Fast tracking and crashing are the schedule compression techniques in project management. These are powerful weapons for the project manager to deal primarily with project schedule and cost related concerns.
From the PMP exam perspective also, understanding the concepts of fast tracking and crashing are very important, as you can expect some questions on these concepts in the PMP exam.
First of all, what are schedule compression techniques and why do you need them?
In cases where your project activities, especially the activities on the critical path are getting delayed or has chances of getting delayed, generally project managers uses the schedule compression techniques to save your project schedule time and keep the project on track.
Common Reasons To Apply Schedule Compression Techniques
The following are some of the common reasons (but not limited to) for the project manager to apply the schedule compression techniques such as fast tracking or crashing.
- Your project is getting delayed. And the project manager want to get the project back on track.
- Project schedule has become un-realistic due to some reasons.
- Due to some natural calamities, you miss the schedule.
- Customer requests for early delivery because of some dependency which customer also did not expected earlier.
- You see lot of uncertainties in the project, and to manage them you would need enough time in the project
Whatever be the reason, the schedule compression techniques comes to rescue the project manager from the schedule and cost related slippages in the project.
Schedule Compression Techniques
There are primarily two schedule compression techniques. They are
- Fast tracking
Fast Tracking In Project Management
As per the PMBOK guide, fast tracking is one of the schedule compression techniques in which activities or phases, which are normally planned to do in sequence, are performed in parallel for at least a portion of their duration.
Most of the time, the activities cannot be done in parallel completely due to the dependency that exists between the project activities. Otherwise, I do not see any reason, why those activities are not initially planned in parallel.
For example, a software development project has two modules for which the coding is possible to do it in parallel to a certain extent, but not to its full extent because of the dependencies between the two modules.
Although fast tracking is very useful technique for the project manager, it comes with a price, if not used carefully. Meaning that overusing fast tracking may result in lot of rework. Hence project manager should perform the necessary analysis before applying the fast tracking techniques on the project activities.
For this, project manager need to sit with the project team to understand, which activities are feasible to do it in parallel and to what extent? And also identify any potential risks to the projects such additional rework, quality issues, etc.…
Fast Tracking Example
For example see the project schedule in the below diagram, where total activities require 10 weeks of time, as they planned sequentially due to the dependencies.
However by applying the fast tracking, activity 3 started early than planned in parallel to activit2, and completed the activity 3 after 1 week from activity 2 completion date.
One point to note is generally fast tracking if not overused, will not result any additional cost to the project and hence usually safe to use it, when feasible.
Remember that the key for fast tracking is always that some activities in the project are feasible to do it in parallel to a certain extent, if not completely.
But in some case you may not that type of activities in the project. Or even if you find, implementing fast tracking may result in more rework, which will cost more to the project. In those cases, better to avoid fast tracking and can see the feasibility of other schedule compression technique crashing.
Crashing In Project Management
Crashing is another schedule compression techniques, in which you add extra resources to the project activities, with no or minimum increase in the cost of the project.
So by adding extra resources to the activities which are at risk, the project manager would try to shorten the schedule of the activities.
So always extra resources come with their price. As a project manager you need to apply techniques to analyze whether this cost is manageable to the extent that the whole project is not at risk.
Crashing may not work in all circumstances. Sometimes adding extra resources may not help in compressing the schedule of the activities.
There is a famous saying, that project managers use sarcastically, 9 women cannot make a baby in one month.
Don’t mistake me. I just used this proverb to make everyone understand the context that, crashing may not be helpful in certain circumstances.
I see in lot of projects, some stakeholders always pressurize the project manager to shorten the schedule by using crashing in cases where it is not appropriate to use. As a project manager you would need to make the stakeholders clearly understand the feasibility and risks involved in applying the crashing in those special circumstances.
Also compare to fast tracking, crashing is expensive. Because additional resources add additional cost to the project.
Some example of crashing as we have already seen
- adding extra resources to the activities,
- asking resources to work for over time and pay them for their overtime,
- Using the un-utilized resources because of the float or any dependency with other activity
- Motivating the team to stretch for the extra mile and rewarding them in some or the other way.
Refer the below example where in the activities and schedule are represent the rows and columns respectively. And R1, R2, R3 and R4 are representing the resources.
Before applying the crashing 3 resources were there to complete the project within 10 weeks of schedule. Now by adding more resources in week7 and week8, the project shorten two weeks of schedule.
Now we have seen the what are schedule compression techniques and when to use them. We have seen two schedule compression techniques namely fast tracking and crashing.
Fast tracking is to run the activities in parallel, which was sequential according to the original plan. And crashing is about adding more resources to shorten the schedule. Both of the techniques has pros and cons. So the project manager should be conscious on how to use them carefully according to the situation at hand.
The major cons about fast tracking is that it may result in rework, and quality issues. On the other hand, the major cons for crashing is that it can be expensive, if not used properly.