April 28, 2017


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

Project Management: Top 10 Tips for Validating your Project Schedule

By Linky van der Merwe

schedule WBS validation

Link to Schedule Validation Template

This article is aimed at existing project managers who use a scheduling tool like MS Project, or similar to plan their projects and then to execute against the plan.

Use the validation template once the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is transferred to a scheduling tool. The purpose is to validate that the project schedule contains all the necessary WBS elements to complete a project successfully.

#1 Deliverables

Are the key deliverables shown at the highest level of the WBS? If you do all of the detail tasks, will you have completely accomplished the summary deliverable?

#2 Scope and breakdown

Does the WBS represent the entire scope of the project and is it set at the appropriate level for the size and type of project?

#3 Milestones

Are there enough milestones identified and checkpoints when moving from one phase to the next?

#4 Governance

Are governance tasks separated out into their own section? Is there sufficient project management time across entire project?

#5 Structure

Does the WBS map to a methodology and does it make sense within that context?

#6 Estimates

Did the person who is most familiar with the task estimate the task itself? Check the accuracy of the task after the work had been performed.

#7 Risk

Did you document any risks for the tasks?

#8 Dependencies

Are the task dependencies implemented with the correct logic? Does the overall sequence of phases/deliverables make sense?

#9 Resources

Have all the resources been identified in the resource sheet? Is there any duplication of resources?  Are all resources named completely and consistently using a naming convention?

#10 Tasks, assignments, durations

Are there any assignments on summary tasks?  Does each detail task have at least one human resource assigned?

Final validation

It is always a good practice to have your schedule reviewed by an independent party or a senior architect not part of the planning team.

Please click here for the validation template that supports the schedule validation steps.

New Project Manager – How to start projects successfully

By Linky van der Merwe

athlete startMost people know that a race is half won when the athlete has a good start!  For project managers, a good start is just as important to win the project ‘race’. You will be a successful project manager if you learn to define the project clearly from the outset.


Where to start

The following basic questions need to be answered when starting any project:

  • Why is the project being initiated?
  • Who is this work being done for?
  • Who are the project sponsor(s) and the key project stakeholders that might use the final product, service, or results?
  • How are we going to achieve the project’s goal and objectives?
  • What are we going to deliver? What work do we need to complete; what resources and funds do we need to produce these deliverables?
  • When will we produce the deliverables?
  • When will the project stakeholders review them?
  • When will the project sponsor approve and accept the final project outcome?
  • Where will the deliverables be used?
  • How will success be measured?

Solid foundation

A project manager needs to lay a solid foundation to start a project successfully. This would include the following:

  • Define and control the scope
  • Understand the client’s business drivers
  • Build strong relationships of trust
  • Support delivery on the project with appropriate tools, techniques and processes, but tailored to suit the size, culture and context of the organisation

Let’s take a closer look at the building blocks of a good foundation.

Project Definition

When you define the project, you need to begin with the end in mind. This means that you want to know the project vision, objective, high-level requirements, high-level risks and milestones. This is normally documented in the Project Charter.

Based on your understanding of what the project is set out to achieve, you will select the best execution approach.

Scope agreement

Define and agree what is in and out of scope. The components of a scope statement include:

  • Project justification
  • Product description
  • Project objectives
  • Project deliverables

It is a good practice to document the project scope in a document that is generically known as a Scope Statement. The document has different names depending on which methodology is used. This is to explain what is in and out of scope, a step-by-step process for managing changes in project scope, project deliverables, constraints and assumptions.

Work Breakdown Structure

Work breakdown structureBased on the agreed project scope, you can continue to create a work breakdown structure, known as the WBS. The WBS is a decomposition of the total scope of the work. A work package is work defined at the lowest level of the work breakdown structure for which cost and duration can be estimated and managed. For more about the WBS, read Project Planning – Work Breakdown Structure.

When you’re new to project management, you may need clarification on project deliverables and milestones.  We differentiate between them as follows.

A project milestone is referring to a significant point in time when something is complete.  For example, the end of the planning phase could be a milestone. If you use MS Project as a scheduling tool, a milestone will have a zero duration.

A project deliverable is a tangible output of the project, for example, a completed document, a piece of code, or a documented list of requirements or product specifications.

Understand business requirements

Next, you will follow a process of collecting and analysing requirements. It is very important to understand the requirements by answering the questions above. You need to be clear on how you will measure each benefit that is realised.

Build strong relationships of trust

You will have to identify all stakeholders to the project. You also need to plan how you will effectively engage stakeholders throughout the project life cycle.

Support delivery

By now you should have a good understanding of the size, culture and context of the organisation in which project execution will take place.

If your organisation has a Project Management Office, you will have a standard project management methodology that is customised to the needs of the organisation. That will give you access to tools and processes that can be used to support the delivery of your project.

If not, you will need to select appropriate tools, techniques and processes, which will help you to execute your project. Consider using a standardised project management templates from Method 123 that will guide you through the project processes of Initiation, Planning, Execution and Closure.

After having a great start, it’s time for Planning! Read the short article on Time Management and Gantt Charts as a planning tool.

If you’re new to project management and would like to grow critical project management competencies fast, check this self-paced online training, called the Growth Program today.


Project Planning – Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

By Linky van der Merwe

The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a very important tool at the start of your planning phase.

Once you have defined your project scope, it is necessary to create a work breakdown structure. By definition it’s a tool used to define and group a project’s work elements in a way that helps organize and define the total work scope of the project.

There are many benefits to having a WBS as it provides the project manager and team with a task framework that helps with task scheduling and deriving cost estimates. From the WBS you can also identify the Deliverables and Milestones of your project.

It helps to finalise the project scope and plan the project properly. In addition it will help to outline the project budget and to link deliverables to resources.

Types of WBS

There are different types of WBS depending on the type of project. Have a look at some options:

  1. Use project life cycle phases as the 2nd level and deliverables at the 3rd level
  2. Organised based on major deliverables on 2nd level, tasks to be completed on 3rd level

Work breakdown structure

Benefits of a WBS

A WBS will give the project team confidence in that they are clear on the in-scope activities. A well-defined WBS enables resources to be allocated to specific tasks, helps in generating a meaningful schedule, and makes calculating a reliable budget easier.

The WBS will show well defined tasks that can be assigned to a specific individual, who is then responsible for its completion. It will keep the team focused on the project objectives and make them committed to the goals and completion of the project.

Time required

The development of a WBS can take quite some time. Depending on the complexity of your project, the number of people who must provide input and how large the scope is, it can take hours, if not days and multiple workshops to complete. Once drafted, the WBS will require refinement and it may change as the project changes.

However the advantages of having a WBS far outweigh the challenges of creating it. A good WBS makes planning and executing a project easier and lays the groundwork for the schedule, tracking, budgeting, and accountability. It’s considered project management best practice to have a WBS and as such it’s an essential element of overall planning.

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