Project Crashing & Fast Tracking in Project Management

Sometimes when a particular project is running behind schedule, the project manager has to decide whether to go for project 'crashing' or 'fast tracking'. Before understanding these concepts, let's evaluate the factors which force the management to speed-up project execution midway:
1)  While doing project planning, the initial time given to the project, was too 'optimistic' and now the ground realities are 'pessimistic'. This usually happens when project planners don’t take into account various predictable/unpredictable risks which may adversely affect the time taken for project execution.
2)  Due to some unavoidable reasons, the project is running behind schedule and the organisation needs to complete it on time.
3)  Market needs the product, which is being developed, earlier than expected. This demand forces the organisation to speed-up the project in order to fulfil the requirements of the market.
4)  Penalties, that late execution of project will attract, are high. Not only penalties, the loss in goodwill also needs to be taken into account.

What is Project Crashing?

It is the process by which duration of project is reduced by INCREASING the amount of RESOURCES allocated. It is important to note that crashing is done only to CRITICAL activities. This can be achieved by any of the following approaches:
1)  Addressing productivity issues of the current resources and making them more efficient. This can be done by taking better care of resources available and cutting cost and time wherever possible.
2)  Bringing in new additional resources to speed up the processes.
3)  By evaluating alternatives available and analysing them in order to find which one will help in compressing the duration with lowest cost.

While allocating resources to CRITICAL activities, one needs to take into consideration the slack available in non-critical activities. This will help to make sure that crashing is not affecting the other activities of the project nor the project's scope. Crash cost also needs to be taken into consideration and it shouldn’t be more than the penalty cost.

Risks of Project Crashing in Project Management (PM)
1)  Various external and internal factors may lead project manager to go for crashing but it usually affects the quality of work as the time taken (besides cost) is the major issue on his mind.
2)  Using additional resources does not always guarantee better results. Example if an organisation decides to hire more employees or outsource them, one can't be sure that they are trained enough to deliver as per expected standards.

Fast-tracking is another technique used in PM to compress the schedule.

Fast Tracking in Project Management

Just like crashing, fast tracking too is a method used by project managers, to compress project schedule in order to meet deadlines. In fast tracking, activities that were planned to be performed in sequential order are rescheduled to be performed in parallel or partially in parallel. To understand this concept let’s take an example, our project is using waterfall model for a software project and our Designing Phase is taken more time than scheduled. So we may 'Fast Track' the coding phase for the modules for which designing is complete before the completion of whole designing phase. This fast tracking may come with many risks associated. A rework may be required if final design doesn’t match with the module we have already coded. Thus Fast-tracking in PM, just like crashing, may lead to increase in costs and risks.

Usually the thumb rule followed by managers while fast tracking, is to fast track the subsequent (2nd) activity after completion of 66% of scheduled (1st) activity. So in above example we will start coding after 66% of designing phase is over.

Whether the project manager decides to crash or fast track the project, or both, he needs to address the concerns of all the stakeholders as both fast-tracking and crashing can get your project back on schedule. Also needed to evaluate are reasons behind project crashing.

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  1. Either way resources will be needed. i.e. in the fast tracking example to start coding earlier will require the coders to be available, and they probably not finish earlier.

    We should always put the resource histogram in front of the executives who want to fast track or crash the project so they can visually see the impact on costs and potentially management needs in order to reduce the project schedule.