Cost and Schedule Management Still Matter

Over the last decade, there has been a lot of focus on the newer ideas and trends in project management. Agile management, strategic alignment, stakeholder management, mobile project management apps, and big data analytics are just a few trends that are helping to grow and expand the industry. Sometimes organizations get caught up with learning and implementing the “in” topics, and lose sight of performing the basics soundly. We need to ensure we still understand and use the traditional parts of project management, as well as the more fashionable buzzword areas. The good old standby, cost and schedule management is still a key component of successfully managing projects and programs. 

As a start, developing a basic project work plan using a resource-loaded schedule provides tremendous value in planning for the project. It creates a process for the project team to think about the entirety of the work, what they know, what they don’t know, interdependencies of the various pieces of work, and the best methodology for managing the project. Following project management best practices, such as those defined by PMI’s PMBOK, will allow the project team to fully define the project from a scope, cost and schedule stand point. Putting the time and effort into developing a realistic target cost and schedule will pay off as the project team develops a good understanding of all the moving pieces of the project and how they interact. Just as importantly, it also provides a good tool for communicating with all the stakeholders the expected time frame, accomplishment process, and budget for the schedule. 

During the execution of the project, keep in mind the “management” part of cost and schedule management, regularly looking at the progress, both cost and schedule, against the plan. This allows the project team to understand the project status, see impacts of the various pieces of the project on each other, note trends and identify potential issues. The project cost/schedule information should be analyzed at least monthly in most cases and can be used to provide warnings of potential cost overruns and/or schedule delays. It can also be used to develop and execute corrective actions if needed. Again, the cost/schedule information provides a tool to keep the project stakeholders informed of project status and concerns. 

We should continue to explore the new trends in project management, implementing and utilizing those which provide the most value for our environments, but we need to make sure we don’t lose focus on the basics of project management, such as cost and schedule management.