“Delivering a project isn’t difficult. What’s difficult is delivering a project without first taking the time to plan properly.”
― James Leal
A project without a clear plan, is like starting a journey without a map. One may arrive at the destination but it’s difficult to estimate when and at what cost. Knowing how to get something done, in other words meeting the chosen objective, when it will happen and with what cost, is what defines every project manager.
A project is a closed dynamic system, a combination of activities and tasks performed in a sequence that have a beginning and serve a purpose to its end. A successful project manager needs to have a clear view of the project’s development at all times, regardless of the methodology that they use. The most efficient way to keep track of the project’s progress is the project timeline.
What is a project timeline?
A project timeline is a visual, time related representation of the projects work flow, a graphic design displaying a sequence of tasks in chronological order. Every timeline includes the planned start and expected finish dates for the project activities and their dependencies, lists the most important tasks on a timescale, the group or person responsible for their implementation and marks major milestone deliverables.
A project timeline is the easiest and most efficient way to track and manage a project’s planned activities. It gives a clear picture of the project’s course at a single glance. By breaking down the project life span into smaller parts, you and your team will be better able to understand where everyone stands, follow every project phase and spot any weak points, avoiding missed deadlines and unreached milestones that have an impact on work productivity.
If you’ve been wondering how can a timeline help you, we’ve listed some of the most important reasons here:
- It clearly depicts and efficiently communicates important milestones and tasks, pointing directions and priorities simultaneously keeping everybody on the same page.
- It represents, in a simple manner, the important deliverables and milestones of a project in a chronological sequence. Hence, each stakeholder can see that their work performance influences or is affected by others and know which tasks need to be completed next and by what date. This way any decision-making is facilitated based on priorities and a visible goal.
- It helps to visualize important project actions, deadlines and major events from start to finish, so everyone’s goals and objectives are aligned.
- Any deviation from the original plan can easily be spotted before it occurs, helping to synchronize work flow or make necessary alterations to meet the objectives, avoiding poor delivery. The timeline is a useful tool that encourages transparency, allowing for analysis of what happened in the past, making modifications for the future and overseeing progress in the present.
Without doubt, a timeline can be one of the most useful weapons in a project manager’s armory. It is the bridge between the plan and reality, the visual representation between a planned idea and a tangible outcome.
Modern project management tools like Clarizen allow teams to develop intelligent timelines during the project planning phase. Our easy-to-use project plan timeline tools lets you rapidly develop project plans complete with milestones, dependencies and deliverables. You can develop contingency plans and proactively assess schedule, technical and cost feasibility before implementation. You can also plan your resources and analyze effort estimates with actual work performance to set up accurate baselines.
The potential to analyze and compare the outcomes of a completed action provides valuable insight into your future schedule as well as your team’s performance. Use this input to learn and change, to increase work performance and improve your management skills.