Project Timeline Template : 10 Free Samples

Timeline provide a powerful way of representing project duration and the high level tasks involved. It is easier for everyone to understand when the project is going to start and finish if it is in a timeline view. 


Project Timeline
Project Timeline

What is a project timeline?

A Project Timeline is a visual display of major tasks and milestones listed in chronological order, with dates listed alongside them. The successful completion of all the tasks and milestones results in completion of the project. 

The bars are then broken down into shorter detailed tasks in the project’s work plan.
The timeline typically groups similar tasks together, and can also present dependencies between the various tasks / milestones.

Once a timeline is approved, it can also present the planned versus the actual progress of all the tasks / milestones. Most timelines employ a linear scale, meaning that if one bar twice as long as another then it planned to take twice as long to complete. The scale depends on the duration of the project, and is usually weeks or months. 

A Gantt chart is an example of a project timeline.

What is the importance of having a project timeline?

A timeline assists the project manager in presenting the high level plan of a project to the stakeholders, team members, vendors, clients, etc. It is a simple tool which can easily present to all involved if they are ahead / on / behind schedule.

It is very easy to visualize gaps, lapses, overlaps of tasks and durations of the tasks. When presenting the status of a project, the timeline is an excellent method to show the PvA (Plan vs. Actual).

What should a project timeline contain?

A project timeline should be kept simple, and follow the guidelines below – 
  • Colour code similar tasks.
  • Display the timescale at the top.
  • Present all the contingencies to any of the tasks.
  • Present the dependencies between any two tasks.
  • A task should be presented as a bar, and a milestone as a rhombus.

The timeline itself should contain the following contents – All the major tasks of the project. The tasks which compromise the critical path may be presented in a different way (for example a different colour), but this is optional. The tasks of each team / group should all be the same colour, and be grouped together.

The following milestones should also be covered - Contractual, Deliverables, Gates (Go / No-go) and 3rd party deliverable.

What are the steps involve in creating a timeline?

In order to capture a timeline, the following steps should be followed –
  1. WBS: Since 100% of the required work is captured in the WBS, this is a good place to start when outlining a timeline. Each section of the WBS (Engineering, Testing, Interface, etc.) needs to become a group of tasks in the timeline. 
  2. Contractual obligations: In order to make sure that all of the obligations are met, they need to be inserted into the timeline in their respective groups. Their predecessors should be clearly marked, in order to plainly see how postponing a certain task will affect the contractual obligations. 
  3. Brainstorming: Once the first two steps are completed and an initial draft is ready, it should be presented to the team (team-members, stakeholders, clients, vendors). Their input is very valuable in order to get a feasible plan which is acceptable by all parties. 
  4. Stakeholders / Client Approval: Once the three steps above are completed, receiving approval of the plan is the final step. After the approval is received, rolling out the plan to everyone is an important step. The plan should be communicated in several different methods (E-mails, meetings, large printouts, etc.).
Simple Project Excel Timeline
Simple Project Excel Timeline

How to maintain a project timeline?

After communicating the plan, the next step is to maintain it. This will result in a PvA (Plan vs. Actual) report, which will present a high level picture of how the project is doing. There are 2 main options of maintaining the timeline –

Maintain a detailed Plan

  • Each task in the timeline is broken down into detailed tasks, and their complete % is updated on a periodic basis. 
  • Each task contributes its part to the overall completion %, and this overall % is presented in the timeline. 
  • The planned % is typically linear, i.e. if a task is planned to take 4 weeks and 1 week has passed then 25% should have been completed. If the actual % isn’t 25% then there may be a problem (even if it higher, it could indicate that the team have overlooked some tasks). 
  • The timeline is then updated with the actual %, and the result is a PvA report. This report should be presented in all status meetings, and serve as the platform for raising issues, risks and opportunities. 
  • The main advantage is that the result presents all the effort which was put into the task. 
  • The disadvantage is that it requires quite a bit of effort to keep the detailed plan updated. 

Maintain KPI’s

  • Each task in the timeline has a KPI which measures how many deliverable were approved. 
  • For example: If the task is writing 20 documents, then the KPI will measure how many documents were written and approved out of the 20. If 5 were approved, then the KPI will be 25%. 
  • This percentage is the actual, and will be presented in the report. The main advantage is that it is simple to maintain and measure. 
  • The disadvantage is that if 20 of the documents are almost completed, the KPI will show 0% since none of them were approved.
Project Timeline Word Template
Project Timeline Word Template

How to to create a project timeline?

There are several tools and platforms on which a timeline can be produced. Below are some examples – 

Using Excel

  1. The top rows should present the timescale (Years > Months > Weeks), and the right most column the group / team names (HW, SW, Testing, etc.). 
  2. Each task should then be compromised of a number of cells, when each cell represents duration of one week (Each cell is usually 1 week, unless the duration of the project is years and then it is 1 month). 
  3. If a task is planned to take 5 weeks, then it should be made up of 5 cells. 
  4. Each group / team should have their own colour for visualization’s sake. The milestones should be just one cell, and should be colored differently in order for them to stand out.

Using Word or PowerPoint 

  1. Insert a table in the document (“Insert” tab -> “Table”), and use the top 3 rows to present the scale of the timeline (Years > Months > Weeks). 
  2. Then merge the cells of the row according to the duration of the task. Each cell is usually 1 week, unless the duration of the project is years and then it is 1 month. 
  3. The milestones should be one cell, differently coloured so they will stand out. It is also possible to use the “SmartArt” option (“Insert” tab -> “SmartArt” -> “Process”).
  4. There are quite a few options to choose from: Continuous Arrow Process, Continuous Block Process, etc. 
  5. Once these are inserted, a menu appears on the left where you can insert the text (the name of the task) along with the start & finish dates. These are good for a short project with few tasks / milestones.

Using MS-Project

  1. This application is the one most designed for creating timelines, so it is the easiest to do so with it. 
  2. In order to create the timeline, you need to insert the tasks (along with their duration and start dates), and then set the predecessors. 
  3. Once these are in place, in order to set the timeline you need to right click on the tasks that you want to add to the timeline. In the menu that opens up, choose “Add to Timeline” (See pic below). 
  4. Once all the tasks are added, go to the “View” tab and check the “Timeline” box. 
  5. The timeline will appear at the top, and it is possible to customize it regarding the date appearance, colours, etc.
Project Timeline PPT
Project Timeline PPT

Best Practices when working with timelines

  1. Always take into account the resource availability - full time, part time etc.
  2. Consider public holidays for the project team. In some cases the team could be in different geographical locations. So, cover all the countries / states involved.
  3. Do simple validations - check if number of resources are planned work make sense. For example if you have 2 resources and 20 days then you should be completing something in 2 weeks or your project should run for 10 weeks.
  4. Always ensure the effort for tasks is estimated by the actual people doing the tasks. 
  5. Clearly, highlight any assumptions you have made so that everyone will know how you arrived at a given timeline.
  6. Always have some contingency in the plan so that you can cover up if something goes wrong. Depending on the size of the project 10% to 20% buffer should be applied.
  7. Verify the timeline before it is sent out to everyone. It is good idea to get some feedback by showing to senior managers or project team to understand glaring issues.
  8. When sending out the details it is a good practice to run it past a senior manager. It is important to understand the view the management has about the project. It is also very helpful if you get a feel from project sponsor or delivery by showing your timeline.
  9. Understand what other projects are running at the same time. This will help in identifying any cross project dependencies like resources, environments etc.

Samples for Project Timeline Templates 

Product Roadmap Template

Sometimes it can be difficult for Product or Project Managers to visualize the different goals or a project or product development. Using a road map template allows visualization of not only the timeline but also the components and the deliverable s with a high level over arching strategy. Download Product Roadmap Template.

Product Roadmap Template
Product Roadmap Template

Single Project PowerPoint Timeline Template

The single project PowerPoint template is useful when you want to display additional details with the project tasks. The template is colorful and readable which makes it easy for every to understand. The template allows can be used to highlight potential issues with the project. Download PowerPoint Timeline Template.

Single Project PowerPoint Timeline Template
Single Project PowerPoint Template

Excel Timeline Template

This excel template which uses conditional formatting can be used to design timelines for single and multiple projects. The timeline has some cool features like auto calculation of end date or you can adjust the scale. Download Excel Timeline .

Excel Project Timeline
Excel Project Timeline Template

Multiple Project PowerPoint Timeline Template

The simple PowerPoint template for multiple projects can be used to show a view of a portfolio of projects.  The timeline also has status indicator key project KPI which can be used to show the status of the individual projects. Download Multiple Project Timeline PPT Template.
Multiple Project PowerPoint Timeline Template
Multiple Project PowerPoint Template

Multiple Project PowerPoint with Status Indicator

This gorgeous PowerPoint template with dark background allows not only capturing of different phases but also each phase can be colored to represent the project status. The template also a today line which is makes it more informative for the readers. Multi Project Timeline PowerPoint with Status.

Multiple Project PowerPoint with Status Indicator
Multiple Project PowerPoint

Multiple Project PowerPoint with MS Project 2013

This is basic timeline template which is created with MS Project. The article explains how the simple functionality in MS Project can be used to create more meaning full timelines. Timeline with MS Project.
Timeline with MS Project
Timeline with MS Project

Project Environment Planning Template

When managing multiple projects one of the constraints is the number of environments available to test. It is important that multiple projects be planned by considering the number of project environments available.

Project Environment Planning Timeline Template
Project Environment Planning Template

  • The template shows a clear view of how projects are using the available environments.
  • Has 3 sections - Projects, Environments and the timeline.
  • The projects section displays the different projects. 
  • Each project is represented by different colors.
  • The environments lists the different environments available. You can change the list of environments to suit your requirements.
  • The timeline will show which project will use which environment. 
  • To show multiple projects using the environments at the same time use a red border to show the group of projects. 
  • Download Environment Planning Timeline Template.

Simple Timeline Templates

Here is a collection of simple timeline examples - Excel Simple Timeline, PowerPoint Timeline(PPTX) and Word Timeline Template(docx).

1 comments:

  1. Hi! How can I get the Multiple Project PowerPoint Timeline Template? I

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