Training development projects are filled with potential challenges and roadblocks. Even a simple project involving a small update to an existing course can involve multiple stakeholders and a complex approval process. Sticking to deadlines and budgets can be difficult, but establishing a realistic and effective project timeline goes a long way towards successfully completing your project.
Why Training Project Timelines are Important
Even if you don’t have a hard deadline, establishing a timeline keeps your project team productive. The timeline isn’t just about the end date when the project is finished, it’s about creating milestones and deliverables that help to keep the overall project on track.
A training project timeline ensures:
- Accountability and urgency to complete important tasks
- Stakeholders are kept in the loop on your progress
- The project is broken down into manageable chunks
- You can create a productive meeting schedule based on the timeline and deliverables
Once a project has been accepted through your training intake process, it’s time to start devising a schedule for kicking off and managing the project.
Check out award-winning eLearning designers, Time Slade, discuss other ways to keep training projects on track in this on-demand webinar recording:
An Expert’s Secret Formula for Keeping eLearning Projects On Track and On Budget
1. Define the overall project scope and goals
To get a solid idea of the length of timeline you’ll need, it’s essential to define the overall goals and scope of the project. That includes:
- The learning objectives of the course
- The learning audience size and profile
- Project budget
- Content requirements and formats
- Stakeholders that will be involved
This will give you a better idea of how many hours of work this project is going to take. Balanced against the resources available to you, the timeline you develop will be realistic and achievable.
2. Bring in all the stakeholders you’ll need
Identify all stakeholders that will be involved in the project, even if it’s just for simple approval processes. Even those who appear to play a small part in the project can be the very people who end up holding everything up.
Make sure everyone is invited to any kick-off meetings so you can set expectations, discuss the timelines and deliverables, and make sure everyone understands the importance of their role to overall project success.
Working with multi-functional teams for a training project can be challenging. Download this toolkit for everything you need for working with stakeholders and SMEs:
Toolkit: The Secret Formula for Working with SMEs
3. Decide a hard deadline
Before you start to break items down and create a step by step timeline, define an end date for the overall project based on your analysis of work hours and available resources.
For high priority projects, you may need to crunch your timeline down into a smaller timeline than you would like. But knowing this from the start and creating the rest of your timeline with this in mind means that you can get team members and stakeholders on board from the start.
4. Define and list all tasks
Now that you have your overall project duration defined, list out every single task that will need to be completed.
Next, identify dependencies. Are there any items that need to be finished before you can move onto another? Make sure your project schedule takes these into account so you can schedule tasks in the most efficient way possible.
5. Assign responsibility for each deliverable
Choose specific deliverables that will mark the progress of your project towards its end goal. Clearly mark each deliverable along your timeline before assigning responsibility to an individual to ensure deadlines are met for each one.
You can also start to schedule overall project team meetings in accordance with these deliverables to help keep the overall project on track.
6. Document risks
Inevitably, there will be delays of one kind or another over the course of the project. So get ahead of them early on and maintain a level of flexibility in the project timeline.
Assess each risk and try to pad each deliverable and deadline with an extra day or two to get back on track, especially for deliverables that are at a higher risk of delay.
7. Work backward to create your timeline
With a final deadline decided, it’s a good idea to work backwards to define your other deliverables and deadlines. That way you’ll know:
- How realistic your deadline and overall timeline is
- Where you might be under a bit more pressure to meet specific deliverables
You might end up deciding to extend the overall deadline, but either way you’ll have a much better grasp on how to break up the project into manageable pieces.
8. Choose a tool for sharing and managing the timeline
Creating a deadline is one thing; making sure your project team members stick to that deadline is another. Aside from regular meetings and frequent collaboration, sharing the project timeline (with deliverables clearly marked) can help keep the team accountable for their individual tasks and responsibilities.
So, decide on a tool where you can create and maintain the project timeline before sharing it with your colleagues. Display the timeline at meetings and refer to it frequently to keep it visible and top of mind for the project team.
Defining timelines without understanding your training team’s capacity can feel like a shot in the dark. Try this interactive capacity gap calculator to. understand whether you have too many resources, or too few:
Interactive Capacity Gap Calculator: Calculate How Well Your Training Team is Keeping Up With Demand