Project Management Learning Series: Fast Tracking versus Crashing
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.
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 the professional or personal spheres.
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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.
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.
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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. And, reworking the project can cause the project to lose 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.
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.
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.
Why Fast Track or Crash?
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.
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 and 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.
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