How to Keep IT Projects on Schedule, Part 1: WBS and Gantt Charts

By Mike Foster

One of the most frequent complaints senior executives have about IT professionals is that their projects are always behind and over budget.

This one really surprises me. Lets’ face it: Most IT professionals have never been introduced to the basics of project management.

The easiest, most basic way to introduce your IT professionals to project management is via a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). In its most basic form, a WBC is a list made up of steps needed to complete a project. These steps are listed mostly in order and there are designated milestones.

Moving to more advanced levels of IT project management, we have the Gantt chart, which effectively takes the concept of the WBS and puts it on a calendar.

The first step in creating a Gantt chart is to add the following information to your original WBS:

  • Estimated duration of each step
  • Dependencies such as “the prior step must be completed before the next step can start,” since some steps can be started simultaneously

With this info in place, software can then calculate the estimated start and stop dates for each step, and then overlay that information on a calendar.

Check out two examples of Gantt charts, below:

Editor’s Note: In Part 2 of this series, we’ll explore an additional project management resource for IT professionals, the PERT chart. Read Part 2 now

Mike Foster, CISA, CISSP, is the founder and CEO of Foster Institute. He is a technology expert, author and professional speaker with more than 1,000 presentations under his belt. Mike is author of The Secure CEO: How to Protect Your Computer Systems, Your Company, and Your Job and is regularly sought for interviews and business publication features. He’s been interviewed by USA Today, Forbes Magazine, and The New York Times, as well as many others.
Originally published: Nov 20, 2011

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