We all know that time is money. There are, however, other risks to the timing or schedule of your project. When it comes to project time risk, knowing what it is and how to minimise will keep your projects on track.

The two most significant KPIs on a project are usually to get it delivered on budget and on time. It’s common for your project management office (PMO) to monitor project schedules closely to ensure that this metric is going to be hit.

Lots of things a risk to project schedules. We’re going to explore:

  • What the causes of time risk in projects are
  • The effects of time risks on a project
  • How your PMO can help mitigate time and schedule risk

What are time risks in a project?

Time risk can be positive or negative – the chance a project will run long or complete before the scheduled end date. Coming in early is a thing to celebrate, analyse, and attempt to replicate.

The more significant risk to projects are the negative time and schedule risks. Time is a finite resource on your project and will go hand in hand with cost risks.

Scope creep in a project will likely increase the time a project will take to complete. Further, miscommunications about timelines and expectations with contractors and even your project teams can throw off a schedule.

Getting the sequence of your project wrong will also get the timeline off. The project may have tasks planned to work concurrently and they need to be subsequent so time is wasted waiting for elements to get finished.

Generally, misallocating resources can also be a risk to your project schedules. It’s important that the right skills or equipment are used, not just the ones available. For example, you may have an junior programmer available but they will take longer to get the job done than waiting for an experienced one to become available on the team.

What are the effects of time risk on a project schedule?

As we’ve noted, when things take more time, they can cost more money. You will either need to pay your team for longer, or if you want to “crash the schedule”, you can throw resources at the project to get it over the line on time.

Stakeholders are very likely to notice a schedule overrun. Whereas your PMO or business may be able to absorb an increase in costs through contingency, it’s not possible to absorb schedule changes. This can cause reputational damage.

Further, a project that overruns can throw off your data and planning in the future. Your PMO monitors the data of a project to help improve ones in the pipeline. Although a project overrun can be a lesson learned, the data can’t feed into how a successful project runs.

How can I minimise my project time risks?

Having a clear understanding of how long each element of a project will take is the key to getting it brought in on time. Here are some of the ways you can keep your project on schedule and minimise the risk of the timeline changing:

  • Understand your project lifecycles so you can have a deeper understanding of what needs to be scheduled and when during the process, e.g. can a prototype start before full requirements are in?
  • Bring in the experts from your projects to confirm you’re allocating enough time; your programmers will know how long an API will take to integrate better than a business analyst, for example.
  • Use the right project methodology for the projects you complete, depending on the expertise, how many projects link up together, and the resources available.
  • Have a project management software or framework in place to be able to track the project schedule, identify time risks early, and know when a project is going to need extra support to be delivered on time.
  • Build-in time contingency so your schedule has some flexibility when other risks around people  and resources come into play.

The take-home

Time is a finite resource and can only be regained with a large financial investment. Knowing about project time risk, what it is and how to minimise it will help keep a lid on your project costs and get the projects under your PMO delivered on time.

By working to mitigate time risks, you will protect the reputation of your PMO and the business with stakeholders. Projects that hit schedule targets are also very useful for analysis to get your projects functioning well in the future.