks for losing time and thus income.

This phenomenon will not disappear and if anything, it will worsen, and those that recognise this and respond to this correctly will be the ones to survive.

The introduction of computing and software for project scheduling has been great, however it does not take away the Team responsibility of establishing the base data required for populating the software. The results from poorly set up scheduling software that was not supported by the required planning efforts involving all role players will not satisfy your Project objectives.

A common mistake, brought about by the introduction of scheduling software is to over complicate systems. It is true that the software allows for easier manipulation of more complex data, however, balance should be maintained. Contrary to belief, overly complex schedules and networks will, unless you have the required supporting process in place, result in losing control of your schedule and will not support your Project objective.

It is imperative that you know where you are and what your progress is, but this information for scheduling is a means to an end.

According to PMI: “All Projects are a temporary effort to create value through a unique product, service or result. All projects have a beginning and an end, they have a team, a budget, a schedule, and a set of expectations the team needs to meet. Each project is unique and differs from routine operations.

In this view, the purpose of the project schedule is to manage the time from the set beginning to the set end, and this should be the main objective of the project schedule.

Today I find Project Teams go to great length to set up their systems to calculate progress and to report progress achieved to date. We set up complex systems for capturing progress and we establish great reports.

Project schedulers today, I find, spend most their time capturing progress and maintaining complex schedules and producing progress reports. I find they spend very little or no time on schedule analysis and forecasting.

What is wrong with this equation?

While the key purpose of the project schedule is to protect the project completion date, we spend most out time on focus is on where we are, with little or no focus on the true schedule objective and on whether the remaining schedule is still aligned with the project objective of ensuring the project completion date is protected.

Accurately assessing and capturing progress is crucial, yet not as a means of satisfying management’s progress expectations. Showing good progress is great if it is not at the expense of losing your schedule and delaying your completion date.

To satisfy the true needs of your schedule, the purpose for measuring progress correctly and accurately is not to satisfy the S-Curve, it should be to better and more accurately assess and evaluate your schedule performance and to do more accurate forecasting of achieving your desired completion date.

By managing your schedule correctly, the S-Curve will take care of itself.

We need to change the emphasis from capturing and reporting progress, to remaining schedule evaluation and forecasting and thus, re-establish the value of our Project Schedule in protecting our end date, manage and limiting delays and improve our project profit.


To re-establish the true Project Schedule objective.

  1. Focus on establishing a sound Project Schedule based on sound scheduling practices and principles.
  2. Establish an accurate Earned Value Progress Measurement System to assess Project Progress and Performance.
  3. With these processes in place, utilise the results from these to continuously evaluate and validate your remaining schedule to identify potential deviation and implement timeous corrective action as necessary.

Project Planning Solutions support clients in ensuring their Project Schedule supports their business objective, leading to improved profit.