Before a project starts, it needs a clear schedule, and that process will be supported by your project management office (PMO). Once a project schedule has been created, three types of project schedule need to be made and used appropriately.

A project schedule acts both as a way to hold the project accountable to targets and to inform workers what they need to do and by when. With a range of project functions, having one document can cause confusion.

It’s recommended that you have three project schedules created, which we’re going to look at here. We’ll cover:

  • The three types of project schedule you need
  • The main purposes of each project schedule
  • The information that needs to be included

So that your PMO can help ensure every project is delivered on time.

What are the three types of project schedule?

Having different schedule documents will make sure that you don’t bombard people with too much detail but also that the right people know exactly when to complete work. This means you should have three matching schedules for each project:

  1. A master schedule
  2. A milestone schedule
  3. A detailed schedule

Stakeholders can see what to expect and when, your PMO can track schedule-related KPIs, and project teams can see exactly what to do when using these three documents. They should all work in harmony with each other and not contain any conflicts.

How to use the three types of project schedule

1.       The master schedule

The master schedule is a summary level document. It should contain:

  • Project milestones
  • Deliverables
  • Work breakdown structure

Key stakeholders should be given the master schedule, and it’ll be the one that gets referred to in communications between the project manager, PMO, project sponsor, and the client. These people, and others, will be tracking the project success against the master schedule.

It’s also the document that the project and business are contractually bound to, usually. This means that any changes to the master schedule will need to be documented and signed off by the project sponsor.

2.       The milestone schedule

You can expect to get more detail in a milestone schedule for a project. It will outline the goals and achievements that a project must hit and the date they’re expected.

It’s unlikely that this schedule will be shared outside of the project team and the PMO, mainly because it has a lot of information that the client or C-suite don’t need. Everything they want to know should be in the master schedule.

However, it’s a key document because the milestones should be a measure in a project’s KPIs. It’s the document your PMO should refer to as a measure of whether a project is under- or overperforming against timelines.

3.       The detailed schedule

A detailed schedule is created primarily for the project team. These people need to know exactly what needs to be done and when, including information about:

  • Resource availability
  • Deliverables at the end of each task
  • Deadlines
  • Work that needs to be completed before and after each task

A detailed schedule should be easy to digest with enough detail to keep workers on track. It should be laid out in a clear way – you may have freelancers join a project part-way through, and they need to understand the detailed schedule as much as the project manager.

This data can be useful to your PMO, and it’s ok for you to access it, but there will be information you don’t really need to know.

When to use the three types of project schedule

Every project should have all three project schedules created. The information on them all is essentially the same; the difference is the level of detail included in each one.

If a deliverable, milestone, or date doesn’t match up across schedules, something has gone wrong with planning and will need to be rectified. The master schedule should take precedence since this is the one the client is working with and is likely tied to the success of the project.

Knowing how to support the creation of the three types of project schedule and when to use them is important to your PMO. It will keep relations with stakeholders running smooth, give your office data about the success of a schedule, and help the project team understand their tasks.