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Seeing the Road Ahead - the challenge of communicating schedule data

'Every systematic development of any subject ought to begin with a definition,
so that everyone may understand what the discussion is about.'

Marcus Tullius Cicero (196BC - 36BC),
De Officiis, Book 1, Moral Goodness

Keywords: Scheduling, Projects, Programs, Communications, Stakeholders.

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Seeing the Road Ahead - the challenge of communicating schedule data  [P106]

Useful schedules are useful because they are used! The successful delivery of projects requires a broad understanding of what is required to be achieved, by whom and when. However, from the inception of modern scheduling in 1957 (and before), one of the key challenges facing schedulers has been to convert the rich data contained in their schedules into useful information that the project team can actually use. 

The first part of the paper will outline the evolution of the graphical presentation of time related data. This paper will briefly review the history of visualizing time from 1765 through to 1957 and then focus on the challenges of presenting computer generated schedule data in a meaningful way starting with the hand drawn ADM networks created by Kelley and Walker in 1957. Diversions into mechanical forms of presentation such as Planalog, manual network diagramming and attempts to generate time scaled networks will be outlined through to modern tools such as NetPoint where the focus on presentation is at least as high as the focus on the underlying data.

The second part of the paper will examine the problem these developments were attempting to solve; communicating complex data in a useful and informative way. The rich symbolic language of a well constructed CPM diagram is a far more effective way to communicate the complex ideas of timing, sequence and dependencies than words. This section of the paper will briefly outline some of the challenges involved in visually communicating complex data.  It will then recommend a strategy for improving the effectiveness of the schedule. Scheduling for effect requires an effective schedule, effective communication and a team culture that is prepared to make use of the schedule information. 

Author: Patrick Weaver

23 - 26 August 2010
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See also:     A Brief History of Scheduling - Back to the Future
                    The Origins of Modern Project Management
                    Trends In Modern Project Management - Past Present & Future
                    Henry L. Gantt - A Retrospective view of his work

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