Project managers often face the challenge of delivering their projects on time and within budget. However, sometimes things don’t go as planned and the project schedule gets delayed due to various reasons. In such cases, project managers need to use schedule compression techniques to shorten the project duration without compromising the scope or quality.
Schedule compression techniques are methods of reducing the project schedule duration by modifying the project activities or resources. There are two main types of schedule compression techniques: fast tracking and crashing. In this article, we will explain what these techniques are, when to use them, and how to apply them effectively.
What is Fast Tracking?
Fast tracking is a schedule compression technique that involves performing project activities in parallel or overlapping them instead of doing them in sequence. This way, the project duration can be reduced by eliminating or reducing the waiting time between activities.
For example, suppose you have a project that consists of four activities: A, B, C, and D. The normal sequence of these activities is A-B-C-D, and each activity takes 10 days to complete. The total project duration is 40 days. However, if you fast track the project by performing activities B and C in parallel after completing activity A, you can reduce the project duration by 10 days. The new sequence of activities is A-(B,C)-D, and the total project duration is 30 days.
What is Crashing?
Crashing is another schedule compression technique that involves adding more resources or reducing the scope of some activities to shorten their duration. This way, the project duration can be reduced by completing the activities faster than planned.
For example, suppose you have a project that consists of four activities: A, B, C, and D. The normal sequence of these activities is A-B-C-D, and each activity takes 10 days to complete with one resource assigned to each activity. The total project duration is 40 days. However, if you crash the project by assigning two resources to each activity, you can reduce the activity duration by half. The new sequence of activities is still A-B-C-D, but each activity takes only 5 days to complete with two resources assigned to each activity. The total project duration is 20 days.
When to Use Schedule Compression Techniques?
Schedule compression techniques are useful when you need to shorten the project schedule without changing the project scope or quality. There are many reasons why you might need to compress the schedule, such as:
- An unrealistic schedule that was imposed by stakeholders or clients
- A delay in some project activities due to unforeseen risks or issues
- A change in client requirements or expectations that requires faster delivery
- A competitive advantage or market opportunity that requires expedited product launch
- A force majeure event that affects the availability of resources or facilities
However, schedule compression techniques also have some drawbacks and risks that you need to consider before applying them, such as:
- An increase in project cost due to additional resources or overtime
- A decrease in project quality due to reduced testing or verification
- A loss of stakeholder satisfaction due to scope reduction or trade-offs
- A rise in project complexity and uncertainty due to parallel or overlapping activities
- A potential for rework or errors due to lack of coordination or communication
How to Use Schedule Compression Techniques Effectively?
To use schedule compression techniques effectively, you need to follow some best practices and steps, such as:
- Analyze the project schedule and identify the critical path activities that determine the project duration
- Evaluate the feasibility and impact of fast tracking or crashing each critical path activity based on their dependencies, resources, scope, cost, quality, and risk factors
- Select the most suitable schedule compression technique for each critical path activity based on their trade-offs and benefits
- Implement the schedule compression technique by adjusting the project schedule, resources, scope, cost, quality, and risk plans accordingly
- Monitor and control the project performance and progress after applying the schedule compression technique and take corrective actions if needed
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Schedule compression techniques are powerful tools for project managers to shorten the project duration without compromising the project scope or quality. However, they also have some drawbacks and risks that need to be carefully assessed and managed. By using fast tracking or crashing techniques appropriately, project managers can deliver their projects on time and within budget, and satisfy their stakeholders and clients.
Understanding the information in this article is an essential part of project management and a vital part of the PMP exam. Improve your project management skills or prepare for the PMP Certification exam by taking a quality online PMP exam prep course.