A common nightmare for the project managers across the industries is to keep the schedule on track. But most often, for various reasons the schedule goes hay-way. It can be an unrealistic schedule planning which often happens in today’s competitive market, or due to any unforeseen incidents or in-case of any force majeure. For instance, if project schedules gets out of hand, the managers for the respective projects will have to run pillar to post to bring the project on track. But, that is not the same case always, it is also observed that sometimes due to the client or sponsors request (read as pressure), the Project Managers have to complete the project before the planned scheduled date.
Those are the testing times for the project managers when they have to complete the remaining work in a shorter time period. It is obvious that they have to work hard on multiple aspects of project management. They not only look for the ways to complete the project in a shorter duration but have to be vigilant enough to safeguard the project from any risk and quality issues. And it is also seen that the team morale often goes down in such situations. So resource management including the people management is also an important facet which the managers have to take care of.
There are many ways to deal with those crucial situations, among them one of the proven technique which managers across the industries apply a technique to compress the project schedule which is called the Schedule Compression technique.
Let’s discuss a typical scenario of a project manager, who is working in a software company.
Brend is working as a project manager in a software company for last 2 years. Though he doesn’t have the experience to manage large projects, but have been managing many small projects successfully. Currently, he is managing a six months fixed duration project.
While his project is in midway, he came to know that due to some strategic decisions at the client side, the client wants to release the product before the earlier declared date. So the client requested him to deliver the software application prior to the already scheduled date.
Brend is in deep trouble now; the project is already running in a tight schedule. Though at planning stage he has kept some time as contingency reserve, but due to some major issues those buffer times has been utilized at the initial development phase itself.
Brend called an urgent meeting with his team to discuss the current situation. They started looking into the work breakdown structure (WBS), Network Diagrams, resource calendar, activity duration and their sequences etc. to find out a way to complete the work before the earlier planned dates. After carefully examining all the necessary documents and artifacts, they decided to use the schedule compression technique.
Let’s discuss some commonly used schedule compression technique.
Whenever we need to complete the project in a stipulated time period on client or sponsor’s request, or rushing to catch the deadline, the schedule compression technique is there to help us. There are many ways to compress the schedule to expedite the work, out of which some common techniques are as follows.
Fast tracking is a schedule compression technique where the activities or phases on the critical path are performed in parallel rather than executing them in sequence. So, we need to carefully examine the critical path and identify the activities or phases which can be overlapped.
Once those activities are identified, the next step is to find out the activities which are of longer duration and can be clubbed together. Also need to analyze carefully whether those activities are sharing same resources. In that case, the same set of resources may require working extra hours to perform the multiple activities, which may demoralize them. So it is advisable to motivate the team to boost their morale.
Though the fast tracking process helps you to shorten your project duration, but chances are high that it can increase rework and risk. So before applying it, do a proper risk analysis exercise, and update your risk response plan if required. But the best part is by overlapping some activities we can shorten the duration, thus it allows us to finish the project in specific time period.
The Crashing schedule compression technique shortens the schedule duration by adding the available resources, but with least incremental cost. This technique can work only with specific activities of critical path where the activity’s duration can be shortened by adding more resources into it.
Crashing technique is not only about adding more resources, it can be allowing the same set of resources to work overtime to complete the work in shorter duration. For example, if 5 people work for 5 days to complete a task, then that can be shortened by either adding 10 people or requesting those 5 people to put extra efforts by working more hours.
We should be careful when applying this technique, as it may result increased risk and cost.
Another useful schedule compression technique is called Resource Reallocation technique. In this technique where the Project Managers sometimes moves the resources from non-critical activities to critical activities to complete the work of critical path in shorter duration than the allocated time period.
This technique neither requires putting additional resources as we discussed in crashing technique, nor it requires combining and performing the multiple activities in parallel as we perform in fast tracking.
While applying this technique, we have to make sure that the resources should be taken out from the activities which are not on a critical path. And while moving them to the activities on critical path, they should be competent enough to perform those works with no or little additional training.
The best part of this technique is it does not add additional cost or risk.
So today we have discussed some of the commonly used schedule compression technique, which can be used to shorten the project duration when required. There are other such techniques which can be used to compress the schedule, such as cut the product quality or reduce the scope to save time. But that can increase the project risk as well as chances of high customer dissatisfaction.