Project scheduling compression techniques are applied during the development of the planning process if a project is lagging behind its plan.
The goal of scheduling compression is to try to compress the schedule without changing the scope of the project.
If the scope of the project has not changed and if the project is delayed, the planned deadline can only be met by compressing the remaining program of the project.
How the scheduling of a project works
The role of the project manager is to work with the team in order to achieve the goals of the project.
The project manager and the project team first develop a project plan that includes project scheduling. In short, the project manager must break up the project into smaller and more manageable pieces.
The first step is therefore the breakdown of the project into deliverables, verifiable work products, and here the following questions should be considered:
- What results must be created in order to achieve the project goals?
- What will not be delivered in the project?
- What are the hypotheses?
- What are the budget limits?
- When must the project be completed?
- What activities must be performed in order to achieve the final results?
After that, it is time to move on to the “creative” part of the sequencing of activities, where the project managers have to ask themselves:
- What is the most efficient order of activities?
- Do some activities necessarily occur before they other activities can start?
- Can some activities be performed in parallel?
- Does the project depend on external resources, suppliers and organizations?
Techniques for the compression of a project schedule
If the project turns out to be late, there are several techniques that allow the compression of the schedule of a project:
- Recheck the dependencies of the activities and make sure that these are correct and valid. Look for ways to modify dependencies in order to speed up project completion.
- Challenging hypotheses in which activities are thought to be mandatory dependencies. Do you really need to complete certain tasks before starting the next ones? In fact, it is sometimes possible to find other ways to start successive activities in parallel, the so-called fast tracking. But be careful that this action will probably increase the risks.
- Reduce delays. Finding ways to reduce delays along the critical path of the project sometimes requires creativity.
- Check external dependencies. Instead of waiting two weeks for a laptop delivery, for example, why not buy laptops from a local retailer?
- Check the outsourcing assumptions. If you choose to outsource, you can contractually reduce the duration of outsourced activities.
It is therefore possible to speed up projects by modifying dependencies and by acting on time compression. Here are other useful tactics to intervene on critical activities:
- Reduce the duration of activities by reducing the associated risks. When people estimate activities, they often add a “buffer” time that accounts for risks. If you are able to reduce or eliminate the risk, you can reduce the time required.
- Reduce the duration of the project by adding additional qualified resources to the activities of the critical path, the so-called crashing. However, pay attention, as this action increases costs and often also increases project risks.
- Reduce the duration of a project by replacing a team member with someone with more expertise and knowledge to perform critical path activities. Naturally, this action will also increase the total cost.
- Reduce the scope of the project. Discuss the priority of deliverables with key stakeholders and determine if the scope of the project can be reduced.
5 steps to follow if the project is lagging behind the program
We have generally seen the possible solutions for the compression of a project schedule.
Let’s see now, if a project is really behind schedule, what are the 5 main steps that must be followed in sequence:
- First of all, check the risks and re-establish the duration of the activities. This is because, by analyzing again the remaining activities, if the risks considered during the planning are no longer valid, this can lead to a shorter duration. The revaluation will show how long it will take to complete the remaining activities of the project. As a consequence, we will know how much time will be left to the delivery of the project itself.
- If the revaluation results in a postponed deadline for the completion of the project, the fast tracking of the project must be considered. In this case, the remaining activities of the critical path are evaluated and it is analyzed whether some of them can be performed in parallel, rather than sequentially. This, of course, in order to shorten the overall duration of the project. One of the advantages of fast tracking is that this method, in general, does not involve an additional cost to the project.
- The third step is in the project crashing. In this case, additional resources are included and an additional budget is set up in order to meet rising costs. As more resources will work on the remaining activities of the project, a faster project delivery is expected.
- The fourth step is the reduction of the project scope. Reducing the scope can help reduce the remaining activities in the project. Furthermore, if the customer agrees, reducing the scope can help complete the project on time.
- The fifth step is the cutting of quality. Reaching a certain level of quality means investing time and money. If the client agrees to reduce his quality expectations, this will be an additional help to complete the project faster. Clearly, this last step represents the most extreme solution.
Effective compression of a project schedule requires efficient planning management. An intelligent decision-making process based on the best scenario generated by testing various options.
Unfortunately, program compression is a fact in most projects.
The challenge faced by project managers is to keep the “compressed program” realistic and achievable.