There is a subtle difference between ‘Planning’ and ‘Scheduling’, and unfortunately we often use the words interchangeably, or use ‘Planning’ where we actually mean ‘Scheduling’.

However, by considering the Why, What, How, Who, Where, and When of project management we can actually define what we mean by planning and scheduling. As you can see from the table below, planning is at a  higher level than scheduling, which relates to task level activities.

Planning and Scheduling Compared

WhyThis involves understanding the business case for the project and the business benefits that it will bring us
WhatAn overall aim for the project in one or two sentencesA description of the project at task level
How The methods to be used in general to achieve the aim of the project, including how it will be communicated, and how risks will be managed
WhoThe resources that will be used in general for the project, internal, contractors, departments etc. inculding an analysis of these stakeholdersWho, by name, is assigned to each of the tasks, and ensuring that these resources are neither over, nor under-worked
Where The general location of activities on the project
WhenIn overall terms such as Q1, 2017When each task is being started and completed by actual date

Whilst the output of a schedule may look like a Gantt chart with resource names, a project plan (‘Planning’) consists of far more, including the project purpose, business case, contract strategy, risk management, communication management, stakeholder management etc.

Planning should refer to the overall project management process, leaving Scheduling for specific resource assignments against dates.

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Posted On: 19th July 2016

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