Finalising the project schedule

Writing what I am about to write feels a bit like tearing up my CV. No one might want to give me a job in future!

Take a deep breath. It is now almost three months into our project, and I have only just managed to get our project plan and schedule finalised. The trouble partly is: I am not a trained project manager. I have been doing my best to get the project going, working fortunately with a talented team, but without realising that a thought-through project schedule was essential if we were to feel in control (as much as possible!) of the project.

An Australian friend, Daniel, has been a great help in gently (and firmly) kicking my backside and trying to get me to become more professional. I have also been lucky to find an Oxford-based mentor, Gihan, who has taught project management as well as being an IT professional. With the help of these two friends, and particular of Gihan who has been mentoring me for an evening each week - generously without charge as a contribution to the project - we now have a proper Project Schedule. Or at least it seems fairly proper to me!

I am using Microsoft Project 2007 and am delighted to have discovered what a valuable tool it is. Although some of its features are more than we need for our project, it does a great job of sequencing tasks, and helping plot the critical path for the project. For those not familiar with PM lingo, 'critical path' tracks the linked tasks in which any delay would also delay the completion of the project.

It is too early to say when we may have Release 1.0 ready. My hope remains that it may be possible before the end of June. But there are several factors, some of which are outside our control, which may cause that date to be pushed back. For example, we will be building our new system on Drupal version 6, which has not yet been released. Even if it is released in the next month or so, it may still be some weeks or even months before all the contributed modules we need are available for Drupal 6. If they are not all ready by say mid April, a delay in our project is almost inevitable.

It's all a big learning curve for me - but also a fascinating and exciting experience.