Project Duration

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
Dick’s Books on Amazon

Managing project duration to make sure the sponsor and stakeholders are happy is the number one challenge for most project managers. Many executives think the most important metrics are the project duration and the finish date. Sometimes they are the only measures the sponsor and stakeholders ask about.

Project Duration: Why Do Stakeholders Manage Only Dates?

In a date-driven project world, the project managers have usually given the stakeholders nothing else that is measurable. Here’s why:

  • The scope statement is three pages of mush with no metrics
  • No one cares about cost because the project managers don’t measure it
  • There’s no data on hours because the project managers don’t gather it
  • Risk is not managed and most projects don’t bother to identify even the major risks
  • No one tracks the hours of work used by the project because everyone figures the people would be paid anyway.

It’s no wonder the stakeholders only pay attention to dates.

Project Duration: What Tools Do You Need?

Project managers must have tools to handle requests to finish earlier, increase the deliverables or that cut the costs. Tools like critical path analysis are an essential weapon in your tool kit when dealing with these requests.  The tasks on the critical path control the project’s duration.  Stakeholders need to learn they can’t arbitrarily make changes to critical path tasks, their resources, or deliverables and keep the same finish date.  The best way to illustrate that fact is to model the change and show them the impact on the finish date. See Project Schedule & Software Main Page

A skillful project manager doesn’t try to prevent all the changes requests that come up during the initiation and planning phases. They will also arise once you begin to execute the project plan. Those requests usually result in increases to cost or changes to scope so they are difficult to manage. There is a right way and a wrong way to manage these requests. Unfortunately, project managers often handle requests to finish earlier the wrong way. They try to prevent any change to the project plan. Simply denying requests triggers a great deal of conflict. That results in unhappy users or customers who simply go over the project manager’s head.

Project Duration: Model the Impact of Changes

The better way to handle these requests is to welcome change requests. Then you model the changes in the project software and show the stakeholders the impact on the finish date. Next you lead a discussion about the impact of implementing the duration or scope changes. These changes usually include increasing the resources on the project team which often increases the cost of those resources. Models showing the impact of the changes give the stakeholders information they need to make informed decisions. The project sponsor also has this information to use when the change requests come to them for approval or denial.

You can learn all the skills for managing project duration and change requests in our project management courses. Take a look at the courses in your specialty.

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Author: Dick Billows, PMP

Dick has more than 25 years of project and program management experience throughout the US and overseas. Dick was a partner in the 4th largest professional firm and a VP in a Fortune 200 company. He trained and developed 100's of project managers using his methodology. Dick is the author of 14 books, over 300 articles and director/producer of 90 short project management training videos. He and a team of 25 project managers work with client companies & students across the US and in Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East. They have assisted over 300 organizations in improving their project performance. Books by Dick Billows, PMP are on