Project Management 3c. Establishing Intermediate Deadlines

The calculation you just made indicated the total time needed to develop the course or communication product. This time includes not only the time needed for drafting the course or communication product, but also for distributing review drafts and receiving review comments, producing the course or communication product, and duplicating materials.

The time includes not just your time, but also that sponsor, subject matter experts, and others who review the draft course or communication product, the editor, production staff, and others.

Your next challenge is to identify the intermediate deadlines so that each team member has sufficient time to do their job. These intermediate deadlines are called milestones.

With each of the general phases of Analysis, Design, and Development are a series of specific intermediate deadlines that alert various people who play a role in the process of developing technical communication products when their assistance is needed.

The list presented here includes milestones for each point in the process when work should be shared with sponsors. For example, in addition to analysis and design phases, most communication products require three drafts before the material is considered to be complete, accurate, and clear.

Note that, because they occur after the communication product is published, the phases of Implementation and Evaluation are not covered here.  Note that, in this instance, Evaluation primarily refers to summative evaluation of the communication product.  Nearly each review in this process provides at least one type of formative evaluation, often two.

To schedule milestones,  you would divide the time between the current time and the final deadline into a series of periods, each assigned the percentages of time listed in Table 3.  That table lists all of the typical milestones, as well as suggests the percentage of time within a total project that you should assign to them.   The estimates of total time assigned to a given part of the project are suggested by Hackos (1994).

For those of you familiar with instructional design processes, the percentages of time drastically differ from those implied by most instructional design tests.  Reading a text like Dick, Carey, & Carey, one might infer that 50 percent of all instructional design efforts involve assessment and evaluation.  In reality, assessment occupies at most 15 percent of the total time, formative evaluation about 10 percent, and summative evaluation occurs outside of this process.

Table 3: Milestones in the Process and the Percentage of Time Typically Assigned to Them


Assessment
Usually not indicated as separate milestones but need to be accounted for in your planning:

  • Research
  • Interviews
  • Report of the needs analysis
  • Approval for the report
  • Write objectives
  • Prepare evaluation plan
  • Receive informal approval for the objectives and evaluation plan

10-15% (includes  1 review)

Design
Usually not indicated as separate milestones but need to be accounted for in your planning:

  1. Choosing form and medium
  2. Structure (outline, book elements)
  3. Preparation of original design plans
  4. Review and revision of design plans with sponsor
  5. Review and revision of design plans with potential users
  6. Approval of the content proposal
  7. Preparation of product guidelines (editorial, technical, production, and usability guidelines)
  8. Prepare schedule, budget, and staffing plans
  9. Final approval for the project plan

15-20% (includes  1 review)

First draft

25%

First review (editing, usability, technical).
Be realistic with review time; people cannot review 600 pages of text in a day or two. Also, make sure that you leave time for copying (if distributing printed review copies) and mailing (to and from you) as well as time for meetings to clarify review comments.

Part of the total time of developing the first draft, but you need to inform reviewers when copies are going to be sent.

Second draft

15%

Second review


Third draft (optional)

10%

Third review (optional)

Final draft

5%

Production.
Although not separately reported in a schedule, leave sufficient time for:

  • Copyediting
  • Preparation of golden code and a camera-ready copy
  • To printer

10%

Shipping and distribution

1-4 weeks, depending on publishing method

Assuming that you have 37.3 weeks to design and develop the user’s guide mentioned earlier, you would assign time as indicated in the example in Table 4.

Table 4: Example of Assigning Percentages of Time within a Project to Individual Milestones


Milestone

Percentage of Total Project

Time on this Project

Assessment
Usually not indicated as separate milestones but need to be accounted for in your planning:

  • Research
  • Interviews
  • Report of the needs analysis
  • Approval for the report
  • Write objectives
  • Prepare evaluation plan
  • Receive informal approval for the objectives and evaluation plan
  • Receive informal approval for the objectives and evaluation plan

10-15% (includes  1 review)

3.7-5.1 weeks.

Design
Usually not indicated as separate milestones but need to be accounted for in your planning:

  1. Choosing form and medium
  2. Structure (outline, book elements)
  3. Preparation of original design plans
  4. Review and revision of design plans with sponsor
  5. Review and revision of design plans with potential users
  6. Approval of the content proposal
  7. Preparation of product guidelines (editorial, technical, production, and usability guidelines)
  8. Prepare schedule, budget, and staffing plans
  9. Final approval for the project plan

15-20% (includes  1review)

5.1 -7 weeks.

First draft

25%

8.5 weeks.

First review (editing, usability, technical).
Be realistic with review time; people cannot review 600 pages of text in a day or two. Also, make sure that you leave time for copying (if distributing printed review copies) and mailing (to and from you) as well as time for meetings to clarify review comments.

Part of the total time of developing the first draft, but you need to inform reviewers when copies are going to be sent.

Set aside 1.5 weeks of the 8.5 weeks.

Second draft

15%

5.1 weeks.

Second review


Included in the 5.1 weeks; set aside 1.5 week of the 5.1 weeks.

Third draft (optional)

10%

3.7 weeks.

Third review (optional)


Included in the 3.7 weeks; set aside 1 week of the 3.7 weeks.

Final draft

5%

Rounding down, set aside 1 week.

Production.
Although not separately reported in a schedule, leave sufficient time for:

  • Copyediting
  • Preparation of golden code and a camera-ready copy
  • To printer

10%

3.7 weeks.

Shipping and distribution

1-4 weeks, depending on publishing method

3 weeks.

Next, you assign specific dates to each activity. That is mostly a straightforward activity. But when assigning deadlines for reviews, make sure you leave sufficient time to copy a draft (at least 2 days, even with quick copy services) and send it to reviewers (at least another 2 days, even with express mail) and for reviewers to return the draft to you (at least another 2 days).

Even if you are planning to conduct reviews with online copies (called an electronic review), leave at least 1 day at each end of the review for distribution. Although networks often deliver information the moment you transmit it, they sometimes “clog up” and do not deliver your files to the intended receiver for several hours or days.

The bulk of the time needed for production is needed for producing the communication product, which also includes time needed for duplicating it. The time needed for duplication varies, but is fixed by the printer or, for DVDs, by the duplication house. On shorter jobs, the time needed for duplication will be longer than 10 percent of the total job and this schedule will vary.

Finally, notice that there’s a fair amount of flexibility in assigning dates; the estimating formulas are just that—for estimating.  In fact, that’s why recommended percentages of time are just ranges in some cases; this implies some flexibility.

Table 5 shows an example of how you might assign dates to specific milestones for the project estimated in Table 4.

Table 5: Example of Assigning Dates to the Milestones


Milestone

Percentage of Total Project

Time on this Project

Dates for this Project

Assessment
Usually not indicated as separate milestones but need to be accounted for in your planning:

  • Research
  • Interviews
  • Report of the needs analysis
  • Approval for the report
  • Write objectives
  • Prepare evaluation plan
  • Receive informal approval for the objectives and evaluation plan
  • Receive informal approval for the objectives and evaluation plan

10-15% (includes  1 review)

3.7-5.1 weeks.
March 1

Design
Usually not indicated as separate milestones but need to be accounted for in your planning:

  1. Choosing form and medium
  2. Structure (outline, book elements)
  3. Preparation of original design plans
  4. Review and revision of design plans with sponsor
  5. Review and revision of design plans with potential users
  6. Approval of the content proposal
  7. Preparation of product guidelines (editorial, technical, production, and usability guidelines)
  8. Prepare schedule, budget, and staffing plans
  9. Final approval for the project plan

15-20% (includes  1review)

5.1 -7 weeks.
April 11

First draft

25%

8.5 weeks.
May 26 

First review (editing, usability, technical).
Be realistic with review time; people cannot review 600 pages of text in a day or two. Also, make sure that you leave time for copying (if distributing printed review copies) and mailing (to and from you) as well as time for meetings to clarify review comments.

Part of the total time of developing the first draft, but you need to inform reviewers when copies are going to be sent.

Set aside 1.5 weeks of the 8.5 weeks.
June 8 (includes time for a national holiday)

Second draft

15%

5.1 weeks.
July 3 (reflects holidays at this time of year)

Second review


Included in the 5.1 weeks; set aside 1.5 week of the 5.1 weeks.
July 13

Third draft (optional)

10%

3.7 weeks.
August 1

Third review (optional)


Included in the 3.7 weeks; set aside 1 week of the 3.7 weeks.
August 8

Final draft

5%

Rounding down, set aside 1 week.
August 15

Production.
Although not separately reported in a schedule, leave sufficient time for:

  • Copyediting
  • Preparation of golden code and a camera-ready copy
  • To printer

10%

3.7 weeks.
September 9

Shipping and distribution

1-4 weeks, depending on publishing method

3 weeks.
September 30

After preparing the schedule, you might adjust dates to accommodate your needs. For example, you might change the deadline for second draft because you have vacation time scheduled in June.

Last, you review the proposed schedule with your sponsor. Because your schedule depends on your sponsor completing reviews at the scheduled time, ask the sponsor for a signed commitment to completing all reviews on schedule. If the sponsor does not meet a scheduled review date, make sure that you get a written commitment that you have the right to delay final completion of the project one work day for each work day the reviews are delayed.

Once you have a committed schedule, publish it and make reviewers, editors, and others on the project team aware well in advance when you need their services. Occasionally remind them (people forget otherwise) so that you have the assistance you need, at the time you need it.

In the Project Resources sub-section, check the Worksheet for Preparing a Budget.

Then continue with the next post, Project Management 4. Establishing the Budget.

© Copyright 1996-2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved.  If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.

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About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers. saulcarliner.wordpress.com
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