Schedule Compression Techniques


Time management is always challenging in project management. Through proper planning project managers can avoid schedule overrun.

Project Time Management involves

# defining required activities to complete the project,

# sequencing those activities based on their dependencies,

# estimating required resources & time for each activity,

# developing a project schedule, and

# executing the activities within the estimated time limit.

Schedule overrun may affect Cost, Quality and increases risk on project success. Few scenarios that may lead to schedule overrun are:

* Required resources are not available on time

* Activities takes longer time than estimated

* More reworks identified in quality process

Project management team can identify schedule overrun and possible risks due to overrun during project status performance reviews. Having quality management plan reviewed early in planning stage, projects can get benefit of cost reduction and schedule overruns caused by rework.

Project manager can use one of the schedule compression techniques or take corrective action to bring schedule back on track. It is not required that schedule compression techniques to be used only after encountering a schedule overrun. Project manager can use it as a preventive measure for anticipated schedule overrun. Let us review the definition:

Schedule compression shortens the project schedule without changing the project scope, to meet schedule constraints, imposed dates, or other schedule objectives. [1]

Mainly, schedule compression is to reduce the schedule without modifying project scope. Following 2 techniques are widely used for schedule compression: 1) Crashing 2) Fast tracking

Crashing: This technique may affect project cost. Trade-off between cost and schedule is analyzed and it is used to get maximum schedule compression for a minimal cost increase.

Following may be few actions by Project managers for crashing:

* Getting resources from other projects as loan

* Paying extra for fast shipment purchased materials

* Asking team members to work for extra hours against compensatory off or overtime

Crashing -

* does not always be an affordable choice; and

* may result in increased risk and/or cost.

Fast tracking: By simple definition, fast tracking is getting schedule compression by executing phases or activities in parallel that were originally scheduled in sequence. Fast tracking can be achieved by overlapping of phases or activities by starting subsequent activity or phase without finishing earlier one. But overlapping phases or activities may increase risk and gives rise to more reworks.

Following may be few actions by Project managers for fast tracking:

* identify phases that can overlap and start execute next phase before finish of earlier one

* identify activities that uses different set of resources and execute them parallel

* find activities that give low risk or low cost for time when executed prior to the completion of earlier phase

Fast tracking may result in -

* Rework – extra cost/time to fix

* Increased risk

As far as these compression techniques are concerned, managers can take risks if the risks are in balance with the benefits that may be gained by taking the risks.

References:

[1]. PMBOK® Guide 3rd Edition

6 thoughts on “Schedule Compression Techniques

  1. We know that in critical path activities have predecessor, So how it is possible that in critical path activities be in parallel ? as there is predecessor or condition of finishing previous work, then why it is possible to fast track in critical path ?

    • Hi Ashraful, Thanks for your comment. Both schedule compression techniques have risks involved in it. We need to be cautious when applying the techniques & need to have complete impact information on project like cost, schedule risks. As you told activities have dependencies, they are part of critical path & need to be executed in a particular fashion, still there some task relationship (Start to Start, Finish to Finish,etc) OR activity characteristics that allows executing activities parallel with the risk of reworking in case previous activity has some issues which are uncovered lately after starting the next activity parallelly.

      One classic example is starting testing activity of a software application before completing the application development. Though a risk of redoing the test in case development finds issue late after testing started, but it is worth taking the risk in case time to market is vital to get competitive advantage.

  2. Are you managing your project exclusively by PMBOK? If you don’t have a constraint in following exactly the PMI framework as far as executing I’d look into Critical Chain Project management which is similar to fast tracking but with less increased risk as long as your sponsors are willing to back you up on this. PMBOK is a great reference though in today’s fast evolving businesses it became deprecated. Waterfall at this time is a historical reference unless you have indefinite time at your hands. If you need more info on Critical Chain Project Management please let me know.

  3. Hi Vaibhav,

    Thanks for your valuable input.

    You understood exactly what I intended. I meant – Finishing the project on agreed delivery date even if there is an unexpected slip by the word “back on track”.

    In few situations, project planning can’t be done fully upfront (or) in a detailed level (or) some risks will go unexplored fully. Some unavoidable situations are like – delayed receipt of goods even above the expected date, unavailability of resources, etc. If the project is so vital for the organization and meeting the project delivery date is a must then the project manager can use crashing/fast tracking methods at that point also.

  4. Schedule compression always requires a balanced and calculated risk. Initially, during planning stage the plan is prepared with constraint (imposed) delivery dates where both these techniques were applied to meet them. When we are talking about using these techniques to bring back the earlier schedule back on track. Does this means earlier schedule was not prepaed carefully considering these techniques effectively, and if it does then what are you going to acheive by applying it again. So there is very rare chance to bring schedule back on track. Only way remains is crashing or late working to complete the backlog work. Learnings – try to find out and note down the reasons for earlier schedule slippage and corrective action taken; so that in future project ( or now onwasrds in the same project ) situations could be pro-actively planned and managed to the expectations of the stakeholders.

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