As projects become more complex and deadlines become shorter, project managers feel pressured to start working on tasks immediately. On the contrary, good project management suggests that these are occasions where they should spend time planning the project. Poor planning provides opportunities for scope creep or inefficient resource management. The planning stage does not have to take too much time, but it must be done carefully, and take into account available resources and budgets while anticipating project roadblocks.
Using a project plan template, teams can quickly clarify objectives, schedule milestones, assess risks, calculate resources, and identify dependencies. To make the plan more visible for all involved, project managers should create a project timeline.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Project Timeline?
- PM Software With Timelines
- Examples of Project Timeline Template
- Steps to Create a Project Timeline
- Project Timeline Use Cases
What Is a Project Timeline?
A timeline is a line with dates, events, or activities displayed in chronological order. A project timeline is a document that chronologically shows a list of tasks, activities, and milestones, with dates, duration, and dependencies. Timelines often provide an overview of the entire project from start to finish. Successful projects depend on following the timeline or work plan, so project managers and teams do their best to keep the project schedule on track.
However, just as a project can have multiple subprojects or deliverables in order to gain its ultimate objective, timelines can contain sub timelines to map out milestones within the project’s discrete phases.
Finaly, while the terms “timeline” and schedule” are often used interchangeably, a timeline is most useful when it visually represents the duration of the entire project, or project phase.
Trending PM Software with Integrated Timeline Tools
When building out a project timeline, the ability to quickly and intuitively adjust dates, sub-projects, and other deliverables is crucial. In the past, timeline building likely involved lots of copying, inserting rows, and pasting in a spreadsheet. It was a time-consuming, error-prone way to visualize dates and deliverables. In the past decade, project management software has evolved with native timeline creation tools that allow you to create timelines quickly, with features that allow to teams to drill down to the hour, or roll up to the overall multi-year timetable. Here are our top selections for timeline project management software.
Wrike is the most powerful work management platform on the market, enabling teams to plan projects and collaborate in real time. Our award-winning software is trusted by 20,000+ companies across the globe, including Sony, Estée Lauder, and Siemens.
Wrike’s customizable features include Gantt charts, request forms, dashboards, cross-tagging, time tracking, and proofing. Integrate with 400+ apps from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Salesforce. Automate repetitive tasks and achieve 50% faster planning. Work from anywhere with 100% access to your files via our mobile and desktop apps.
Whether you’re a small startup or an established brand, Wrike has the solution for you. Paid plans start at $9.80/user/month. Join our community of 2.3 million — start your free two-week trial today.
Smartsheet is a leading work execution platform that has real-time work management features, collaboration and automation tools. Users are presented with a familiar and easy-to-use spreadsheet-like interface. However, it has enterprise-grade capabilities that even Fortune 500 companies like Cisco, Bayer, HP, and PayPal are confident to adopt in their business. Strong project management features enable teams to utilize different views of real-time data, and switch easily from Gantt, card, grid and calendar views. Smartsheet has automatic update requests, and can be used for waterfall and agile projects, product launch, sprint planning, and more. The resource management feature provides users the visibility who is busy, and who is not, in real-time. They can also attach files, share sheets, get notified, view the activity log, export, email, and print.
monday.com Work OS is an award-winning no-code work management platform that helps teams manage projects and workflows more efficiently.
Used by 152,000+ customers worldwide, this fully customizable software lets you plan, manage, and track every project in one place. monday.com offers time-saving and easy-to-use features such as automations, time tracking, document sharing, and real-time collaboration. Multiple board views such as Gantt and Kanban help you structure and navigate tasks and projects the way you prefer, and dashboards give a high-level overview of your progress.
In addition, integrations with apps such as Outlook, Microsoft Teams, Gmail, and Excel, allow you to easily continue working with your favorite tools from within the platform. monday.com also offers dedicated solutions, such as monday dev and monday sales CRM, designed to answer the needs of specific industries.
Zoho Projects is an online project management application that helps its users to plan projects, collaborate with employees and clients, keep track of time, manage documents, and generate charts and reports. Users work on a central platform where they can keep track of progress, discuss ideas, communicate easily and stay updated. It is cloud-based and highly accessible, where user data is kept safe with stringent security systems. The software is also scalable depending on the number of projects, with the option to add more features. Zoho Projects is a cloud-based project management tool that helps you plan your work, track it efficiently, and collaborate with your team wherever they are.
ClickUp is one of the highest-rated project management tools today. Use Docs, Reminders, Goals, Calendars, Chat, scheduling, assigned comments, custom views, & more with this all-in-one project management tool.
Used by 800,000+ teams in companies like Airbnb, Google, and Uber, it brings all of your projects into a single app! Built for teams of all sizes and industries, Our fully customizable & proprietary features make it a must-have for anyone wanting to keep project management in one place.
Resource Guru is the fast, flexible way to schedule teams and keep projects on track. Get full visibility of who’s available and who’s overworked, so people and projects succeed in harmony. Assign work, balance workloads, and edit schedules in seconds. Keep your team up-to-date with personal dashboards and daily schedule emails. Analyze utilization rates, clients, and projects for more accurate forecasts and budgets. Trusted by companies including NASA and L’Oreal. Try it free for 30 days!
Xebrio is a SaaS-based project management software covering every phase of project development, from requirements to releases, all under one roof. Xebrio helps teams achieve maximum productivity by enabling precise and comprehensive requirement analysis and tracking, milestone tracking, hassle-free collaboration and task assignment, issue tracking, and much more, ensuring that your team never misses a deadline and works efficiently.
It is a project management software that allows you to get a clear picture of product requirements and user stories, will enable you to include all stakeholders in high-level planning, lets you manage and assign tasks quickly, communicate and collaborate effortlessly, track issues, plan sprints, and releases and keep a close eye on the time and budget constraints too.
Examples of Project Timeline Template
The concept of the timeline is nearly self-explanatory. But the simple representation of points along a line is just the beginning. Depending on your project’s needs, and on the level of detail your team members require, project managers have numerous types of timelines available to clearly show what needs to be done by when and by whom.
Gantt Chart Project Timelines
A Gantt chart is a popular project timeline in the form of a horizontal bar chart, where the bars describe the duration, start date, and end dates of each task. The project timeline can also highlight the different phases of a project, milestones for each phase, and responsible person for each task or task owner.
Read project-management.com’s complete rundown of the Best Gantt Chart Software for Project Management.
Work plan project timeline
Gantt charts are not the only type of project timelines. A work plan project timeline template divides the project into different phases. For each phase, the work plan lists the itemized planned activities and expected outcomes.
Milestone-Focused Project Timeline
A milestone-focused project timeline is a high-level project view focused only on important periods, project stages, and milestones during the course of the project. This type of timeline typically mentions only general description of tasks or activities, and provides limited details.
Stage-Focused Project Timeline
Another high-level type is a stage-focused project timeline. This type of project schedule template shows the major stages or phases of the project in longer time periods such as weeks or months with little to no other details.
Steps to Create a Project Timeline
Project timelines are vital documents in project plans. And for some stakeholders, the project timeline and the project plan are synonymous. At minimum, project stakeholders need a clear breakdown of the work schedule as well as their critical paths without getting lost in the individual task details. By creating a project timeline with the right degree of granularity, project managers help ensure to keep the team on track, promote transparency and accountability, and provide the big picture when all the pieces connect.
Here are the steps to creating a project timeline:
- Define project goals: Identify the key milestones and deliverables that make the project successful
- Identify all stakeholders: List the names of all the persons involved who will need to see the timeline
- Determine the final deadline: Mark the final date and make sure to include contingencies
- Write a project scope statement: Put in writing the goals, milestones, deliverables, tasks, and boundaries of the project
- Identify task dependencies: Find out which among the tasks are dependent on other tasks to start or end
- Estimate task duration: From the final deadline, estimate the time and duration for your team to complete the task and still meet the deadline
- Set milestones: Identify the important dates that mark the end of a phase or the completion of a vital part of the final deliverable
- Organize your project schedule using a project timeline tool: Choose an application that is easy to use and update a visible project timeline for all involved
Why start from scratch? Check out Timeline Templates: How to Use Different Project Timeline Templates.
Project Timeline Use Cases
Project timelines are applicable in a variety of industries and objectives. Here are some real-world examples where companies use project timelines to plan and schedule their tasks to achieve milestones and business goals.
Customer Appreciation Event Planning
Create a timeline for the event you planned for your customers. Identify the team members, their tasks, and the sequence of events before the big day.
Make it easy for sponsors and stakeholders to approve your idea. Show the different stages that the product will go through, the activities, and important milestones over time, from conception to launch.
High-Level Construction Timeline
Project timelines needn’t be restricted to landscape (horizontal) layouts. This construction plan timeline for a hospital allows you to identify the major stages, important start dates, and general details for each stage.
Aside from project applications, people use timelines in marketing campaigns, clinical trials, and legal court cases, and more.