Project Management Practices Duration Compression

In project management, there are two commonly used methods of shortening a series of tasks without changing the project scope. These two duration compression methods are as follows:

Crashing the schedule. The schedule and associated project costs are analyzed to determine how a series of tasks (such as the critical path) can be shortened, or crashed, for the least additional cost. Fast tracking. Tasks normally done in sequence are rescheduled to be done simultaneously (for example, starting to build a prototype before the specifications are approved).

By their nature, both of these methods are risky. It's important to be aware that these meth ods can increase cost or increase task rework.

Tip Check and adjust assigned task calendars

Task calendars can be applied to tasks that can be scheduled beyond the normal project working times calendar; however, sometimes a task calendar indicates a specific fre quency with which a task is performed. Examine tasks with their own task calendars to make sure they're accurately reflecting reality and not holding up progress.

Tasks with task calendars assigned display a calendar icon in the Indicators column next to the task name. Place the mouse pointer over the icon to see more information.

For more information about task calendars, see "Working with Task Calendars" on page 169.

Adjusting Resource Settings to Bring in the Finish Date

Another way to bring in the finish date is to adjust your resource settings. You can check that the resource availability affecting assigned task scheduling is accurate. You can also add resources to tasks to decrease task duration. Be aware that increasing resource availability as well as adding resources to tasks usually means an increase in costs.

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Checking and Adjusting Resource Availability

The more availability your resources have, the sooner their assigned tasks can be completed. For example, a 4-day task assigned to a resource who works a regular 5-day week will be completed in 4 days. The same 4-day task assigned to a resource who works a 2-day week will be completed in 2 weeks. For resources assigned to critical tasks, review and update the following:

• Resource calendars

• Resource (maximum) units

• Assignment units

The Task Entry view is best for checking these three items. Apply the view, set the Task Form to show the resource information you need, and filter for critical tasks, as follows:

1 Click View, More Views.

2 In the More Views dialog box, click Task Entry and then click Apply.

3 To view critical tasks, click in the Gantt Chart (upper) portion of the view. Click Project, Filtered For, Critical.

Only critical tasks are displayed. You can also click View, Tracking Gantt. Critical tasks are shown in red.

4 Click in the Task Form (lower) portion of the view. Click Format, Details, Resource Work (see Figure 9-11).

Figure 9-11. The Task Entry view is now set up to check resource and assign ment availability.

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Click a critical task in the Gantt chart portion of the view.

The resources assigned to the selected task are listed in the Task Form portion of the view.

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To check the resource calendar for this assigned resource, double-click the resource name. The Resource Information dialog box appears. Click the Working Time tab. Check the working times set for this resource and make sure they're correct.

For more information about resource calendars, see "Setting Resource Working Time Calendars" on page 187.

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To check resource units, click the General tab in the Resource Information dialog box. Under Resource Availability, check the resource units and associated dates, if applicable, and make sure they're correct.

For more information about resource units, see "Specifying Resource Availability" on page 184.

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To check assignment units, review the Units field next to the resource name in the Task Form and make sure the setting is correct.

Tip See if your resources have more to give

You can check your resources' working time calendar, their resource units, and their assign ment units—and everything might look correct. Find out if your resources can provide any more time on this project or on critical tasks to help bring in the finish date. It doesn't hurt to ask, at least.

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Adding Resources to Decrease Duration

A key method of shortening the critical path and bringing in the project finish date is to add resources to critical tasks in such a way that it decreases the task's duration. For example, two people working together might be able to complete a development task in half the time it takes either of them individually. For this to be the case, the tasks must be either fixed-units and effort-driven, or fixed-work tasks. They cannot be fixed-duration tasks, for obvious reasons.

With fixed-units effort-driven scheduling, which is the default for tasks in Microsoft Project, when you assign an additional resource to a task that already has assigned resources, the amount of work scheduled for each assigned resource decreases. Likewise, when you remove a resource from an effort-driven task, the amount of work scheduled for each assigned resource increases.

The same is true for fixed-work tasks, which are effort-driven by definition. When you add or remove resources (that is, assignment units) on a fixed-work task, duration changes but work remains fixed, of course.

For more information about effort-driven scheduling, see "Controlling Changes with Effort-Driven Scheduling" on page 223. For more information about task types, see "Controlling Schedule Changes with Task Types," on page 224.

To check the task type of an individual task, follow these steps:

1 In a task sheet, such as the Gantt Chart, double-click the task.

2 In the Task Information dialog box, click the Advanced tab.

3 Review the Task Type list and the Effort Driven check box. Make any changes necessary.

You can add the task type and effort-driven fields to a task sheet so you can see the scheduling methods for all tasks at a glance, as follows:

1 Display the task sheet to which you want to add the new columns.

2 Click the column heading to the right of where you want the new column to be inserted.

3 Click Insert, Column.

4 In the Field Name box, select Type.

Type ty to move quickly to the Type field in the list.

5 Click OK, and the task types are shown in the task sheet. You can use this field to quickly change task types.

6 Follow steps 1-5 to add the Effort Driven field to the task sheet.

This field displays Yes or No, indicating whether the task is effort-driven.

When you assign additional resources to your fixed-units and effort-driven or fixed-work critical tasks, the duration of those critical tasks is reduced, and therefore the length of the critical path is reduced.

Note Be aware that as you add resources to critical tasks, you run the risk of reduced pro ductivity. There might be additional overhead associated with bringing on additional resources. More support might be needed to get those resources up to speed on the tasks, and you might lose whatever time savings you thought you might gain. Take care to add resources who are experienced enough to hit the ground running so your efforts don't backfire on you.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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