There are many reasons you may want to compress the schedule.
One reason might be that your project is late, and you are running corner to corner to bring your project back on track.
Another reason may be that you intentionally want to shorten the duration of the project, although your project is on track.
To bring the project back on schedule, or shorten its duration, you will use schedule compression techniques such as fast tracking and crashing.
A delay in the project may happen due to many reasons, including:
- An unrealistic schedule
- You did not get the promised resources
- An unforeseen incident occurred
- Due to force majeure
Other times it might happen that, although you are on track, you want to compress the schedule:
- The client wants to complete the project early.
- You see an opportunity to get another project if you are able complete the project early.
- Your competitor is about to launch a new product; therefore you have to hasten the launch your product.
In project management you can use two techniques, i.e. fast tracking, and crashing, to shorten the schedule when no change in scope is required.
These are important techniques in project management, and you should be aware of them. They are also important for the PMP exam. You may see a few questions from this topic on the exam; therefore, understand these techniques well.
In fast tracking, you review the critical path to find out which sequential activities can be performed parallel or partially parallel to each other.
It is important to understand that you will review the activities on the critical path only, because on other paths, activities have floats. There is no need to shorten the duration of those activities; if you do so, you are only giving those activities more float.
However, you should check other paths whose durations are near the critical path duration, because if the duration of your current critical path becomes shorter than any other path, it will no longer be a critical path. If any other path has a duration equal to the critical path, it will greatly increase risk for the project because you now have to manage two critical paths.
Once you determine which activities can be fast tracked, you will start working on them to reduce the schedule.
The benefit of fast tracking is that it does not cost you any extra money; however, it comes with some increase in risks, you are now performing many activities in parallel which were originally planned in sequence.
Usually sequential activities can be fast tracked by 33%. This mean if the previous activity is 66% completed, you can start next activity. Here, both activities will be partially overlapped. Although it will increase the risk, the level of risk impact should be within acceptable limits.
Fast tracking helps you reduce the duration of the schedule, within limits; if you continue to fast track after this limit, it may increase the risk beyond acceptable levels and lead to possible rework.
Let us say that you are constructing a school building. Construction work is almost completed, and the next step is to start carpentry work, then electrical work, and so on.
When you review your schedule you see that you are behind schedule, and therefore you have to move faster so you can complete the project on time. As the construction work has been completed, you will review the carpentry and electrical work and see if these activities can be performed in parallel.
Once you have identified activities, you will apply fast tracking. In the given example, you will start the electrical work, and you will also call the carpenter to start the carpentry work at the same time.
Crashing is another schedule compression technique where you add extra resources to the project to compress the schedule.
In crashing, you review the critical path and see which activities can be completed by adding extra resources. You try to find the activities that can be reduced the most by adding the least amount of cost. Once you find those activities, you will apply the crashing technique.
While doing crashing, you will keep tab of the other paths as well, because it is also possible that the duration of other paths could become equal to, or greater than, the duration of your critical path.
When you start this schedule compression process, you will initially get more reduction in duration with less cost input; however, as you continue with this process, the cost increases at a very fast rate with a smaller reduction in time.
A few examples of crashing techniques are:
- Giving overtime
- Bringing in more resources
- Motivating team members with monetary rewards
In schedule crashing, you do whatever it takes to shorten the duration. However, note that you cannot apply this technique to all activities. For example, in concrete work you have to wait until the concrete dries before you can start your next activity.
You are constructing room walls for the school building. As per your duration estimate, it will take four days for two masons to complete this task.
Now, you have to reduce the duration of this activity through crashing. Hence, to complete this activity ahead of the planned date, you will add two more masons so that this task can be completed within two days.
Difference Between Fast Tracking and Crashing
The following are a few differences between fast tracking and crashing:
- In fast tracking, activities are re-planned to perform in parallel or partially parallel, while in crashing you add additional resources to the activities to finish them early.
- Fast tracking does not cost you extra money; on the other hand crashing costs you extra money.
- Fast tracking increases risks; however, in crashing there is no significant increase in risks.
When Should You Use Fast Tracking or Crashing?
This depends on the situation and requirements. For example, if the client wants you to complete the project earlier and is ready to pay for the additional cost, you will go for crashing.
However if the project is delayed due to some unforeseen conditions and you have to bring the project back on schedule, you will go for fast tracking because it does not require extra money.
Sometimes it is not a clear-cut, when you may have to pay a penalty to the client for any delay. Here you will compare the cost of the penalty with the cost of crashing, and if this analysis shows you that it is better to go with crashing, you will go for it.
You may also do crashing if your project is delayed and the company’s image is at stake.
Generally speaking, when you start compressing the schedule you start with fast tracking, because this process does not require additional costs. Once you are done with fast tracking, you try crashing if necessary.
Fast tracking and crashing are two schedule compression techniques that help you shorten the duration of your project. Fast tracking does not involve any cost but it increases risks. On the other hand, crashing does not introduce much risk but it is a costly affair. With crashing it is also possible that you will not produce an effective work output because you may not get skilled resources, and even if you get them, it takes some time for them to settle down. You cannot bring a bunch of people together and expect them to perform immediately. Therefore, perform due diligence before going for crashing, sometimes it may increase the cost significantly with a poor reduction in schedule compression.
This concludes this blog post on fast tracking and crashing in project scheduling compression techniques, I hope you have enjoyed reading this post. If you have something to share, you can do so through the comments section.