Fast Tracking is defined as a compression technique of the project program with the aim of concluding the project as soon as possible.
When it comes to managing project planning, Fast Tracking is a well-established technique used to reduce the time needed to complete a given project.
The compression techniques of the project program consist of two steps that should be applied sequentially:
- Fast Tracking
- Project Crashing
The second step, project crashing, means to add resources to critical path activities.
What is Fast Tracking
Fast Tracking is an advanced project management technique.
To be able to use it, it is necessary to identify all the possible activities on the critical path that have the potential to be performed together instead of sequentially.
In other words, the essential task is to identify specific activities of the critical path that can be executed at the same time.
But what happens in concrete? If two or more critical path activities are performed at the same time, only the longest activity will remain on the critical path, rather than the sum of the duration of the individual activities.
For example, at the beginning of the IT security system project, two of the critical path activities are:
- Hire a seller of IT security software within 10 days
- Hire members for the project team within 12 days
You can perform these two activities, considered critical path activities, at the same time.
This means that instead of using 22 days to perform both activites, the maximum duration for both activities is now reduced to 12 days. This is because the longest critical path activity is the recruitment of members for the project team.
It will thus be possible to deliver the project 10 days before.
Perhaps the case taken for example may seem trivial but a simplification was essential. In reality, at first glance, it may seem that we can not work on any activity in parallel. This is why sometimes it is necessary to think creatively.
In cases where the assets have different resources, it is possible to start one before the other ends.
Where activities depend on each other, it is possible to perform a risk assessment in order to see how fast it is possible to start the second activity. It will be necessary to take into account the fact that the employee activity has not been completely completed.
Where the risk is not too high, the opportunity to anticipate the program by a few days could be easily managed.
The dangers of Fast Tracking
Accelerating the project is not without dangers.
Planning an initial project is something that allows you to monitor progress completely, and with Fast Tracking you are trying to do something completely different.
The main challenge of parallel task management, aside from the effort required to reschedule the activities and the resources, is that it adds much more risk to the project in general.
For example, you can buy all the furniture for a new office that you are building before it is completed. Doing so however, there is a risk that the size will change slightly during the preparation and that the items purchased, perhaps even expensive, are no longer suitable.
There is therefore a risk of reprocessing when starting an activity in advance and it is therefore necessary to take this into consideration and manage it.
Finally, there is the danger of doing a lot of work in order to put into practice the fast tracking, and in the end there could be no difference in the final date of the project.
In this case, focus on the project activities that fall into the critical path. This is the longest path within the project and defines its duration.
Activities that are not displayed when highlighting the critical path of the project plan do not allow you to anticipate the final date.
What are the advantages of fast tracking?
- Early delivery of the project
Being able to deliver and implement the project ahead of schedule is a plus for any individual and for the project manager.
Each project sponsor has the desire to see his project delivered sooner than expected.
- Bring the project back on track and on schedule.
The project, during its elaboration, can undergo various delays that induce to postpone the delivery date.
Delivering a late project is detrimental to a project manager’s career.
In this case, by using fast tracking techniques, it is possible to bring back the project within the expected time frame.
- Promptly release the project resources
When delivering a project in advance, it means that the project resources are free to work on other activities. This will allow you to deliver multiple projects with the same resources.
What are the disadvantages of fast tracking?
- Lack of knowledge of the critical path
Never attempt to apply the fast tracking technique if you are not well informed about the critical path or how to find it.
If you select the incorrect activities, in fact, no value is added.
There is always the risk that one or more critical path tasks will be subject to an unknown change towards the end of the project.
- Monitor the critical path closely
It will be necessary to exert extra effort to monitor the critical path in detail.
It may happen that an activity previously present in the critical path, due to changes, is no longer considered critical.
In order to avoid working unnecessarily, it is therefore necessary to constantly monitor the critical path, a task that requires time and attention.
How to perform fast tracking
Fast tracking planning begins with the analysis of five key assumptions and continues with the seven-step planning process.
In fact, it is necessary to answer the following questions:
- Do you have a realistic program with all the activities correctly identified?
- Are you sufficiently aware of all the dependencies of the activities, which activities must end before others can start?
- Do you have a solid understanding of the project requirements, goals and priorities?
- Do you have a good working relationship with the project stakeholders?
- Do you have established and proven practices for governance, supervision and problem management?
If you answer yes to these questions, it is therefore possible to implement fast tracking to the project program, in whole or in part.
Now let’s see what are the 7 basic steps of the fast tracking technique:
- Determine the goals expected from fast tracking.
- Examine project planning in order to identify dependencies.
- Finding critical opportunities / activities in the project timeline.
- Identify all valid alternatives for making program adjustments.
- Make informed decisions.
- Monitor progresses.
- Keep track of problems.
When it comes to project management, more than one approach is required in order to achieve success.
The way in which activities are managed when environmental conditions are good is not the same way they are managed when time is running out, resources become thinner and people do not work together.
It is precisely in these moments that fast tracking comes to help.