Your project team may already utilize task duration estimates to plan timelines and coordinate resources. Gathering estimates from stakeholders and leveraging it to craft schedules that are realistic and comprehensive is a key component in project success.
But if those are your only uses for task duration data, then you’re missing out on some important insights. With a project management methodology that emphasizes the development of well-informed task duration information, you already have data within your organization that could help trim costs, streamline resource management, and shift your continuous improvement efforts into overdrive.
If you’re ready to maximize your project information assets, consider these four ways you can get more value from task duration data.
1: Compare current task duration estimates against past efforts
Internal benchmarking can help reveal inefficiencies and even identify workers who would benefit from additional vendor support or targeted training. If task durations for similar tasks have lengthened over time, consider the possible reasons. Given the dynamic nature of the business environment, it’s possible the task has changed. Maybe there are more steps required today to meet recent compliance mandates. Or perhaps the person who’s now responsible for the task doesn’t have the same skill level as their predecessor. Looking back across historical data will enable you to see trends and recurring problem areas, giving you the understanding you need to keep your project tasks on track for timely success.
2: Compare task duration estimates against actual reporting
One problem project teams sometimes encounter is poor data quality when it comes to task duration estimates provided during the initiative’s planning phase. It’s critical that stakeholders develop estimates that are realistic and reliable, but time pressures sometimes lead people to cut corners when it comes to this step. By comparing task duration estimates against actual duration reporting from previous projects, you may discover that estimates aren’t in line with the real world. Maybe team members are doing a cut-and-paste from previous initiatives to save time. Or perhaps a portion of your stakeholders are too optimistic with their estimates. Analyzing estimates against actuals enables you to spot disconnects and correct them before unreliable duration data negatively impacts your project planning and execution processes.
3: Expand your training program
As you review task duration data across your portfolio, watch for signals that additional training might be helpful in trimming the amount of time it takes to execute key tasks.
- Would gaining deeper knowledge in particular disciplines enable people to carry out activities more efficiently?
- Are there skills missing from your project team that would help reduce the time needed to transition tasks between cross-functional groups?
- Should you expand your training program to encourage more job roles to participate in the learning process?
- Could you save money and potentially streamline tasks by training in-house resources to execute tasks rather than contracting them out?
A strong training program that nurtures and broadens your team’s knowledgebase delivers value in multiple ways, and the ability to better optimize task durations is just one area to consider.
4: Make better use of your internal resources
Each task assigned to a team member reduces their availability to coordinate and execute other activities. Because staff time is at a premium in most businesses, a broad review of task duration reporting can help uncover opportunities to better balance workloads and direct key skills toward the most important areas. Consider where your internal resources can deliver the most value and then use task duration data to align those priorities with the time investments required for each activity. This empowers you to focus the right people on core tasks.