I have taught basic project scheduling principles to engineers for many years. At some point during the training, they become overwhelmed with the sheer number of rules to remember and apply. Project management tools, like Microsoft Project, provide the means to apply these rules, but how can you know which one to use and when?
Here is a non exhaustive list of SIMPLE scheduling practices that will ensure a good head start to produce high quality project plans:
1. Activity code / WBS: In order to structure your activities, you should use a numerical or alphanumerical value to categorize them.
2. Milestones: A milestone is an event in time to indicate an important decision or the completion of a key project phase. It should be monitored all the time. It goes without saying that the project start and finish dates are important events.
3. Relationships: All activities and milestones, except the project start and finish milestones, must have relationships with other tasks/milestones.
4. Constraints: Use scheduling constraints sparingly as they reduce scheduling options and optimization opportunities.
5. Project scheduling vs activity scheduling: If you schedule the project from its start date, make sure activities are set to start as soon as possible and vice-versa.
When you have successfully mastered these best practices, you can introduce others in your routine.