As working professionals, we grapple with multiple projects, big and small, on a daily basis. Yet, many of them are left unfinished because we hadn’t planned for any number of contingencies. Worse, a lack of project scheduling techniques can affect our personal lives as well, with unmet commitments and pending tasks straining relationships and affecting productivity.

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What is Schedule Compression?

Schedule compression offers two important techniques for scheduling time so projects are executed on schedule. Understanding these techniques and their application in compressing schedules can be very useful, whether in professional or personal spheres.

Schedule compression refers to techniques used when a project manager wants to shorten the duration of the project without changing the scope of the project. It can be used when a project falls behind schedule and needs to catch up or to finish the project sooner than originally scheduled.

The two techniques you can use to shorten the project duration while maintaining the project scope are fast tracking and crashing.

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What is Fast Tracking?

Fast-tracking is a technique where activities that would have been performed sequentially using the original schedule are performed in parallel. In other words, fast tracking a project means the activities are worked on simultaneously instead of waiting for each piece to be completed separately. But fast tracking can only be applied if the activities in question can actually be overlapped. 

When you need to compress a schedule, you should consider this technique first, because fast tracking usually does not involve any costs. This technique simply rearranges the activities in the original schedule.

Although fast tracking may not result in an increase in the cost, it leads to an increase in the risk, because activities now being performed in parallel may lead to needing to rework or rearrange the project. Reworking the project can also waste even more time.

As a project manager, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of fast tracking to understand whether it will be worthwhile to undertake increased risk.

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What is Crashing?

Crashing is the technique to use when fast tracking has not saved enough time on the project schedule. With this technique, resources are added to the project for the least cost possible. Cost and schedule tradeoffs are analyzed to determine how to obtain the greatest amount of compression for the least incremental cost. And crashing is expensive because more resources are added to the project. 

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Crashing analyzes and categorizes activities based on the lowest crash cost per unit time, allowing the team working the project to identify the activities that will be able to deliver the most value at the least incremental cost. The results of a crash analysis are usually presented in a crash graph, where activities with the flattest slope are the ones that will be considered first—they lead to an equal amount of time savings, but have a smaller increase in cost. Crashing only works if the additional resources will actually achieve completing the project sooner.

When the crashing approach is used, any additional costs associated with rushing the project are reviewed against the possible benefits of completing the project within a shorter time span. In addition, you should consider other items when performing a crash analysis, including adding more resources to the project, allowing additional overtime, and paying extra to receive delivery of critical components more quickly, among others.

Fast Tracking vs Crashing

The reality of project management is that sometimes you will need to compress the project schedule and deliver the project’s product, service, or result sooner than originally planned. Schedules are constantly subject to change; in most cases, schedules get longer as opposed to getting shorter, which can negatively affect the original schedule because the project team will not be able to complete it in the time available. 

There is no reason to fast track or crash any activities that are not on the critical path; you won’t gain any time on your overall schedule if you cannot shorten your critical path.

When Should You Use Fast-Tracking vs Crashing?

There are two methods that can be used to cut down how much time is spent on projects while maintaining the project scope: fast-tracking vs. crashing. Crashing is a method in which cost and schedule trade-offs are examined to figure out the best way to obtain the greatest amount of compression for the least incremental cost. Crashing is used if fast-tracking did not save a sufficient amount of time.

Both fast-tracking and crashing should be used on important projects (those on the critical path) to have an real impact on the actual project schedule.

What Are the Risks of Fast-Tracking a Project?

While fast-tracking a project may seem like the best way to get it done quickly, there are risks associated with this approach. One of the biggest dangers is that important details may be missed, which can lead to problems down the road. Rushed work can often be less accurate than work that is completed over a longer period of time, causing frustration on the part of team members and customers — as well as additional costs due to reworking or fixing mistakes.

Another risk of fast-tracking is that it can lead to burnout among team members. When people are rushed, they may not be able to take the time to properly plan and execute their work, which can lead to a lot of stress and frustration. This can impact not only the individual workers, but the team and project as a whole.

Ultimately, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of fast-tracking a project before deciding whether or not to use this approach. If done correctly, fast-tracking can be a great way to get things done quickly. If it is done incorrectly, it can lead to frustration, burnout, and costly mistakes.

Lead vs Fast-Tracking

There are often two main ways to complete a project: lead and fast-tracking. With lead, the entire project is planned out in advance, with each step mapped out and scheduled. This results in a more controlled and organized project, but it can also be more expensive and time-consuming. Fast-tracking, on the other hand, involves completing certain steps in parallel, which speeds up the overall project, but can also lead to more errors and problems.

How can you decide which option is best for your project? The answer depends on a variety of factors, such as the size and complexity of the project, your budget, and your deadline. If you have plenty of time and money to spare, lead may be a good option. However, if you need to speed up the process and are willing to accept some risk, then fast-tracking may be a better choice.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you have a clear plan and schedule in place, so that the project moves forward as smoothly as possible.

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Why Do We Apply Schedule Compression on Critical Path Activities?

There are several reasons to apply schedule compression to a project. One of the most common is when the project deadline is approaching and there is still a lot of work to be done. In these cases, schedule compression can help to ensure that the project is completed on time.

Another reason for using schedule compression is when there is a delay in starting the project. If the project start date is pushed back, then the original timeline will no longer be feasible. In this case, schedule compression can help to get the project back on track.

Finally, schedule compression can be used when there is a need to reduce the project budget. This might be done by reducing the number of tasks that are completed, or by compressing the schedule so that tasks can be completed in a shorter period of time.

Conclusion

In summary, the differences between fast tracking and crashing are:

  • Fast tracking involves the performance of activities in parallel, whereas crashing involves the addition of resources to a project.
  • In fast tracking, there is increased risk, whereas in crashing, there is increased cost.

Now that you know more about the schedule compression techniques of fast tracking vs. crashing, the differences between the two, their benefits and drawbacks, and the situations in which you can apply the two, we’re sure you’ll begin to see results in no time at all.

If you’re working toward a PMP® certification, or are considering doing so, Simplilearn has more than a dozen project management courses, including PMP certification training that is designed to help you pass the PMP® exam on your first try. You’ll get project management training online by faculty with at least 10 years of industry experience.

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About the Author

Avantika MonnappaAvantika Monnappa

A project management and digital marketing knowledge manager, Avantika’s area of interest is project design and analysis for digital marketing, data science, and analytics companies.

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