This is first in a series to help make you a scheduling professional.

Not only does a schedule become more readable when organized appropriately, it becomes easier to link predecessors and successors because they become located near each other.  It also helps resources understand the planning better and thereby helping them buy-into the schedule.  Let’s look at the ways to organize activities.

1)      By Project Phase

If the project can be monitored by fifty or less activities, this is a sensible way to organize.  Examples of a phased approach are WBS named Initiation, Engineering, Procurement, Construction, and Close-Out.  Usually different groups of resources are assigned to the different phases.  You can communicate schedule better with the discipline owner of the phases when their activities are grouped together.

2)      By System

If different pieces of equipment need to be commissioned as a group, then put the activities under a System WBS.  This also accommodates differing system deadlines readily.  It also allows ordering the systems in the order by which they are to be completed.

3)      By Geography

If equipment and services are to be turned over by building or area, then grouping activities by same will help the project manager focus and complete on-time.

4)       By Functionality

This is the least desired primary method of organization.  Projects are rarely delivered by function.  It can be used in the lowest level of WBS, however.


It may be helpful to create a hand network diagram of the schedule, trying one or several methods for organization and sub-organization.  Pick the best option before initiating the schedule in software, as once many activities are entered in schedule software, it is quite a chore to reorganize them.  Reorganization opens the risk of error.


About the author:

Mark Ramsay, PE, PMP, is owner of Effective Project Solutions, LLC.  His past jobs included Project Engineer for DuPont Co., Global Project Manager for Millennium Chemicals, and Project Management Consultant for Johnson Controls, Inc.  Mark graduated from Princeton University with a Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering degree and earned a Masters in Technical Management from Johns Hopkins University.  He is certified in software quality by the ISTQB.  He has won numerous project awards throughout his career, successfully managing sophisticated projects up to $40 million.


About Effective Project Solutions (EPS):

Established in 2012, EPS develops and sells Program Leader task and scheduling software.  EPS also offers scheduling services to clients.  Program Leader is for those operating many small projects who want an alternative to “spreadsheet management” and a replacement for confusing large project software.  Please see for more information.