Creating a resource calendar and determining the relationships between tasks is the fourth article in a series on estimating resources for an electronic health record (EHR) project. The first article, Introduction, describes the basis for these articles. The second article, Defining Resources, discusses how to create the tasks and designate the resource roles assigned to the task in a Resource
Assignment Matrix (RAM). The third article, Estimating Task Work and Duration, explains how to use that RAM to estimate work and duration for each task. This article will continue to expand on the third discussion and introduce assigning calendars and tasks relationships to the project plan.
We use calendars in our everyday life to document important events which we don’t want to forget. In project management, a calendar is used to identify a block of time that is available to complete a task. There are three types of calendars: project, resource, and task. Essentially, a calendar can be assigned to an entire project, a specific resource, or a specific task. A calendar should capture the following information: workweek day and time, weekend day and time, holidays, vacation days and any exceptions to a typical work week. Once the calendar is defined, the next step is to assign it to the entire project, a specific resource or a specific task. In some projects, it may be necessary to create several calendars and have those calendars assigned to all three levels. Note that there is a hierarchy to the calendars: task, then resource, then project. The task level calendar trumps all other calendars; the resource is the next in line; and finally, the project level calendar is applied to each task.
Once the calendar is created we can start to define the relationships between tasks. What is a relationship in project management terms? Think of it as defining the logical order in which tasks must be completed. The idea is to document the relationship between tasks to create the logical association. There are four types of relationships: finish to start, finish to finish, start to start and start to finish. Finish to start requires that the predecessor task is complete before the successor can begin. Finish to finish requires that the predecessor task is complete before the successor can be completed. Start to start requires the predecessor to start before the successor can start. Finally, start to finish requires the predecessor to start before the successor can be completed. It is essential that all tasks have a predecessor and successor. This allows the movement of a task’s start date and finish date to propagate throughout the entire plan based on relationships created. For example, if a task requires an increase to the duration, the successor task’s start and finish date will automatically update based on the relationship created to the predecessor task.
At this point you now have a complete project plan. The next challenge is disseminating this information to all the resources and stakeholders. Many organizations choose not to buy an expensive project management software license for all of their employees. In the next article, we will discuss options as to how to distribute a project plan and build custom reports with Microsoft Project and Office.