A business can succeed or fail on effective scheduling, so it’s really important to have a procedure in place for planning upcoming projects – setting timescales and managing operational delivery of work.
My previous blog post ‘Order! Order! How an order book can help keep your business in line’ discusses how essential it is to set up and maintain an order book, documenting all current projects and placing them in a monthly schedule of works to be completed – but there are steps you need to take to ensure your order book works effectively.
Here are a few tips on scheduling your work – so that you are able to set realistic deadlines that you can stick to!
Take a comprehensive brief
This should be a given – that you understand exactly what is required of you before you even put in your proposal or quote. All too often, however, sales teams fail to take a comprehensive brief, which leads to all sorts of problems down the line. Not only can this cause your quotation to be askew, if you find out later that more is expected of you than you thought, it makes scheduling impossible. Make sure you understand, in as much detail as possible, what the client wants!
Monitor how long different project tasks take
To schedule your workload effectively, you need to understand your output levels. How long does each task take? Do you need to allow extra time to troubleshoot any problems? Is your work dependent on receiving information or products from others that could cause delays? Try and set a maximum delivery time for each project task.
Match projects to work hours available
To ensure you meet deadlines, you need to schedule new work into your existing production programme. If you don’t have the man hours to start work on a project for a couple of weeks, make sure you take this into account when calculating your deadlines. You will need to consider staffing levels, allowing for holidays etc.
Communicate with your client!
One of the most vital steps in scheduling works is communicating your plans to the client to ensure your potential deadline meets with their expectation. If they have a distinct deadline, you need to know you can meet it. If you can’t, you need to tell them – it’s just good customer service.
Monitor your schedule regularly
Things do crop up in business that can mess up even the most meticulous plans. Unexpected staff absences, urgent jobs that must be prioritised, unanticipated delays, the list goes on. Regular monitoring of your work schedule is, therefore, essential. You may need to shuffle tasks around, speak to clients about moving deadlines or enlist more help to get work completed – so ongoing management of scheduled works is vital.
Update your order book accordingly
Make sure you keep your order book updated! Add in new work according to your planning, with a realistic deadline. If you have to shuffle tasks, change the details in your order book so that it doesn’t throw your invoicing or cash flow predictions out.
For more in-depth advice on project scheduling, take a look at Doug’s practical guidebook ‘Getting Down to Business’ or speak to him direct about the support he can offer.