What is tentative project scheduling? And how does it help your project business prepare the most profitable pipeline of future work?
Tentative project scheduling may seem time-consuming. More like a nice-to-have than an operational essential. But service businesses that schedule tentative projects with the same care as confirmed ones will reap the benefits.
From more accurate forecasting and better project outcomes, to strategic planning that packs your pipeline with perfect projects, and right-sizes your team to deliver them.
Here’s everything you need to know about why and how to start tentative project scheduling - and the tools to help you do it accurately and quickly.
Tentative project scheduling is simply the process of planning a project when you’re still not sure if it’s going ahead.
In tentative project scheduling, Project Managers follow the same project scheduling techniques as for any other project - planning milestones and deliverables, attaching dates, exploring resource options, and estimating the budget. Just for a project that may or may not happen, for a project that hasn't materialized from a sales standpoint yet.
Why plan a project that might not happen? Tentative project scheduling might sound like a waste of Project Managers’ valuable time but there are lots of benefits to it - both at an individual project and organizational level.
In a professional services business, every project has the potential to impact others. So, even if a project isn’t guaranteed, you need to know how it would impact the overall workload of your team. Which resources are still available for work? How much capacity do you have left? Can other projects still proceed as planned? Would you need to recruit new resources? Tentative project scheduling helps answer those questions - so you can make better-informed decisions, which lead to better project outcomes.
‘Fail to prepare and you prepare to fail’, so they say. Whilst some tentative projects won’t go ahead, others will. And when they do, you want your budget and schedule to be accurate. Without tentative project planning, you could be basing your whole project plan on unhelpful project assumptions.
You may not have accounted for the fact that your preferred junior software engineer is unavailable when you need them. This means you need to use a more expensive resource - or move tasks around until they’re available. Whether it blows your budget or delays the project, it’s something that could have been avoided…
[Discover some essential project scheduling techniques for coping with the unexpected]
Then there’s the question of scenario planning. That’s when you use tentative project scheduling to experiment with different combinations of possible projects - to work out which is best for your business goals.
For example, Projects A + B might deliver high revenue. But preclude Project C from going ahead because they would need the same skilled resources. If Project C is a lower-value project but from a high-value repeat client, you may prefer a combination that allows Project C to go ahead. Through tentative project scheduling, you might discover Project C + A is a better combination. But until you’ve modeled all the scenarios, you won’t know.
A tentative project is an unconfirmed project. Examples of tentative projects include:
The problem with tentative project scheduling is that it takes time. If you’re using manual methods to plan your projects - like spreadsheets and Trello boards - tentative project planning can be a real time-sink.
And Project Managers are busy people. They’d rather be managing the actual projects they’ve got than fiddling about planning projects that might never happen.
Fortunately, project scheduling tools like Runn let you plan tentative projects so fast that it never feels like a faff. (Just one more reason to upgrade your old systems to something fit-for-purpose).
In fact, with Runn’s drag-and-drop functionality and at-a-glance insights, it feels like fun to plan for the what-ifs and build an optimal project pipeline.
Runn software lets you schedule potential projects in the same easy and intuitive way as confirmed ones. You simply set the project status to ‘tentative’. Your tentative projects will show in a different color to confirmed projects, so you and others can see that they’re not yet set in stone. Here’s how it works.
When creating a new project, choose Tentative under the project status.
To change an existing project's status, click on the three-dot menu next to the project on the Project Planner and select Set Tentative or Set Confirmed.
You might not always want to include all of your tentative projects in your planner calculations - so you can easily toggle them on or off. When tentative projects are on/included, they appear on the planner in a light blue color. If they’re off/excluded, they are greyed out.
Soft booking resources is when you tentatively allocate resources to a project that isn’t confirmed yet. In Runn, you can search for resources by skill, level, and availability to start building your dream team. Allocate them to your tentative project to provisionally reserve their time whilst you wait for project confirmation. Your colleagues will know those resources are needed… but may still be available if a firm, priority project comes along.
Different combinations of tentative projects let you understand the impact of different scenarios. Runn will recalculate your team's workload on the planner to help you figure out how the new work will best fit in.
Capacity, availability, and utilization charts
Take a look at the charts in the Projects and People Planner. See the effects of your tentative project scenarios on the wider business and team.
Bird's-eye view on the People Planner
Go to the People Planner to see how availability and utilization change with different combinations of tentative projects.
Group utilization charts
See how various groups of people are affected by your tentative project scenarios. Head to the People Planner, turn on Group Utilization, and choose how to group the people in your business.
Tentative project scheduling might seem like a time-sink your Project Managers can ill afford. Hopefully, we’ve proven the benefits to your project business - both in terms of project planning and outcomes, and organizational capacity and scenario planning.
Using the right tools will make tentative project scheduling much easier to fit into your PMs’ busy workload - and improve the speed and accuracy with which they can complete it.
To see just how easy tentative planning can be, try Runn for free for the fortnight. There’s no credit card needed and no limit to what you can do. You can get hands-on with our intuitive tools and have fun planning imaginary trips to the moon (like we do).
Start your free trial today.
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