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What Is a Project Management Timeline?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 24 September 2016
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A project management timeline is a document that sets out the established schedule for a project, for the benefit of project managers and other people involved who need to know about deadlines and projected activities. The development of a timeline is a very important part of the planning process. When a project is over, the timeline comes up again in the postmortem to determine whether the project stayed on track, what caused deviations, and how problems could be fixed in the future.

The level of complexity in a project management timeline can vary. It is also possible to have multiple timelines. One may provide a broad overview with major milestones, while a breakdown of smaller timelines discusses topics relevant to particular groups of people. In home construction, for example, the general timeline could cover the permits process, breaking ground, framing, and other major construction events. Individual crews would receive their own project management timelines so they know what is expected of them and when.

Project management software often has a timeline function. As the project manager develops plans, they can be slotted into the timeline segment of the program, which can also be easily adjusted as changes develop. For example, two events can be fixed at two weeks apart so they move together if something advances or delays the first event, to keep the project management timeline proportional and accurately reflect information about the timing of the project.

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In the course of a project, the project manager can use the timeline for scheduling, ordering, and other activities. As events occur, they can be ticked off on the project management timeline. If there is a delay, this can be noted, and the notes may include a discussion about the nature of the delay, and options for catching up. It might be possible to cut down in one area to hit a target goal, for instance, or the delay might set off a domino effect that could make the delivery very late.

While the project management timeline is intended for business and industrial uses, it can also be useful for time management on small projects like minor home improvements. Planning before beginning can save time in the end by creating a framework to follow and allowing for the anticipation of needs. For example, someone working on a bathroom remodel needs to know when new plumbing fixtures have to arrive, and when to order various supplies like lamps so they can be slotted into the project.

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