Schedule compression, also known as time compression or schedule crashing, is a technique used in project management to shorten an already-developed schedule. This might be done to meet an updated delivery date, a new opportunity, or a schedule delay. It’s done without changing the scope of the program.
Definition: Schedule compression is a project management technique used to shorten the duration of a project without sacrificing its scope or quality.
Schedule Compression Goal
The goal of schedule compression is to shorten a project schedule without causing any impact on the overall goals and objectives of the project scope.
Why do Schedule Compression
A Progam Manager might want to utilize a schedule compression for various reasons, but the main one is usually to get back on schedule. Below are a few reasons:
- The initial schedule proved to be unrealistic
- Make up for a Delay in resources
- Reduce risk
- Change in the delivery schedule
- Take advantage of an opportunity
- Make up for a mistake
Schedule Compression Techniques
Two techniques are commonly used in schedule compression. These are:
- Fast Tracking
- Resource re-allocation
Crashing assigns more resources to an activity to decrease the overall completion time. The cost benefits of this activity have to be explored in order to make it a useful technique. The trade-off between cost and schedule must be understood to get the best possible schedule compression.
The project team may discover the activities that will be able to give the most value at the lowest incremental cost by using Crashing, which evaluates and categorizes activities based on the lowest crash cost per unit time. The outcomes of a crash analysis are typically displayed as a crash graph, where the activities with the flattest slope—those that result in a same amount of time savings but a lesser rise in cost—will be given priority first. Crashing only works if using the extra resources results in finishing the project sooner.
When using the crashing technique, any additional costs related to hurrying the project are weighed against any potential benefits of finishing it sooner. When doing a crash analysis, you should also take into account other factors, such as adding more resources to the project, allowing more overtime, and paying extra to get crucial components delivered more rapidly, among other things.
(2) Fast Tracking
Fast Tracking is the process of executing activities or phases that were originally scheduled sequentially in parallel. Activities can be overlapped, started earlier than proposed, started activities that require different resources and may be combined activities in the schedule. This process adds risk to the schedule and program and must be executed carefully.
Fast tracking is typically cost-free, therefore, you should think about it first when you need to compress a timeline. The activities in the original schedule are rearranged using this strategy. Fast tracking may not increase costs, but it does increase risk because the project may need to be reworked or rearranged as a result of the concurrent operations that are now being carried out. It can take even longer to redo the project.
(3) Resource re-allocation
Through re-allocation, resources are moved from jobs that are not on the critical path to those that are. It makes better use of the tools we already have without increasing costs or changing the way we schedule things. But it only works if a resource is moved from a job that isn’t on the critical path to one that is.
When to use Crashing vs. Fast Tracking
Crashing and fast-tracking are two techniques that can be used to reduce the amount of time spent on projects while keeping the project scope. To determine the optimum strategy to achieve the maximum degree of compression for the least additional expense, cost, and schedule trade-offs are assessed during the crash process. If fast-tracking does not result in sufficient time savings, crashing is employed. On significant projects (those on the critical path), both fast-tracking and crashing should be applied actually to affect the project timetable.
Differences Between Crashing, Fast Tracking, and Resource re-allocation
|Added Resources||Re-Planning||Move resources|
|Extra Cost||No Extra Cost||No-Extra Cost|
|No significant increase in risks||Increase in Risk||Only effective if the resource moved from a non-critical path task to a critical path task|
What Are the Risks Associated with Fast-Tracking
While expediting a project might seem like the greatest method to finish it quickly, there are dangers attached to this strategy. One of the biggest risks is that crucial information could be overlooked, which could cause issues later. Rushing through work typically results in less accurate work than work that is finished over a longer period of time, which aggravates team members and customers and incurs more expenditures for reworking or correcting errors.
Fast-tracking also carries the risk of making team members burn out. Rushing causes people to maybe be unable to adequately plan and complete their work, which can cause a lot of stress and dissatisfaction. This may have an effect on the team as a whole as well as the individual employees.
What Are the Risk Associated with Crashing
Schedule compression, or crashing a schedule, involves shortening project timelines without sacrificing scope or quality. However, it comes with inherent risks that project managers should be mindful of. The primary dangers include increased costs due to added resources and overtime, resource overload leading to reduced productivity and burnout, and compromised quality as tasks are rushed. Mistakes become more likely, and flexibility diminishes, making it harder to recover from unexpected issues. Team morale may suffer, and coordination challenges may arise from overlapping activities. Effective communication with clients is vital to manage their expectations, and scope creep can occur due to oversight. Careful planning, prioritization, and quality focus are crucial to mitigate these risks successfully.
What Are the Risk Associated with Resource re-allocation
Resource allocation in schedule compression involves assigning additional resources to critical path activities to expedite project completion while maintaining scope and quality. However, this approach brings certain risks that project managers should consider. The main risks include increased project costs due to additional resource requirements, potential resource overloading leading to reduced productivity and burnout, and the risk of compromising quality as tasks are rushed to meet deadlines. Team coordination can become challenging as resources are spread thinner, and adequate time for testing and validation may be lacking. Effective communication with stakeholders is essential to manage expectations, and scope creep can occur if changes are not carefully monitored. Careful planning, risk analysis, and a focus on maintaining quality are crucial to ensure successful resource allocation in schedule compression.
Schedule Compression Lessons Learned
Project managers should be aware of several important lessons learned to make informed decisions and avoid potential pitfalls when examining schedule compression. Here are some key lessons:
- Identify the Critical Path: Project managers must accurately identify the critical path and understand the dependencies between activities before attempting schedule compression. Focusing on non-critical tasks for compression might not yield significant time savings.
- Assess Resource Requirements: Determine the additional resources needed for schedule compression and assess their availability and associated costs. Sudden resource shortages or increased expenses could impact the overall project budget.
- Risk Analysis: Conduct a thorough risk analysis to understand the potential consequences of schedule compression. If not managed properly, it may lead to increased risks of errors, rework, and decreased quality.
- Team Collaboration: Communicate openly with the project team about the schedule compression plan. Ensure that team members understand the urgency and potential changes in their responsibilities.
- Client Expectations: If the project is for an external client, manage their expectations and inform them of the changes in the project timeline. Be transparent about the reasons for schedule compression and discuss any potential impacts on deliverables.
- Trade-Offs and Prioritization: Understand the trade-offs involved in schedule compression. Prioritize activities that can be compressed with minimal risks and optimal time savings.
- Quality Assurance: Maintaining the project’s quality during schedule compression. Rushing tasks can lead to errors and negatively impact the project’s overall success.
- Continuous Monitoring: Monitor the progress of the compressed schedule regularly. Keep track of key performance indicators and take corrective actions promptly if any issues arise.
- Document Changes: Maintain detailed records of all schedule compression decisions and their reasoning. This documentation can be valuable for future reference and learning.
- Avoid Over-Compression: While compressing the schedule is essential, avoid over-compression. Unrealistic deadlines may lead to burnout, increased stress, and reduced productivity among team members.
- Contingency Planning: Develop contingency plans to handle unforeseen challenges during the compressed timeline. Having backup strategies in place can mitigate potential risks.
- Lessons Learned: After completing the project, conduct a thorough lessons-learned session to evaluate the effectiveness of the schedule compression efforts. Identify what worked well and what could be improved for future projects.
By being mindful of these lessons learned, project managers can make more informed decisions when considering schedule compression, ensuring successful project delivery while managing risks and maintaining quality.
- Make sure you weigh the pros and cons before crashing any schedule. There are always risks involved that need to be understood.
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