Developing a workable schedule is a core element in moving projects from the planning phase through to a successful completion. Unfortunately, some teams create only a vague schedule, or they choose not to share their project timeline with stakeholders. This is a big miss, because that timeline can be a valuable tool in driving stakeholder engagement. Enthusiasm for the project renews each time end users and supporters watch an interim milestone approach, plus they can see which activities are coming up that involve or affect them.
Does your team have a tendency to leave project timelines in a skeleton form to cover for delays or a lack of detailed planning? Are you worried that releasing the schedule might trigger a flood of stakeholder complaints about long project durations or the specter of looming work disruptions? If so, consider these 6 reasons why giving end users and project supporters a realistic and detailed timeline can actually help boost stakeholder engagement and increase support for your project team’s efforts.
1: End users are more willing to stick with you throughout a long project lifecycle if they know that interim milestones are being met. A project’s milestones provide key touch points along the way to help stakeholders see the initiative’s progress in real time. This is something that can be problematic for teams when most of the work is happening behind the scenes. With the schedule in hand, your end users will also have a better understanding of—and appreciation for—how much your team has already achieved.
2: End users are most engaged when the project is relevant to them. Because many initiatives reach across multiple functional areas, any one subset of stakeholders could have only limited exposure to a project’s effects and deliverables. By showing end users when activities that directly affect their workflows are scheduled to occur, they can adjust their own schedules to limit disruptions and provide support at the right times.
3: End users can more effectively contribute to your project when they know the schedule. Providing a detailed timeline gives end users a view into where they can contribute. How quickly do they need to gather documentation requested by the project team? When is the next opportunity to upload data to the new system? Visibility into specific timeline events helps reinforce the need for end users to execute their own activities on time.
4: End users may spot conflicts the project team missed. Perhaps the majority of a department’s members plan to be at an offsite industry event the week before a new system implementation. That’s something your project group may not know early in the planning phase, so giving end users a view into the schedule enables them to help you identify potential trouble spots well in advance.
5: End users will be more tolerant of extended response times from your team. When stakeholders understand that the current week’s workload is particularly heavy for the project team, they’ll be less likely to expect fast replies to their inquiries. This helps to keep everyone aligned on the sense of commitment to push through the project’s more challenging phases and also maintains customer satisfaction because the timeline enables you to establish expectations early.
6: End users can participate more fully in the project when they know when opportunities to connect are scheduled. Providing visibility into when recurring events happen, such as routine updates and team meetings, enables stakeholders to proactively earmark time on their calendars to attend. In addition, if end users know in advance when project activities are expected to happen, they feel more involved and valued.