PMP Certification Exam Prep – Project Time Management


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Project Time Management is the third knowledge area of project management.

It is concerned primarily with deadlines—how to set realistic ones and how to meet them.

Based on chapter 6 of PMBOK® Guide 5th Edition, here you will find:

  • all-in-one project management graphic of Project Time Management, a quick reference guide to its definition, processes, and key terms
  • Project Time Management basics, must-know tips to avoid common mistakes during your PMP certification exam, and keywords—by Project Time Management processes

Read on!

Image titled PMP Certification Exam Prep — Project Time Management

Project Time Management Processes – Basics, Tips, and Keywords

1. Plan Schedule Management

Icon titled Project Time Management Planning Processes Tipsographic

Basics of Plan Schedule Management

  • WHAT Plan Schedule Management Is. The Plan Schedule Management process makes clear how the project schedule will be developed, executed, and controlled as well as how changes will be integrated into the project schedule.
  • WHY Plan Schedule Management Is Important. The schedule management plan guides the project manager and the project team by means of oversight, standardization, and best practices ensuring that the project schedule is well developed, monitored, and controlled.
  • WHEN Plan Schedule Management Is Executed. A project manager should perform the Plan Schedule Management process before the other six processes of the Project Time Management knowledge area.
  • HOW Plan Schedule Management Operates.
Inputs Tools and techniques Outputs
  • Project management plan
  • Project charter
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Expert judgment
  • Analytical techniques
  • Meetings
  • Schedule management plan

Tips on Plan Schedule Management

  • Schedule Management Plan Vs. Schedule. The project’s schedule management plan describes how the project’s schedule will be developed, managed and controlled. The project’s schedule describes the planned start and finish dates for project activities.

Keywords for Plan Schedule Management

  • Schedule Management Plan. A component of the project or program management plan that describes how to estimate the project work, track the project progress, and report on it.
  • Project Schedule Model Development. The methodologies and tools used to develop the schedule, along with the data they contain.
  • Accuracy Levels. The rounding used when deriving activity duration estimates for different life cycle phases.
  • Units of Measure. The rules for how estimates should be stated, such as staff hours, days, materials tons, and cubic yards.
  • Control Thresholds. The level of variance the schedule can experience before taking action, typically expressed as a percentage of time.

2. Define Activities

Basics of Define Activities

  • WHAT Define Activities Is. The Define Activities process is all about determining how the project work breaks down into activities.
  • WHY Define Activities Is Important. When performing the Define Activities process, a project manager breaks the work packages into smaller, more manageable units of work—activities— that she/he can easily assign, estimate, schedule, and control.
  • WHEN Define Activities Is Executed. The Define Activities process is often implemented after the Work Breakdown Structure is in a stable form. However, project managers can create a WBS and define activities in parallel, taking the WBS down one more level to show activities, instead of work packages.
  • HOW Define Activities Operates.
Inputs Tools and techniques Outputs
  • Schedule management plan
  • Scope baseline
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Decomposition
  • Rolling wave planning
  • Expert judgment
  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Milestone list

Tips on Define Activities

  • Work Breakdown Structure Vs. Activity List. The Work Breakdown Structure is the output of Create WBS process and is made up of deliverables—nouns. The activity list is the output of define activities process and is made up of activities—verbs.
  • Task. The terms activity and task can be used interchangeably.

Keywords for Define Activities

  • Activity. A unique, scheduled task that must be executed to complete work on the project.
  • Rolling Wave Planning. A form of progressive elaboration that focuses on planning the imminent project activities in more detail than activities further in the future.
  • Activity list. A list of all the activities that must be accomplished to deliver the work packages.
  • Activity attributes. A complete description of the activity, such as activity codes, predecessor activities, and successor activities.
  • Milestone list. A list of significant points or events in the project.

3. Sequence Activities

Basics of Sequence Activities

  • WHAT Sequence Activities Is. The Sequence Activities process builds project schedule network diagrams that visualize the logical order between all the activities and milestones already defined and point out their dependences.
  • WHY Sequence Activities Is Important. If a project manager sequences correctly the interactivity of logical relationships among activities, then the network diagrams generated during the Sequence Activities process will facilitate the development of a realistic, achievable project schedule.
  • WHEN Sequence Activities Is Executed. A project manager uses the Sequence Activities process once she/he has identified the schedule activities that he/she will chain together.
  • HOW Sequence Activities Operates.
Inputs Tools and techniques Outputs
  • Schedule management plan
  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Milestone list
  • Project scope statement
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Precedence diagramming method (PDM)
  • Dependency determination
  • Applying leads and lags
  • Project schedule network diagrams
  • Project documents updates

Tips on Sequence Activities

  • Discretionary Dependencies Schedule. Usually performed in sequence, discretionary dependencies can be executed in parallel—but with additional risk.
  • Sequence Vs. Duration. The Sequence Activities process does not establish how long activities will take, only the sequence in which they will occur.

Keywords for Sequence Activities

  • Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM). Also called “activity-on-node” (AON), a graphical representation of activities in the project with nodes to represent them and one or more logical relationships to graphically link them, showing the sequence in which these activities are to be performed.
  • Dependency. A relationship between two or more activities where one activity must be started or completed before another related activity may be started or completed.
  • Lag. In a finish-to-start relationship between two scheduled activities, the amount of time a dependent activity must wait after its predecessor finishes before it can start.
  • Lead. In a finish-to-start relationship between two scheduled activities, the amount of time a dependent activity can be advanced with respect to its predecessor.
  • Project schedule network diagrams. A graphical representation of the logical relationships between all the activities to be completed on a project.

4. Estimate Activity Resources

Basics of Estimate Activity Resources

  • WHAT Estimate Activity Resources Is. In the Estimate Activity Resources process a project manager forecasts the number of all the resources—human and materials—needed to complete each activity of the project.
  • WHY Estimate Activity Resources Is Important. The activity resource requirements, output of the Estimate Activity Resources process, are necessary to decide the length of time each activity will take to complete.
  • WHEN Estimate Activity Resources Is Executed. Estimate Activity Resources should be closely coordinated with the Estimate Costs process and the project manager should perform both after he/she has in hand activity list and activity attributes.
  • HOW Estimate Activity Resources Operates.
Inputs Tools and techniques Outputs
  • Schedule management plan
  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Resource calendars
  • Risk register
  • Activity cost estimates
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Expert judgment
  • Alternative analysis
  • Published estimating data
  • Bottom-up estimating
  • Project management software
  • Activity resource requirements
  • Resource breakdown structure
  • Project documents updates

Tips on Estimate Activity Resources

  • Physical Vs. Financial Resources. The activity resource requirements include only physical resources, not financial ones.
  • Breakdown Structures. At the exam you will find the following four breakdown structures:
    1. work breakdown structure (WBS)
    2. organizational breakdown structure
    3. resource breakdown structure
    4. risk breakdown structure

Keywords for Estimate Activity Resources

  • Resources. People, equipment, locations, or anything else that project manager needs in order to do all of the activities planned.
  • Resource Calendars. A calendar that shows the days that a particular resource is available to be used on the project and the days when it will not be used.
  • Risk Register. The documented list of all identified risks on the project and their characteristics.
  • Alternative Analysis. Figuring out all the possible different ways that a potential outcome may be achieved and then making a decision about which method is best.
  • Published Estimating Data. A database of known quantities or costs relating to completion of activities in the project.
  • Bottom-up Estimating. The process of breaking down the activity into smaller pieces, then rolling up the estimates upwards to the level of the original activity to arrive at a total cost.
  • Activity Resource Requirements. The resources required to complete the activities in the activity list.
  • Resource Breakdown Structure. A breakdown of the resources required to complete the project, by category and type.

5. Estimate Activity Durations

Basics of Estimate Activity Resources

  • WHAT Estimate Activity Durations Is. The Estimate Activity Durations process tries to estimates work effort, work resources, and number of work periods required to complete each activity, with progressive elaboration.
  • WHY Estimate Activity Durations Is Important. The activity duration estimates are a paramount input into creating the project schedule model.
  • WHEN Estimate Activity Durations Is Executed. A project manager performs the Activity processes in this order: Define Activities, Sequence Activities, Estimate Activity Resources, and Estimate Activity Durations. So, she/he estimates activity durations after knowing what resources are available and before developing the schedule of the project.
  • HOW Estimate Activity Durations Operates.
Inputs Tools and techniques Outputs
  • Schedule management plan
  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Activity resource requirements
  • Resource calendars
  • Project scope statement
  • Risk register
  • Resource breakdown structure
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Expert judgment
  • Analogous estimating
  • Parametric estimating
  • Three-point estimating
  • Group decisionmaking techniques
  • Reserve analysis
  • Activity duration estimates
  • Project documents updates

Tips on Estimate Activity Durations

  • Duration Estimate Vs. Effort Estimate. The duration of an activity is the amount of time that activity takes, while the effort is the total number of person-hours expended.
  • Contingency Reserves Vs. Management Reserves. Contingency reserves are meant for known unknowns and are included in the schedule baseline, whereas management reserves are meant for unknown unknowns – unforeseen work that is within the scope of the project—and are not included in the schedule baseline.
  • Leads and Lags. The activity duration estimates do not include leads and lags, only the estimates for each project activity.
  • Estimators. For small projects the estimators are those who will be doing the work; for larger projects, the estimators should be members of the project team.

Keywords for Estimate Activity Durations

  • Analogous Estimating. An estimating process that bases estimates upon similar activities with similar resource category and types from a similar type of projects executed earlier.
  • Parametric Estimating. An estimating technique that uses statistical techniques to calculate cost or duration values for activities based on data from similar earlier projects.
  • Three-point Estimating. A formula that takes into consideration uncertainty factor when it calculates a weighted average of the optimistic, most likely, and pessimistic estimates.
  • Reserve Analysis. An analytical technique that takes care of uncertainty by adding extra time—also called buffers or time reserves—to the schedule or extra cost.
  • Work Periods. The activity duration estimates, usually expressed in hours or days—smaller projects— or in weeks or months— larger projects.
  • Activity Duration Estimates. Quantifiable estimates expressed as the number of work periods needed to complete a schedule activity.

6. Develop Schedule

Basics of Estimate Activity Resources

  • WHAT Develop Schedule Is. The Develop Schedule process is the core of Time Management. It’s the process where a project manager takes all the information gathered in the previous processes—Define Activities, Sequence Activities, Estimate Activity Resources, and Estimate Activity Durations—and combines them into one final schedule for the whole project.
  • WHY Develop Schedule Is Important. Once the project schedule is approved into the schedule baseline for the project, a project manager can track against the latter in later processes and measure the project success against it.
  • WHEN Develop Schedule Is Executed. The Develop Schedule process is performed after the processes:
    • estimate activity resources
    • estimate activity durations
    • sequence activities
  • HOW Develop Schedule Operates.
Inputs Tools and techniques Outputs
  • Schedule management plan
  • Activity list
  • Activity attributes
  • Project schedule network diagrams
  • Activity resource requirements
  • Resource calendars
  • Activity durations estimates
  • Project scope statement
  • Risk register
  • Project staff assignments
  • Resource breakdown structure
  • Enterprise environmental factors
  • Organizational process assets
  • Schedule network analysis
  • Critical path method
  • Critical chain method
  • Resource optimization techniques
  • Modeling techniques
  • Leads and lags
  • Schedule compression
  • Scheduling tool
  • Schedule baseline
  • Project schedule
  • Schedule data
  • Project calendars
  • Project management plan updates
  • Project documents updates

Tips on Develop Schedule

  • Buffer Time. Questions in the exam about buffer time refer to the critical chain method.
  • Mathematical Analysis of Different Scenarios. In the exam the correct answer to a question about mathematical analysis of different scenarios it’s probably what-if scenario analysis or Monte Carlo analysis.
  • Project Baselines. At the exam you will find the following four baselines, all part of the project management plan:
    • scope baseline
    • time or schedule baseline
    • project budget
    • quality baseline

Keywords for Develop Schedule

  • Schedule Network Analysis. A group of techniques that develops the project schedule, such as critical path and critical chain method, what-if analysis, and resource leveling.
  • Critical Path Method (CPM). A schedule network analysis method that calculates the theoretical early start, early finish, late start, and late finish for each activity on the project schedule. These theoretical numbers tell us how much flexibility we have on the schedule and also the minimum project duration.
  • Float—or Slack. The amount of time an activity may be delayed without delaying the project finish date.
  • Critical Chain Method. A critical path that accounts for limited or restricted resources, where a project manager places buffers to any schedule path.
  • Resource Leveling. A technique to optimize resource assignments that adjusts the start and finish dates of schedule activities based on the availability of resources. Critical path usually gets longer.
  • Resource Smoothing. A technique to optimize resources that ensures demand for resources does not exceed certain limits. Critical path is not allowed to change.
  • Crashing. A schedule compression technique that adds more resources to the critical path activities, from either inside or outside the organization.
  • Fast Tracking. A schedule compression technique that overlaps activities or phases that a project manager would prefer to complete in sequence.
  • Schedule Baseline. The developed and approved schedule, result of several iterations. Changeable only through formal change control process.
  • Project Schedule. The working timeframe the project will take, living document. Changeable by the project manager with no formal change control.

7. Control Schedule

Image titled Project Time Management Monitoring Controlling Processes Tipsographic

Basics of Estimate Activity Resources

  • WHAT Control Schedule Is. The Control Schedule process is a monitoring and controlling process that keeps all of the documents elaborated during the Develop Schedule process up to date and turns Work Performance Data into Work Performance Information.
  • WHY Control Schedule Is Important. In the Control Schedule process, a project manager determines the current schedule status of the project and responds appropriately to any observed and measured variance.
  • WHEN Control Schedule Is Executed. A project manager uses the Control Schedule process until all project activities are completed, that is until the end of the project life.
  • HOW Control Schedule Operates.
Inputs Tools and techniques Outputs
  • Project management plan
  • Project schedule
  • Work performance data
  • Project calendars
  • Schedule data
  • Organizational process assets
  • Performance reviews
  • Project management software
  • Resource optimization techniques
  • Modeling techniques
  • Leads and lags
  • Schedule compression
  • Scheduling tool
  • Work performance information
  • Schedule forecasts
  • Change requests
  • Project management plan updates
  • Project documents updates
  • Organizational process assets updates

Tips on Control Schedule

  • Odds of Fast-track and Crashing. Crashing is expensive and fast-tracking is risky. They might work sometimes but they always add both risk and cost to a project.
  • Schedule Change Vs. Schedule Revision Vs. Schedule Update. 
    • A schedule change must be approved via the Perform Integrated Change Control process.
    • A schedule revision, such as a change to the start and finish dates within an activity’s float, doesn’t impact the baseline schedule.
    • A schedule update enters status into your project schedule.

Keywords for Control Schedule

  • Work Performance Data. Data—actual raw information—on what is occurring related to the schedule.
  • Work Performance Information. The refined work performance data that shows a comparison of the data with the schedule baseline.
  • Schedule Forecasts. Updated projections of future performance based on actual performance.
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