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What Is Included in a Master Schedule?

written by: Bruce Tyson • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 5/11/2011

The master schedule for a project is a rigid definition of the duration of the project based on the project master plan and detained work schedules. By taking into consideration project milestones and deliverables, the master schedule for a project ensures that the project completion occurs on time.

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    Master Schedule Overview

    The product master schedule contains definitions and dates for every milestone of the project as well as the requirements for all theProject Schedule  deliverables pertaining to the project. Inside the project master schedule is the allocation of the time required to achieve every objective and the documentation and illustration of the relationships between all activities.

    An effective master schedule derives its information from the master project plan and detailed work schedules. Because the soundness of the master schedule depends on the quality and accuracy of its underlying components, project managers must take steps to ensure their preparation with the highest possible degree of precision.

    Creating the master schedule is a bottom-up process that takes the results from two major planning initiatives to coordinate all the activities and objectives of a project to establish a realistic and firm completion date for the project.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Most.Supreme.Being

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    Components of the Master Schedule

    The master schedule depends on the adequate construction of the master project plan and the detailed work schedules for the project to enable it to accurately determine the accurate time each milestone will be completed and each deliverable will be produced. Here you will find an overview of the project master plan and detailed work schedules.

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    Master Project Plan

    Formulation of a reliable and accurate master schedule cannot begin until a master project plan is in place. The project master plan is primarily intended for the project team and includes:

    • Project scope and work statement.
    • Project organization, resources, and training requirements.
    • Technical details of every significant project activity. This includes the work breakdown structure (WBS) that is essential for the formulation of the detailed work schedules required by the project master schedule.

    Once the master plan for the project is in place, it forms one of the two fundamental bases for the creation of the master schedule.

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    Detailed Work Schedules

    The creation of the master project schedule is a process that is formed from the bottom up. That means that the work schedules from each team member and element must be defined before they can be included in the master schedule. This also means that the those who will actually do the work should be involved in estimating the schedule for each task. This not only improves the accuracy of the master schedule as a whole, but it helps to assure the support of every member of the team.

    A detailed schedule should be formulated for virtually every task and activity included in the project and should include accurate estimates of the duration and risk of each item. PERT charts should be used for each stable item, and high risk entries should be considered by their worst case durations.

    The accurate development of detailed work schedules forms the second leg of a sound foundation for the master schedule.

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    Bringing it all Together

    After the master project plan and each detailed work schedule is complete, the master schedule for a project starts to take shape. In its final form, it should include a listing of all activities at every level within the project, together with the interrelationships of activities defined in relation to all of the milestones and deliverables of the project.

    Because the master schedule is rigid once completed, steps should be taken to ensure that adequate padding for durations is included in the underlying schedules.

    Now that you understand the major components of a project schedule, read more about how to create one here.

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    References

    Microsoft. "Process 4: Create the Master Schedule", http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc543353.aspx