Whether you have taken a foundational project management course which covered practices for predictive approaches or you were studying to take the PMP exam, you are likely familiar with schedule network diagrams. However, like many tools and practices in the PMBOK framework, just because we learn about them doesn’t mean we will use them.
If you skip creating network diagrams, you could miss out on these benefits.
- Building a network diagram is a fun team building exercise. Whether you do it on a white board using sticky notes or in a virtual collaboration platform, it provides a good opportunity for team members from different functional areas to figure out how we are going to get from start to finish.
- It increases the team’s buy-in to the project’s timelines. By contributing towards the creation of the diagram, there is a greater sense of ownership in the final schedule.
- It captures the scheduling logic in an easy-to-understand and explain fashion. Walking a stakeholder through a detailed Gantt chart, especially when there are multiple parallel network paths can be an exercise in frustration for both you and your audience!
- It makes it easier to notice if you have a scheduling error. Once a few hundred tasks are entered into a scheduling tool and dependencies have been added, locating a missing activity can be like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack. On the other hand, navigating activities in a network path on a network diagram is more intuitive and missing activities and unnecessary or missing dependencies can be identified quicker.
- It makes schedule creation more efficient. If you have ever witnessed a project manager struggling to enter data into a scheduling tool in front of their team, you will appreciate the reduced waste which is generated when the same project manager can take a completed network diagram and enter it offline into the tool and then share the final product with the team.
In some situations, skipping a network diagram might make sense.
If your project lends itself to a fully adaptive approach and work item sequence is changing frequently, while you might need to incorporate an understanding of dependencies when prioritizing the backlog or queue of work, a network diagram would get out of date very quickly. If the project is simple and has a minimal number of network paths, a network diagram might be overkill. Finally, if your project is very similar to a historical one and you can reuse the schedule from that previous project with minimal effort, a network diagram might be unnecessary.
But other than these situations, the benefits of producing a network diagram as the primary input to your project schedule will be well rewarded.
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