How to Create Effective Project Timelines
A timeline is a chronological list of events that have happened or are about to happen. Project timelines are the same, they tell you what tasks you need to complete and how much time you have to complete them.
Sometimes, you might get pressured to complete a project in record time by your clients and management while you and your team think it’s impossible to do so. Learning how to create project timelines that are acceptable to all stakeholders is an important skill you need for effective project management.
In the following sections, we’ll understand why project management timelines are so important and how you can create them.
Why are project timelines so useful?
Timelines are one of the few concepts in project management that are common in all projects irrespective of the projects’ characteristics, industry, or the project management methodology. A timeline keeps the project together and gives you insights about the progress. It gives you a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve and where you are with that.
Here are a few ways the project timeline helps you track the progress:
- Having a project timeline improves communication because everyone will know what to expect and the current standing of the project. It not only allows everyone involved to be in the loop but also makes it easier for new members to know what’s happening.
- Project timelines will be of great help during the controlling and monitoring phase. You can immediately know where you stand with the progress of your project and react immediately according to the situation.
- A project management timeline showing that everything is according to the plan can be a great motivator for your team. With everything going smoothly, your team will approach its tasks with the correct attitude and things will automatically start to go smoothly.
- Project timelines are also a great visibility tool that can tell you a lot of data in a glance. You can get a clear idea about the dependencies in your project and how tasks are prioritized. Since dependencies are automatically ingrained in your project timeline, you’ll be able to see how a delay in one specific task affects your entire project.
- Project timelines also tell you how much workload a specific team member will have in a certain period. You can use that information to ensure equal distribution of tasks and prevent overburdening the team, which is one of the biggest causes of burnout.
Types of a project management timelines
Timelines can be of different types and each of them has its own set of advantages and limitations. Some types will only focus on the result or on a resource, while some put more emphasis on tasks. It’s up to you as the project manager to decide which type of project timeline will suit your needs and help you visualize all the important information.
Some of the most common types of timelines are the following.
1. Chronology type timeline
This timeline explains all the tasks in a chronological fashion where all the tasks have a Start-to-Finish relationship. This chart depicts all the events starting from the left side and cannot show events taking place in parallel with each other.
2. Timeline on a bar chart
This type of timeline is more popular in the financial sector or applications where the focus is a single output over any time period. The horizontal (x) axis shows the progress of time while the vertical (y) axis shows the resources. With this timeline, you can also understand the overall trend and make changes in your approach when needed.
3. Gantt chart timeline
The Gantt chart has been the most popular type of timeline due to its versatility and features. It’s suitable for almost every type of project and can show you a lot of information at a glance. Most modern project management tools in the market use this type of timeline because it’s interactive, shows parallel tasks, and can be changed when the situation demands it.
With this type of timeline, it’s very easy to understand the dependencies, priority order, members allocated, and many other things with relative ease.
Key elements of any project timeline
The project timeline can have multiple elements according to your preference and need. Some elements that are almost always a part of a project timeline are as follows:
- A list of tasks that need to be completed in the project
- Starting and ending dates of all tasks
- Dependencies and relationships between the tasks
How to create an effective timeline for any project
Experienced project managers always put a lot of emphasis on having a strong start because your starting dictates how your project will proceed. From the kickoff meeting to the entire initiating and planning phase, everything needs to take place as scheduled.
Coming up with a realistic and effective timeline requires time and effort. If you come up with an unrealistic timeline, it will demotivate the team members and affect their performance. Similarly, if your timeline is too stretched out, your team will subconsciously take it easy, and that too will have a negative effect on your productivity.
Here’s how you can create an effective timeline that’s agreeable to all the stakeholders :
- Identify project scope and come up with a work breakdown structure
- Divide your work package into a list of achievable tasks
- Identify the dependencies of your project
- Make a priority order of all tasks by using the dependencies
- Identify the resources required for each task and check their availability
- Determine the time needed to finish each task
- Select the start/end date of each task and draw your project timeline
How can Kissflow Project help you manage your projects effectively?
Kissflow Project is an all-in-one project management tool that is designed to help project managers from the initiation to the closing phase of their projects. You can assign tasks, know the current status, send reminders, and do much more with a single click. Sign up for free today.