An issue that I often see in student submitted work, or when teaching MS Project, is creating dependency links at a work-package level, rather than at the lowest possible task level. Indeed, one of my tweets reminds project managers to “link at the lowest level”, but I often get a tweeted reply asking “Why”?
Using the following simple example, I will demonstrate the benefits of linking at the lowest levels. Yes, it does require more thinking about the dependencies, but it can also greatly reduce the project timescales. The project we will study uses the following WBS and tasks:
Now, if we link the work packages together, our project will have three stages, Design, Prepare, and Decorate. Assuming that each task takes 1 day for simplicity, the resulting project plan will take 12 days, and will look as follows:
What we are essentially saying, is that ‘everything’ in the first workpackage must be completed before ‘anything’ in the second workpackage can start. This may sometimes be true, but not always!
Now, by giving a little more thought to the dependencies in this project, and by creating links at task level, we can reduce the timescale of the project to just 6 days, as shown in the diagram below:
Taking a little time to set up the dependencies correctly is important in generating an accurate plan. Naturally, we will need resources to run the tasks concurrently, but that is a separate issue, and we need to start with an optimised plan in terms of dependencies.
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