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Managing Project Duration – Project Time Tracking Software is Required

Daniel Linman
September 13, 2010

Managing project duration is a part of the process for developing and following a project management plan. By planning project duration and using project time management techniques, a project manager in cooperation with a project time planner can determine the amount of time required to accomplish all project tasks and processes and to deliver product goals. Project time tracking software will be an effective solution of project time management to estimate the time required, monitor the time consumed and measure the time remaining. When you need to plan project development time and determine the project life-cycle duration you should use project time tracking software.

Project Duration: Definition and Types

In the literature on project time management, I have found a simple and convenient definition of project duration. Here is that definition: a project’s duration is the life-cycle of the project. This project duration definition will be best for a person who has not great knowledge in project time management, because by learning the definition and using project time tracking software, that person are able to start working on planning and measuring project design time.

However, for people with improved skills and broader knowledge in the field of managing project time, the given definition will seem to be “weak”, because it does not tell anything about resources and their relationship with the time constraint. That’s why I give complete project duration definition.

Project duration refers to the total sum of working periods that characterize the time length of project work and are required to complete all the activities listed in the project schedule and all the components of the work breakdown structure, considering the allocation and consumption of all necessary human resources and financial resources. The project duration is the basic project management characteristic that is usually expressed in terms of working time units (hours, days, weeks, months, years). For example, a project’s duration can be equal to 40 hours, or 5 days, or 1 workweek.

To understand better the question “What is project duration?”, you need to learn the types of project duration. There are three project duration types, including:

  • Estimated Project Duration. It is the valid representation of the entire project time length that has been initially planned by the project manager at the project planning stage, with regards to time expectations of stakeholders. Originally, Estimated Project Duration is a static attribute that serves as the baseline for project time management and activities duration planning. It is not to be changed or amended throughout the whole life-cycle of the project.
  • Actual Project Duration. Often this term refers to a time period between the actual start time of the project and the actual finish time. Actual Project Duration shows what time has been consumed to perform all project tasks and activities and accomplish the project. It results in the time period that is similar or equal to the time period calculated at the project planning stage. In other words, Actual Project Duration is to be compared to Estimated Project Duration in order for the project manager to measure efficiency of project time management.
  • Remaining Project Duration. It is a time period that shows how much time is left until the project reaches its completion date. Remaining Project Duration is the difference between the chosen time unit on the project calendar timeline and the planned finish date of the project. It is used to measure the effectiveness of a selected activity on the project scheduler and determine the time required to deliver the project. In simple terms, Remaining Project Duration is a difference between Actual Project Duration and Estimated Project Duration.

Project Time Tracking Software

No matter whether you are going to use desktop or web time tracking software, you need to know what basic features and functionality such software brings so that you can start using tools for project time management more efficiently. There are three basic functions of project time tracking software:

  • Planning Project Time and Duration. This basic feature of project time tracking software lets estimate project duration and set expectations of stakeholders in the form of deadlines to be met. You can define Estimated Project Duration, place deadlines on the project timeline, and schedule milestones.
  • Monitoring Project Time. This capability of project scheduling software allows you to review the project length on the project calendar timeline and track current activities and their time characteristics. The capability gives you tools for monitoring the project schedule, filtering tasks displayed on the timeline, and reviewing Actual Project Duration.
  • Measuring Project Time Usage. This capability of project management application for time tracking allows you to create measures and set performance indicators to estimate project time usage and determine Remaining Project Duration. You can compare Actual Project Duration with Estimated Project Duration and calculate efficiency of project time management.

Besides these basic capabilities of project time tracking software, you can enjoy using such tools and options of project time management as task dependencies, project charting, time management analysis, reporting, and others. I suppose when you want to choose the best project time tracking software for planning, monitoring and measuring project duration and determine project development time you should focus on searching for the basic tools, leaving the rest options behind. The main idea of mine is that a collaboration project management application that includes the basic project duration capabilities will surely combine the rest required tools and options.

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