Who is the Project Scheduler?

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Scheduling is often the first responsibility that comes to mind when thinking of project management. In our first two articles, Introduction to Project Schedule Management and How to Build a Project Schedule, we saw that a schedule is built early on and is a team effort to be brought to life throughout the project. Therefore, the scheduler plays a very important role. This article will discuss what this role entails and what skills you need to become one.

Table of Contents

The Role of the Schedule Manager

A Scheduler (or Schedule Manager) plays a central role in the life of a project, managing each task and its duration to ensure all deliverables are met on time. They create, update, and monitor the schedule that concerns the entire project team. Most importantly, they communicate with other stakeholders to develop an accurate schedule baseline, report on progress, and mitigate risks of delay.

During the project initiating phase, the Scheduler works with the project team and stakeholders to propose a baseline schedule that considers the entire scope of the project and those responsible for its completion.

The Scheduler must also align the stakeholders on an acceptable schedule to achieve the project’s objectives. Once agreed on, they also ensure this baseline is understood and accepted by the entire project team.

During the project executing phase, the scheduler continuously monitors and updates the schedule with all the information collected on the progress of the project. They identify risks of delay and communicate on the health of the project. They are in constant communication with the project stakeholders and the project manager in order to limit risks, propose improvements or remediation plans, and ensure the best possible projection of future activities.

Finally, during the project closing phase and once the schedule and project are completed, the scheduler must perform a schedule retrospective to:

  • Refine task duration estimates for the next projects,
  • Understand what main events caused a delay (or acceleration) of the initial plan,
  • Analyze the mitigation actions that were put in place to prevent project delays.

This retrospective is key for the continuous improvement of similar projects and their schedules in the future.

Top Skills of a Schedule Manager

To fulfill their central role in the organization and execution of a project, the scheduler must be a good communicator, capable of interacting at different levels (from the project manager to the teams on the field) depending on the type of the project. They must also keep an open mind and be curious.

Managing certain complex schedules with many stakeholders, data sources, and business areas requires good organization and strong synthesis capabilities. This allows the scheduler to manage the execution of a project at the right level: neither too much nor too little detail.

In addition to strong communication, organization, and analysis skills, the scheduler must have certain hard skills as well. They should have an understanding of common schedule management tools such as Planisware, Sciforma, Primavera, or MS Project. They should also understand typical indicators for monitoring and controlling the project schedule.

How to Become a Project Scheduler

While most people imagine schedule management to be days of building and updating Gantt charts or progress reports, a project scheduler’s role is quite different. It is not only essential to the success of the project, but it also makes a very fulfilling and rewarding career because of its cross-functionality.

There are many opportunities for schedulers, especially in steering large-scale projects such as engineering or construction. Therefore, having project-related experience in engineering, supply chain, or construction is an asset to better understand and integrate these types of projects. These schedulers should always keep in mind that the schedule results in a product that will be physically built or a service that directly impacts people.

However, these roles are not limited to experience in a particular field nor to scheduling itself. Many good schedulers enter the profession by chance or opportunity and build a solid career there. Let us also not forget that a diversity of profiles in the world of scheduling is a great value and allows problems to be addressed from several angles based on experience or background knowledge.

So how do you become a project scheduler? Having a Bachelor’s degree is often a prerequisite that allows you to quickly integrate into a new environment. The next step is to familiarize yourself with scheduling processes, best practices and tools, and general project management knowledge. You’ll soon be well on your way to managing complex schedules and potentially ensuring the on-time delivery of today’s largest industrial programs.

This article series was written by Sébastien DESLANDES, Jeremy LESCOP, and Christine ORIARD with contributions from the MI-GSO | PCUBED Scheduling Community of Practice.

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