Despite careful planning a project will encounter variables once the project begins. These issues can cause schedule delays, not just in the individual task, but in the project as a whole. To keep the project on track, you may need to implement schedule compression methods.
Learning these methods are part of Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate of Project Management (CAPM) focused training. The knowledge that you gained from the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) has provided you with the ability to apply these techniques.
Both of the following schedule compression techniques can assist you if you get in a jam.
While schedule compression may take place during planning, or throughout the scope of work in order to manage risk.
What is Schedule Compression?
When a project falls behind, compressing the schedule to get back on target may be necessary. The goal is to reset the parameters in order to stay within the scope of the project. The need for this can be caused by a variety of reasons including, lack of resources, cost overruns, gold plating, change orders. All can cause your planned schedule to get out of sync with the scope. Compression techniques allow you to pull in the reins.
Other reasons for using schedule compression may be an:
- Unrealistic schedule plan.
- Resources that weren’t delivered on time.
- Unforeseen risks
- Force Majeure
- A change from the client in the delivery date
In PMP and CAPM training 2 techniques for schedule compression are covered.
Fast Tracking requires reviewing the Critical Path. This will allow you to identify tasks that can be done in parallel, while ensuring the path remains on track. Taking the time with Fast Tracking to make sure that there are as few critical paths as necessary and that those paths aren’t encroaching on the scope of the project prevents scope creep.
Fast tracking allows the project management team to move tasks around without necessarily increasing the cost or budget of the project. By monitoring and controlling the new path it can minimize work being duplicated or the necessity of work being duplicated. The PMBOK defines Fast Tracking as a “schedule compression technique”, where “critical path activities are performed in parallel instead of series.“
It is primarily used with tasks that aren’t dependent on each other, or independent of the scope so that they can run parallel to each other without interfering with the remaining tasks.
If, for example, there are a total of three parts that need to be made. One requires the other two to complete the assembly. By scheduling the first two parts at the same time, when they are finished the third part can be assembled as it is being produced, making the delivery of goods smoother and more efficient.
In this technique it may require not just changing the critical path but creating new ones in order to obtain, or redistribute extra resources in order to deliver the project earlier.
Crashing examples may include expanding work schedules or limiting resources. As with fast tracking, a critical path analysis is completed in order to conclude what the relative cost and benefit of crashing will be for each activity. Resources are then redistributed to work within all of the tasks to complete the new schedule.
Crashing comes with several risks. If, for example, you decided to bring in outside personnel resources, you may require team members to work longer hours in order to get the job done due to training required for the resources, inability to monitor extra people, or lack of skills. This can cause fatigue, mistakes, even loss of team members, when not presented correctly and monitored closely.
Crashing a task or tasks often requires an increase in budget in order to allocate resources. In the example above, paying through an agency for additional team members requires not only paying their salary for the contract work, but the agency that provided the workers. In the long run, is this decision going to work just as well if you have team members work overtime?
Schedule Compression Tactics
Before utilizing schedule compression techniques, do the following:
- Check and Challenge the dependencies. Make sure they are correct and valid.
To assemble part 3, it doesn’t require part 1 or 2, then all three parts can be run at the same time.
- Find ways within the critical path to prevent delays.
- Look for the most efficient ways to accomplish the task. Is it cheaper to produce all of the parts, or can you get one of them from another company for less money in order to save time and get the work done.
- Reducing or eliminating risk will reduce the time necessary to complete the task.
- Position your team to utilize their skills and abilities to their full potential.
“One worthwhile task carried to a successful conclusion is worth half a hundred half-finished tasks.” –Malcolm Forbes
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.