Chapter 7. Scheduling

7.2 Defining Activities

In line with the project schedule management plan, we should start scheduling the whole project by defining activities based on the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure). The activity definition process is a further breakdown of the work package elements of the WBS. It documents the specific activities needed to fulfill the deliverables detailed in the WBS. These activities are not the deliverables themselves but the individual units of work that must be completed to fulfill the deliverables. Activity definition uses everything we already know about the project to divide the work into activities that can be estimated. We might want to look at all the lessons learned from similar projects our organization has done to get a good idea of what you need to do on the current one.

Detailed planning begins by identifying all the tasks to be completed. The project team begins by reviewing the scope of the project which is found in the project scope statement (predictive/waterfall projects) or the product backlog (see Chapter 12 for agile projects). A WBS allows the team to have a visual representation of the forthcoming work. As discussed in Chapter 4, the WBS is a powerful planning tool. By breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable components, the WBS assists project managers in identifying the specific tasks. The team then determines how long it will take to complete the required tasks.

Expert judgment from project team members with prior experience and from stakeholders that can be consulted can help us define activities while developing project scope statements and WBS. If we are asked to manage a project in a new domain, we could use subject matter experts in that particular field to help define tasks so we can understand what activities are going to be involved. We may want to create an activity list and then have the expert review it and suggest changes. Alternatively, we could involve the experts from the very beginning. Please see “7.3: Estimating Activity Durations” for more explanation regarding expert judgment.

Sometimes we start a project without knowing a lot about the work that we will be doing later. Rolling-wave planning lets us plan and schedules only the portion that we know enough about to plan well. When we don’t know enough about a project, we can use placeholders for the unknown portions until we know more. These are extra items that are put at high levels in the WBS to allow us to plan for the unknown.

When we identify activities for the work packages, we can detail the activities in a project activity list which is a list of everything that needs to be done to complete the project, including all the activities that must be accomplished to deliver each work package with activity attributes. This list can consist of, but is not limited to:

  1. Activity identifier
  2. WBS number
  3. Activity title
  4. Scope of Work
  5. The person responsible (RACI chart can be used. See Chapter 5)
  6. Related activities
    1. Higher level activities (WBS number)
    2. Lower level activities (WBS number)
    3. Predecessors (including dependencies, that are FS, FF, SF, SS)
    4. Successors (including dependencies, that are FS, FF, SF, SS)
  7. Resource requirements
  8. Activity location
  9. Level of effort required
  10. Activity assumptions
  11. Activity constraints

The example in Table 7.1 is based on the project charter we developed in Chapter 3 (Case Study 3.1: Project Charter of Grocery LLC’s Mobile-Commerce Project), and the WBS we developed in Chapter 4 (Case Study 4.1: WBS of Grocery LLC’s M-Commerce Project). In Table 7.1, we focus on Activity 1.3 “Preparation of Project Charter” in the WBS. Under Activity 1.3, we determined six activities that can serve as the lowest level of activities, which are work packages. That would make it possible for us to allocate resources in Chapter 8.

Table 7.1: Activity List Template
(Adapted from a template on

Activity List for Project “Grocery LLC’s M-Commerce Project”
Activity title Scope of Work Person Responsible Predecessors
1.3 Preparation of Project Charter The project charter that will
authorize the project manager to
undertake the responsibility of the
project and apply the resources to
project activities will be prepared.
1.3.1 Develop high-level


The high-level scope consists of the
project purpose, measurable project
objectives, high-level requirements,
project description, boundaries, key
deliverables, and assumptions and
Member 1
1.3.2 Identify overall
project risks
This includes the identification of
the risks that affect the project in
Member 2
1.3.3 Develop high-level
This includes the estimation of the
overall schedule with summary
Member 1
1.3.4 Identify main
resources and develop
a high-level budget
This includes the initial estimation
of all resources (human resources,
physical resources, and services),
and the budget.
Member 2
1.3.5 Identify key
stakeholders and
project team member
Stakeholders with high-interest
levels and/or power levels will be
The project team’s composition will
be created. The qualifications required should be detailed.
The project sponsor’s authority will
be detailed.
Member 3
1.3.6 Develop project
requirements and
project exit criteria
Based on the project scope and
other sections of the project charter,
project approval requirements and
exit criteria should be detailed.
Exit criteria include the conditions
that describe the early termination
of the project.
Member 1,
2, 3

We can explain each column available in Table 7.1 as below:

Activity Identifier: Once the WBS is created for the project, the list of activities required to complete each work package needs to be developed by the project team. Each activity then needs to be assigned an Activity ID, which is placed in this column. The activity ID serves as a reference identification number during planning, developing, and controlling the project schedule.

Activity List: The name/unique label for the activity (in brief) is placed in this column.

Scope of Work: The description of work required to be done to complete the activity is placed in this column (in as much detail as possible).

Person Responsible: One person or more than one who will be responsible for delivering the activity must be mentioned in this column. It is always good to have a primary and an alternate team member assigned to this responsibility.


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Project Management by Abdullah Oguz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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