Today’s deep dive into the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition is into the third part of Project Schedule Management: the Sequence Activities process. I’m going to call out the differences between this process and what we used to have in the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition.
Sequence Activities Process
This is the third process in the Knowledge Area. We’re still in the Planning process group.
This process is about putting the activities you’ve already defined into a logical sequence. The main output is your network diagram, which shows how tasks link. However, I don’t think I’ve ever created a network diagram for a project. I’ve certainly sequenced activities, but I’ve never done it in such a formal way. A few sticky notes on some flip chart paper or just common sense as I’m putting the Gantt chart together tend to be the way I go about it. I’m sure there are projects that would benefit from a detailed network diagram, and I don’t doubt that it is a useful tool.
I’m from the school of thought that says don’t do things for the sake of them, just because the book says so, as long as you get the right result. I expect earlier in my career I spent more time checking the order of activities before defining my schedule, but now it all seems to happen as part of an integrated afternoon of planning.
Back to the detail of this process…
There are quite a few changes to the Inputs between the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition and Sixth Editions. Having said that, in essence the main change is that the detailed list of documents has been removed, and replaced with the generic Project Management Plan and Project Documents. These are nice catch all inputs that also allow a more broad interpretation of what needs to be considered for activity sequencing.
Tools & Techniques
The only change to the Tools and Techniques is the addition of your project management information system. In other words, PMI acknowledges that you probably won’t create a network diagram using paper and pens.
Your PMIS is most likely an integrated project scheduling tool. If it does Gantt charts, it probably does network diagrams too, so you can print one out to prove you have it if ever you need it. I have looked at network diagrams in Microsoft Project before, so despite not actively putting them together as a distinct step before scheduling, I have found them useful for a visual representation of the project overall, especially when some activities look out of sequence or I can’t work out how the dependencies should look.
Software is helpful for:
There are no new outputs. Nice and easy. It’s all as it was before.
You’d expect this process to be followed by Estimate Activity Resources, but that’s actually been moved to the Resource Management Knowledge Area.
That means next time I’ll be looking at Estimate Activity Durations.
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Today’s deep dive into the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition is into the second part of Project Schedule Management: the Define Activities process. I’m going to call out the differences between this process and what we used to have in the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition.
The project schedule is the main output of the Project Schedule Management Knowledge Area (unsurprisingly) and the action really starts with Define Activities.
Define Activities Process
This is the second process in the Knowledge Area. We’re still in the Planning process group.
Basically, this process is about making an activity list, covering all the different activities that need to be done to complete the work of the project. There are some other outputs too – we’ll come to them in a minute. But think of this process as the creation of your master To Do list.
There are some small changes to the Inputs between the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition and Sixth Edition. In the current edition, inputs are:
The schedule management plan and scope baseline have been ditched. That makes sense: the project management plan is such a broad, wide-ranging document that you don’t really have to specify the component parts.
Tools & Techniques
The Tools and Techniques for this process have changed slightly – meetings has been added (and if you want to get picky, it looks to me like the order of tools and techniques has been shifted around), which makes no practical difference day to day.
The addition of meetings makes sense in the context of the Knowledge Area. You can’t decide on what needs to be done unless you talk to people who are going to be doing the work, and you’ll do that through a meeting. That meeting could be informal, formal, a phone call, with lots of people or with one person.
Frankly, I think adding meetings in is a little bit pointless as it should go without saying that you have to talk to an expert in order to use expert judgment as a technique. But the PMBOK Guide® -- Sixth Edition is nothing if not diligent in setting out the detail.
There are two new outputs: Change requests and Project management plan updates.
The point of adding change requests in here is because you should already have a scope baseline in place. As you work through the activities, talk to the right people and so on, you may uncover extra work that needs to be done – or work that doesn’t need to be done. This would generate a change request to amend the baselined scope.
Project management plan updates is a generic catch-all type of output that is included as anything you might do to create a schedule may have some kind of impact on the plan. For example, you might need to update the schedule or cost baselines. Once a change is approved, you’ll have to make changes to those documents too.
Next time I’ll be looking at Sequence Activities.
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Regular readers will know that I’ve been doing a series called What’s New In the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition. Recently we’ve been looking at Project Resource Management. However, it’s been so long since the Sixth Edition came out that it doesn’t feel right to call these articles ‘What’s New’ any longer. So today we are carrying on the overview of the project management processes with Project Schedule Management but as a ‘deep dive’ instead.
Don’t worry, I’m still taking the same approach and calling out the differences between the current and previous versions.
The main difference, at Knowledge Area level, is that this section used to be called Project Time Management. Personally, I’m grateful that the name has been changed. Time management also makes me think of personal productivity, Pomodoro, timesheets and things like that. Schedule management is a title that speaks more specifically to the management of time as relates to project tasks.
Overall, this topic is all about getting a detailed plan that talks about how and when the project will achieve the outputs (whatever was set in the project scope). The schedule is the main output of the whole Knowledge Area and it’s helpful for managing expectations, communication and tracking and reporting progress.
So… let’s get started with a deep dive into the processes.
Plan Schedule Management Process
This is the first process in the Knowledge Area. We’re in the Planning process group.
This process is all about planning how you are going to make your plan. Yes, even creating a project schedule needs some effort in planning!
It feels like much of this process will be things you do automatically or don’t have much to plan for because the boundaries are set by your corporate processes and governance.
There’s actually no change in the inputs between the PMBOK Guide® -- Fifth Edition and Sixth Edition. The inputs are:
No surprises, no real explanation needed.
Tools & Techniques
There is a small change here for this process. Analytical techniques has been removed and replaced with Data analysis.
It’s semantics really. Data analysis does give the impression of being broader, and more in line with the trend towards big data and data science. So what does ‘data analysis’ actually mean?
It can include a range of tools or techniques that allow you to dig into and analyse the data in a number of ways as they relate to producing a project schedule. For example:
The output hasn’t changed either. The output is a schedule management plan i.e. something that defines what form your schedule takes. How long waves (or sprints) will be, what methodology to use where you have a choice, what level is detail is required to manage the plan.
I don’t think I have ever worked on a project where I have produced a plan about how to manage my schedule. Generally, there might be a paragraph in the Project Initiation Document that says I’ll follow the corporate standards and that’s that. I expect there are some types of mega project where this type of planning for the plan is required, but if you have some experience managing projects and a low complexity project, you will probably be able to make those decisions intuitively and not need to justify yourself by writing a whole document about them. What do you think?
Next time I’ll be looking at Define Activities.
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In this video I share a few more ways to track project schedule performance. Sometimes it helps to look at the schedule in different ways, or to use different approaches to get updates from the team. Ultimately, the more tools you have available to you, the easier it is to flex your style to manage performance.
How do you track schedule performance? Let us know in the comments below.
There are a couple more ideas for tracking project schedule performance in this video.
I also mention this book, Healthcare Project Management, in the video.
In this quick video I share three different ways to track schedule performance. Do you use these methods already? Let me know in the comments below.
If you’d like to read more about this, or you just can’t watch the videos where you are, then you can read more about schedule tracking in this article.
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