What Is Fast-Tracking in Project Management?
A common occurrence in project management is missing out on deadlines even after working hard on a project. Many project managers underestimate the time needed to complete a project and have to fast-track their schedule to catch up.
This article will provide in-depth teachings on effectively carrying out fast-tracking in project management.
Let’s get started.
What is Fast-Tracking in Project Management?
Project managers have a wide array of tools and techniques available to execute critical activities about a project. Fast-tracking is one of the two most widely used schedule compression techniques.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), fast tracking is a technique that ensures tasks are performed in parallel as against the routine sequential order method. This technique ensures tasks are completed separately to save valuable time.
The need to fast-track a project is often brought about by the risk of the project not meeting its set project schedules.
Project fast tracking requires proper identification of the project's critical paths and devising a way of linking tasks parallel to one another.
The main goal of fast-tracking a project is to bridge the often wide gap of the project duration in delivering the overall project sooner.
Fast-tracking in project management allows project managers to compress project timelines and further shorten the scheduled duration of a project.
What is Schedule Compression?
Schedule compression is the totality of a project manager's various methods and techniques to preserve the project scope. This technique ensures the project lifecycle is shortened to deliver the most value.
The two crashing techniques commonly used for time scheduling in project management are fast tracking and crashing.
Schedule compression techniques usually play when a project is behind its schedule duration. Fast-tracking and crashing help the project manager cover the necessary grounds to ensure the project can surpass its originally scheduled timeframe.
When to Fast Track Your Project
The choice of the schedule compression technique to be implemented for a project depends on the choice of the project manager and how far behind the project is.
Let’s suppose fast-tracking a project is not feasible in the available time frame for the project. In that case, the project manager can use the other schedule compression technique of crashing the project schedule.
Project crashing involves expanding your project budget by pumping in more resources against adjusting the original schedule. The purpose of project crashing is to increase the speed of project delivery.
As much as project crashing is an adequate substitute for project managers, if fast-tracking a project is not feasible, there is a downside.
The project crashing technique comes with additional costs that you must consider. This technique requires project managers to consider increasing resources.
Allocating extra resources would provide the maximum compression required but leave other tasks where you pull resources from vulnerable.
So in all totality, your choice of when to fast-track your project proceedings should ensure the least minimal effect from your cost and schedule tradeoffs. You can do this with the least incremental cost in mind.
Risks of Fast-Tracking Your Project
The choice to apply fast tracking in the project management process helps shorten the project timeline by identifying and managing parallel tasks in meeting the project goal.
In all these, using the fast-tracking schedule compression technique significantly increases project risks.
Here are some of the risks that negatively affect the fast-tracking of your project.
1. Changes in the Project Schedule
Fast-tracking a project already in its execution stage opens the project up to more risk factors. The project manager has to thoroughly review the previous schedule and devise a suitable replacement that aligns with the new schedule.
If there is a lack of effective communication among various team members regarding these changes, then the dangers of increased risk are inevitable.
2. Impact on Productivity
A fast-tracked project requires tasks and activities to be carried on simultaneously and with increasing speed.
On its own, it is not bad. Still, when considerations are not made for predecessor activities that define the success of other activities, the project's productivity is left to face the consequences.
3. Does Not Affect the End Date
The critical path of your project is the path that has a bulk of the tasks to be completed and, to a large extent, determines your project's due date.
Unless the critical path activities are changed, project fast tracking does not affect the due date of your project.
How to Fast Track a Project
As with any critical project process, effective planning is required. Fast-tracking a project requires a series of thorough planning processes to apply schedule compression techniques where necessary.
1. Create a Fast-Tracking Plan
Fast-tracking requires compressing an already existing and implementing a schedule for a project by identifying the critical path activities of a project and implementing them concurrently with one another.
The technique shortens the overall project schedule and ensures the delivery of the project sooner.
In devising a plan for your fast-tracking process, you need to consider the likely impact of this technique on the overall project process.
Project managers need to account for these factors in creating a fast-tracking plan:
- How much time has been lost, and how much time is required to put the project back on track?
- The critical path activities determine what task would be fast-tracked.
- Ensure the dependencies of these critical path tasks and activities with other project tasks do not create a lopsided plan.
Choosing a set of tasks to compress to save time is not enough. It often requires pulling additional resources and incurring additional costs from other projects or activities. Design your fast-tracking plan not to affect the project scope.
2. Reorganize the Schedule
After successfully drawing up a plan to guide your schedule fast-tracking process, incorporate the opportunities noticed when creating your fast-tracking plan into your project schedule.
Look out for activities without known dependency on other tasks or activities. This set of activities can be fast-tracked without negatively impacting the overall project process.
Along your critical path, opportunities usually occur for you to reorganize your schedule. It is largely due to the existence of overlapping tasks and activities.
You can better reorganize your schedule with the best project management software and Gantt chart tools. Project management software tools help you visualize your critical path activities, task dependencies, and timelines better.
By identifying key task overlaps, project management software tools open you up to a series of opportunities for you to fast-track your project.
3. Monitor Progress Regularly
Without periodic and extensive monitoring of its progress, it is difficult to ascertain if your project is on the right track or lacking behind.
The signs of a derailing project are usually best visible by constant monitoring as they are not easy to identify.
Putting structures in place to better monitor your project by looking out for these signs or comparing it against a standard to determine if it comes short or is right on track is the best way of staying ahead of your project process.
Project managers should frequently communicate with the project team to give them a sense of what has, is, and is to be done surrounding the project.
As a project manager, you are tasked with project oversight. You need to be constantly informed about the state of tasks and activities.
In cases where there is a shortage of resources required for tasks, it is your job to look for fast solutions so that the project schedule is not affected.
Project tracker tools offer templates that help the project team have a rich overview of the project and where it is expected to be. These templates come in handy in helping to identify potential bottlenecks.
4. Keep Track of Potential Bottlenecks
While implementing the plans to fast-track your project process, you must remain on the lookout for certain activities that can stop or derail such plans' progress.
One of these potential bottlenecks can occur when adding resources to a project from other non-pressing projects. In the long run, if the effect of these changes is not checked, it can cause negative damage to the project.
Document all potential bottlenecks and ways of counteracting their effects in your fast-tracking plan to ensure you are not caught unaware.
You can seek feedback on similar previously executed projects and how they dealt with these bottlenecks. It helps to shore up your defense against similar problems reoccurring.
Fast Tracking vs. Crashing: Key Differences
The goal of project fast tracking and crashing is to identify critical path activities along your project path and effect changes to them to save time.
There is nothing to gain by fast-tracking or crashing activities that do not fall on the critical path of your project. You have to shorten your critical path to gain valuable time on your overall project schedule.
Project schedules are constantly being subjected to changes ranging from additional costs to additional resources. These factors determine if the schedule would be negatively or positively affected.
Here are some notable differences between these two schedule compressions techniques (fast tracking and crashing).
1. When to Use
The first key distinguishing factor between these two schedule compression techniques is that crashing comes into play when the first choice of fast-tracking comes short in delivering on the needed compression in the project schedule.
2. Nature of Operation
For schedule compression, fast-tracking carries out tasks and activities in parallel with one another as against the routine sequential order method.
On the other hand, crashing requires the input of additional costs on resources to cut down the project schedule.
3. Risk Areas
Both fast tracking and crashing are vulnerable to increased risk because they are both structured. The likely risk associated with fast tracking occurs in reworking tasks, while the risk associated with project crashing occurs as incremental cost.
4. Method of Shorten the Project Duration
Fast-tracking and crashing also differ significantly in their utilization mode to shorten the project duration. While fast-tracking works when there is a possibility of activity overlap, you can only use crashing on project activities where additional costs and resources are feasible.