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Crashing the Project Schedule. A Step-by-Step Guide

Project crashing (also known as ‘crashing the project schedule’, or ‘project time compression’) is a project management technique based on adding more resources of the initially planned in a project in order to accelerate the project timing. Of course adding more resources also means increasing your project costs, but sometimes this is a good project strategy (you can calculate the ROI of that decision based on the project risks of not doing it). There are many project situations where one can decide to crash the Project Schedule, for example:

  1. The project is delayed: if your project is delayed and there are project penalties due to delays, you may decide to add more resources to the project in order to put your project back on track. Project delays over the ‘critical path’ mean that the project deadline will not be met.
  2. Avoiding a delay in an upcoming phase: delays in projects may impact not only in project penalties, but may also result in more costs (resources already assigned to start a new project phase, that will be able to start their work). So, maybe an additional little cost can be a better option than going to bigger cost overruns.
  3. Project Team will be moved to another project: imagine you were implementing a project and suddenly you win another project. Probably then you will now plan to move your resources to the new project. So, you may require to over-resource you current project in order to finish it earlier.
  4. Availability of free resources: if your company has resources free (i.e. without assignment) they may be interested in adding them to your project and therefore accelerate it.
  5. Resources for training: sometimes there are new resources in your company in a training period. In this case they may be interested in contributing to your project in their training process, and this may also accelerate your project.
  6. There are time bonuses: there are infrastructure projects were the Client doesn’t want to stop or impact over the customer service due to ongoing projects. In that kind of project we can find time bonuses that may compensate your over-costs.

Not always crashing is possible. For example, in a humorous example: if one woman provides one baby in nine months, having nine women will not result in getting a baby in only one month. This also happens in projects. There are tasks than may be crashed and others that may not.

Step 1: Analyze the critical path

The first step is to identify which are the tasks that if we shorten them, we will also shorten the project completion. These tasks are those that are included in the critical path. Apply the CPM (Critical Path Method) to calculate the critical path and identify which are those critical tasks.

Step 2: Identify all tasks that can be shortened with additional resources

Working together with the responsible person for each task, identify which of the tasks included in the critical path may be shortened by adding additional resources. As the example provided above about the babies, there will be tasks that cannot be shortened by adding more resources, but there will be also be others that can be shortened.

Step 3: Calculate for each task: trade-off, gain, time reduction

For each task, you need to calculate how you are going to reduce the project time by adding more resources. For example, if you add a new team member, the trade-off is that you will need five days for knowledge transfer, and later you will gain 30 project days. So, in this example you have achieved a time reduction of 25 days.

Step 4: Choose the least costly approach

The objective of project crashing is shortening the schedule duration for the least incremental cost by adding resources. So now let’s place the focus on costs. How much will each time reduction cost? Imagine that you have identified 10 activities that may be crashed with a total time reduction of 100 hours. In case you only need to reduce the project in 30 hours, then you should crash the tasks with the least additional cost for the project. The idea is getting the highest level of efficiency.

Step 5: Provide a crashing budget and updated project baselines to the sponsor

Once you have made the final decision, it is important to get the budget for executing the project crashing and update your project baselines, especially the project schedule plan, but also the project budget plan and project resources plan.

Featured video:

Project Time Compression: Crashing a Project

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