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The Simple Way to Improve Scheduling on Projects

You’re working on more than one project, so why are you still planning projects separately? In our experience, that happens because priorities change frequently, and a project schedule gives stakeholders the illusion of control.

Yes, we said it: the illusion of control.

As a project leader, you and your team know that the dates might be written down, but the plan is unlikely to survive until the end of the project. The scheduling challenge affects even the largest and most structured of projects: NASA’s project portfolio is currently running almost 20 years behind schedule! Feel better?

Project managers do their very best to stay on top of dates, but in complex environments where people work on many projects at the same time, it is simply not possible for the human brain to calculate realistic start and finishes in the moment. There are too many variables and constant changes; that’s why companies turn to intelligent software to take care of resource allocation and leveling, task scheduling, and making sure the right priorities for the business are the projects getting most of the available resource time. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get that help for your business.

Common scheduling challenges

We’ve written before about the top project management scheduling issues faced by teams. Our research shows that these seven challenges are on the minds of project leaders:

  1. We are overpromising on projects and underestimating the time it takes to complete them.
  2. My team is complaining that they don’t have enough time to do their work.
  3. We’re falling behind because we can’t see what’s next.
  4. We are worried about the workload of our teams, especially in today’s climate.
  5. We have too many planning misses and don’t know where our real bottlenecks are.
  6. We don’t know where people are spending their time.
  7. We don’t know how to sequence the work to meet deadlines.

Are you nodding along? If you juggle multiple projects and your calendar is a mess, then you probably empathize with the managers who shared their insights for our research!

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be this way – and we don’t need a PhD in aerospace engineering to find a solution! Modern technology has thankfully given us tools and methodologies to deal with scheduling chaos.

The power of planning intelligence

Planning intelligence is a brand new approach to project automation. It answers the question, “when will my project be done?” not just for one project, but for all the projects you are juggling in your portfolio.

That’s a hard question to answer reliably because schedule changes happen for good reasons. For example, when you work in a complex environment using agile and hybrid methods, you don’t necessarily know what the end goal is going to look like. Your customers might not know the full scope of what they need until you’re part way through the delivery. Planning intelligence takes the guesswork out of the plan and lets you talk to stakeholders confidently because you know your ‘when’.

It provides solutions to your scheduling challenges. Let’s get more specific.

Wrangle uncertainty with ranged estimation

Managing uncertainty is hard work, and yet we expect our teams to be able to do it quickly – often with limited information – and then they have to live with the consequences of those planning estimates for the whole project. In our experience, team members underestimate the work involved because they don’t have the full picture and they don’t want to let you down. This too often can lead to team member burnout, which we are all trying to avoid. Overly optimistic schedules mean one thing: nobody trusts the plan, not even the people who helped put it together. That makes staying ahead of your work much harder than it needs to be. So should we stop creating project schedules at all? Of course not! All we need is a schedule that is trustworthy, and it is possible to create one, even if you can’t estimate a task accurately down to the hour.

One approach to tackle this is to try estimating in ranges. Thinking in ranges of effort – as opposed to fixed durations – helps teams capture uncertainty so they can see it and manage it.
You heard it here first: single-point estimation is dead. As a technique, it had its time, but complex work situations and a VUCA environment mean today’s teams need more. Using smart ranged estimates that capture uncertainty with every single task cascade up to realistic project plans you can trust. No longer do you have to create tasks with fixed dates that no one believes in.

LiquidPlanner’s predictive scheduling engine was built to take in best case and worst case estimates to calculate a reliable window for tasks and projects, automatically mitigating risk by capturing uncertainty from project initiation and adapting to change along the way.

Embrace change because it’s inevitable

Over 50% of project managers don’t bother to baseline their schedules. Baselining isn’t much help when you know the schedule won’t survive the week. So why don’t teams have more confidence in their planning?

Well… how many times have you experienced scope creep? Or a shift in priorities from the top? Or perhaps new projects being added to the portfolio that share resources with your project? These things happen all the time and it isn’t a bad thing – but it sure can feel overwhelming to keep your schedules up-to-date when the business is constantly changing.

One of the issues faced by most managers is that they can’t see what’s coming next. Don’t let yourself get to a place where you always feel behind or are always missing deadlines. We already talked about the benefits of ranged estimation, which can help teams prepare for and manage the uncertainty tied to change. But the first step is coming to grips with the fact that change is inevitable and not getting too tied to the first project plan you build. It is always a thing of organized beauty, but if you can be comfortable flexing with change, the end result will be even more rewarding.

LiquidPlanner dynamically adapts to change with every input, providing real-time forecasts so teams have visibility to the impact of change so they can solve for risk ahead of missed deadlines. It gives teams a living schedule that keeps up with change from project initiation to project close in order to stay competitive and deliver quality outcomes.

Try out a predictive scheduling system

The modern way to manage uncertainty in your work is to use a scheduling engine that runs sophisticated Monte Carlo simulations on the whole portfolio while respecting all the constraints like prioritization, dependencies, target dates, and team member availability. That’s smart scheduling.

LiquidPlanner statistically corrects roll-ups to seamlessly create a timeline for all projects that the whole team can believe in. Powered by planning intelligence, it automatically adjusts for resource availability – making sure no one is overallocated or scheduled over their vacation time – and shows the impact on priority work. Predictive scheduling helps to create a plan you can trust simply by estimating, assigning the team, and prioritizing the work.

We can show you how and you can join the many companies that don’t struggle with those seven challenges facing project leaders that we talked about above. Smart scheduling means they always know the answer to “when?” – and it could be your competitive advantage too.


LiquidPlanner is a transformative project management solution that uses predictive scheduling to dynamically adapt to change and manage uncertainty. It helps teams prioritize, predict and perform with confidence. Rated the best software for complex projects by PC Magazine, smarter planning – and smarter scheduling – is a click away. FREE SIGN UP

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