Using Schedule Data to Improve Project Management



Anne E Johnson

Contributing Author: Susan Hostetter

Demographic Statistical Methods Division, U.S. Bureau of the Census

Washington, DC, USA



Like many project managers, I faced challenges such as under-estimated costs and effort, timelines and budgets too tight to meet the needs of sponsors, and the inability to make data-driven decisions. In response to these challenges, I developed methods using schedule data to improve the overall management of my projects. In this paper, I will describe my methods and discuss how these methods contribute to specific project management benefits such as:

  • Identifying cost efficiencies
  • Managing the budget more effectively
  • Improving cost estimation and resource planning
  • Reducing overall project risk
  • Improving transparency with staff and sponsors
  • Supporting informed, real-time decision making


My Division

The Demographic Statistical Methods Division (DSMD) of the U.S. Census Bureau operates in a unique environment within the Federal Government. DSMD provides a variety of statistical services, such as sampling, quality assurance, and survey methodology research in order for the Census Bureau to execute over twenty demographic surveys. The work DSMD performs on all of these different surveys is sponsored by several external government agencies that each have their unique operating styles, needs, and requirements.

Although much of DSMD’s work is essential to successfully executing each survey, DSMD also has the capability and staff expertise to perform research and analysis in order to improve surveys leading to cost savings and improved efficiencies. Given the current environment of the federal government, we are constantly at risk of decreasing budgets, and therefore find ourselves competing for our research-type work to take priority and receive the appropriate funding. Additionally, there are risks to operating in a reimbursable work environment, making it essential for DSMD to keep costs low and quality of deliverables high.

Project Server at the Census

The US Census Bureau introduced Microsoft Project Server a few years ago to improve project and portfolio management, as well as, provide required reporting information to the Chief Information Officer and to Congress. Microsoft Project Server is a web-based application that serves as a database of project schedules and associated information, a portal for employees to charge their work hours to tasks on projects, as well as providing customizable reports for resource and schedule management, amongst other useful project management features.

A bureau-wide mandate was put in place for all staff to report their weekly work hours into Project Server to the associated mission-enabling service or survey life-cycle component. At the same time, the need for project management was becoming increasingly realized across Census. Having the project server infrastructure in place allowed Project Managers to execute and manage schedules based on actual work hours charged by project teams. Added benefits to collecting this schedule data are to analyze and use the data to improve planning for future projects, create transparency with our sponsors and survey directors, and improve resource and cost management.

It is important to note that this did not happen overnight or without a few headaches. Developing quality schedules and getting staff to accurately charge their work hours was necessary in order to successfully collect useful data. To accomplish this, the project managers needed to create comprehensive and manageable schedules with tasks that staff could easily understand and charge their work hours through Project Server. This was no easy task. It took the Demographic Statistical Methods Division (DSMD) approximately two years to achieve reportable project schedules.


To read entire paper, click here


Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 5th Annual University of Maryland PM Symposium in May 2018.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Johnson, A. (2018). Using Schedule Data to Improve Project Management; Proceedings of the 5th Annual University of Maryland Project Management Symposium, College Park, Maryland, USA in May 2018; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue IX – September.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/pmwj74-Sep2018-Johnson-using-schedule-data-to-improve-project-management.pdf


About the Author

Anne Johnson

Washington, DC, USA



Anne Johnson graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics and Economics in 2012. Shortly after graduating, Anne began her career at the US Census Bureau working in the Economic Directorate as an analyst on the Service Annual Survey and the 2012 Economic Census.

Anne joined the Demographic Statistical Methods Division as a project manager in February of 2015. She has provided project management support to the American Housing Survey, National Survey of College Graduates, the Current Population Survey Supplements, and Survey Methodology research projects. In this role, Anne has developed and managed over 50 project schedules, produced cost estimates for survey work and research projects, monitored the budgets for reimbursable projects, created reports to assist management with resource allocation and budget management, developed training materials, and managed contracts as a COR.

Anne received a Master’s Certificate in Project Management and her PMP certification in 2016 and her COR certification in 2017.

Anne Johnson can be contacted at [email protected]