How to create and track project schedules?

Learn how to create and track project management schedules
Excel Spreadsheets

One of the most important themes within the universe of business consulting It is the creation and control of project schedules. Knowing how to do it masterfully, within best practices, will ensure projects meet deadlines and increase customer satisfaction.

In this article we will talk about:

A common problem in many projects ...

It is not today that we hear about delays in relation to the project management or worse, have the terrible experience of having a project of ours delaying. This problem is not unique to one sector or another. They are works, consulting projects, site and system creation, strategic planning, among others. In a recent study, 78% of companies (around 3 in 4) reported problems with meeting deadlines.

Project Management Worksheet

Usually these problems of delays are due to some more relevant causes:

  • Scope poorly defined
  • Poorly established timeframes
  • Poor schedule tracking
  • Insufficient team
  • Execution problems

To help you in this stage of creation and control we will see an example of creating and controlling a schedule in the management of a consulting project to create a business plan. To begin with, let's look at some of the more general project data in our project management worksheet:

Project management in excel - general project data

If you have already talked to the client and understand exactly what he wants, you can create the scope of your project. In our case, the business plan consulting is divided into 5 steps, which have a deliverable each. See below:

Project management in excel - project scope

The steps are:

  • Business model
  • Marketing plan
  • Financial planning
  • Strategic plan
  • Executive summary

Note that each step has some essential tasks to accomplish. These are the so-called scope completion milestones, which in the course of the project are going to be the key indicators of whether we are moving forward or not.

It is this definition of a well-done scope and aligned with your client's yearnings that will be essential if the schedule is to be accomplished without major changes.

Get to know the 5 project management process groups

How to schedule a project

If your steps and scope are well defined, we can move on to the next step, which is defining your project deadlines. I like to think of creating the schedule as a blank sheet, where we organize the dates and deadlines according to a series of specificities that encompass:

  • Past experience with similar projects
  • Amount of work demanded
  • Margin of error of established deadlines
  • Risks of problems materialize and delay stages
  • Extra research and research work
  • Training during process implementation (when applicable)

Here's how I usually do this process. The starting point is the start date of the project. Assuming my team and client availability is on 01 / 06 / 2015 day:

Project management in excel - creating schedule

From there it is possible to analyze each of the steps consecutively. For the Business Model stage I had already done several with an average duration between 8 and 10 days, being that the activity of prototyping and testing of the prototyped models were what gave more work, so I separated 8 working days for this item and 1 day (concomitant) for the definition of the principal and drawing thereof.

These last two activities are scheduled to happen in a meeting with the client, ie if he can not on that day, we already have the risk of the project delaying. That is why it is important to align with your customers whenever their availability does not cause them to be late for the project.

Project management in excel - setting dates for business model

In the same way that we delimit the deadlines of the first step (business model), we will move on to the second, which is the marketing plan. But now, to make our process more interesting to set up the schedule, let's assume that our company never carried out a marketing plan. Now we do not have past experience to mark the decision.

Get to know the 5 project management process groups

In moments when you are going to make a step or part of the project unpublished, does not have much exact science. It takes some acumen and understanding of what needs to be delivered and how it's going to be done. Obviously at such times, as the risk of delay is greater, it is worth stretching the schedule a bit more and deadlines. So I set 11 days (8 handy) for the definition of the marketing mix and most 10 days (7 handy) for creating the media plan.

Project management in excel - setting dates for marketing plan

In the end, if you follow this step by step deadline, your timeline will be finalized and this preview will:

Learn how to create and track project management schedules

In this case, we have a project starting with 01 / 06 / 2015 and expected completion for 01 / 09 / 2015, completing a total of 92 days of design and 5 major (deliverable) steps. All of this information is essential for both project management and pricing.

Project management in excel - deadlines and deliverables (stages)Project Management Worksheet

Do not miss the deadline: Control your planned activities

Now comes the time for you to control your schedule itself. For this, in our project management worksheet, we have a column (on the left side) for completing tasks.

Project management in excel - controlling schedule

As you are ticking OK for the activities, the worksheet will understand that the project is being completed and evaluates it according to the deadline for completion of the project. In this analysis of the above schedule we have 2 completely complete steps and the third stage partially complete:

Project management in excel - project schedule control

This totals 54% of the project with a caste of about 49 days and 43 days remaining to finalize all scheduled activities. If we are going to do a more detailed analysis of the schedule, we will see that when step is completed, it generates this type of information:

Project management in excel - stage completion

In the same way that if we look at the third stage (financial planning), we have not yet fully completed it (we perform 2 planned 3 tasks) and this is the vision of monitoring and controlling the schedule that we have for this specific stage:

Project management in excel - step on time

Notice that we clearly understand that we are within the deadline for this activity, with 67% of the step completed and with the expected date for 20 / 07 / 2015 and an expected cost of R $ 250 for it.

Get to know the 5 project management process groups

Now just follow what is being done directly by the timeline and by marking completion of the activities scheduled in the scope. As you fill in, you get a vision of how much of the schedule is up to date and can even see by graphs the percentage of each step:

Project management in excel - control of project deliveries per chartProject Management Spreadsheet Package

If I fill in more, I can track project completion data even more. This is a great way to keep track of your schedule while you are managing a project. Now, in the event of an unwanted delay, you could follow some paths:

When the fault is internal (of your team):

  • Begin steps concomitantly
  • Divide the efforts of the team involved with the project
  • Hire outsourced workers temporarily to "put out the fire"

When the fault is external (from the client):

  • Follow one of the previous steps and impress the customer
  • Align with the client that there will be an extension of the delivery deadline of the project

Tool to track project schedules

Because we do not want these unwanted delays to occur with your projects, I believe that one of the most important steps in building, tracking, and executing timelines well, without failures or delays, is a good one. project management worksheet. This way it is possible to automate more annoying control and warning tasks and to take care of the most important, to make an excellent project for your client.

Project Management Worksheet

Excel Spreadsheets


  1. Hi, I love your article Rafael 🙂 creating timelines helps a lot in the professional life especially when you must face many obstacles to get the results - in my opinion, the use of digital content and tools is also a good solution. What do you think about Kanban - ? I would like to know your opinion.


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