Ensuring that progress is accurately reflected in a schedule that you are maintaining?

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Dear Students,

Today I will take you through how to ensure that progress is accurately reflected in a schedule. This will be done during execution phase when the project has been standardized. Monitoring and controlling the project is an important factor here on scheduling, I will need to collect data from contractors, suppliers and personnel’s and update scheduling so I can determine if there is need for extra manpower, time, resources or cost. I might even need to crash the project if time is of the essence. And monitor closely my new risk, supply chain management and budget.

Schedule Network analysis

Schedule network analysis, as defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), is a technique used by project managers to analyse schedule information and generate realistic and optimal project schedules.  This analysis should be performed upon completion of the draft schedule and network diagram and after each schedule update.  Schedule network analysis involves:

  • Identifying the schedule impact of task dependencies
  • Identifying critical path tasks and understanding the impact of the critical path on the schedule. Software tools such as Microsoft Project automatically display critical path tasks once project information such as tasks, dependencies, and durations are identified in the tools.
  • Analyzing the effects of schedule constraints and externally imposed dates
  • Understanding which tasks can experience delays without delaying the overall schedule
  • Conducting “what if” analysis of various activity durations (for example, what if the testing activities take twice as long as is currently planned?)
  • Assessing resource allocation and leveling to prevent resource over-allocation
  • Assessing fast tracking or crashing options to ensure optimal schedule performance

Analytical Techniques:

PMBOK describes the following techniques to perform schedule network analysis.  For more detail regarding analytical techniques, which provide valuable information necessary for effective schedule definition, see PMBOK, fourth edition, Section 6.5.2.  Most scheduling tools include features that allow utilization of these techniques with minimal effort.

 

  • Critical Path Method – The critical path method calculates the longest path of planned activities to the end of the project – the “critical path” – and the earliest and latest date that each activity can start and finish without extending the project. Any activity delay on the critical path impacts the planned project completion date.  A network diagram visually conveys the critical path.  This visibility into the critical path allows project managers to prioritize activities and take appropriate corrective actions to meet schedule deadlines.

An understanding of the critical path also allows project managers visibility as to which schedule activities are flexible – that is, those activities that are not on the critical path.  By looking at a network diagram, project managers can determine when they have float or slack, which is the amount of time that any given schedule activity can be delayed without causing a delay to the start date of subsequent activities (free float) or to the project completion date (total float).   Knowing when a project has float allows a Project Manager to understand what tasks may slip and by how much before they have an impact on the project schedule.

  • Critical Chain Method – The basis for the critical chain method is the same as the basis for the critical path method but with one key difference; the critical chain method accounts for resource limitations. By adding resource limits to the analysis, the result is that critical path is generally longer.  The resource-constrained critical path is known as the critical chain.  If resources are allocated in the scheduling tool, the network diagram will display the critical chain.  Using the critical chain method involves adding duration buffers to project schedules to protect the targeted finish date from slippage.  Duration buffers are added to the schedule as non-work schedule activities – one at the end of the critical chain and others at the end of each sequence of tasks that feeds into the critical chain.  As a result, “buffer” time is integrated throughout the project schedule to account for duration uncertainty.  Later in the project, project teams monitor project progress by reviewing the consumption rate of the buffers.
  • Resource Leveling – Resource leveling is the process of changing schedule resource allocation to resolve over-allocations or conflicts. Resource leveling is applied to a schedule that has already been analyzed by the critical path method.  This technique is used to adjust a project schedule if shared resources are only available at certain times, or in limited quantities, or if a Project Manager wants to maintain resource usage at a constant level.  Resource leveling is often used to correct resource over-allocations and will often change the critical path.  The network diagram should be recreated after resource leveling to assess the updated critical path.
  • What-If Scenario Analysis – This analysis examines the schedule impact of various scenarios, such as the delayed delivery of a major deliverable. What-if scenario analysis may include simulation that calculates multiple project duration with different sets of activity assumptions.  Multiple network diagrams may be generated to visually convey the impact of varying scenarios.  Project managers can use the results of this analysis to determine schedule feasibility under adverse conditions and prepare relevant contingency plans.

Schedule Compression Techniques:

As a result of network diagram analysis, project teams may identify a need to compress the schedule.  Schedule compression shortens the project schedule in order to meet schedule deadlines without reducing the project scope.  Schedule compression techniques include crashing and fast tracking.  If utilized, project teams should recreate and reassess the network diagram to ensure that no new schedule issues have emerged.

  • Crashing – Crashing involves either adding resources or increasing work hours (overtime, weekends) to shorten task duration. Shorter task durations typically result in higher task costs, so project teams must determine, prior to crashing, whether the total costs savings is enough to justify the higher costs.  Crashing almost always requires cost increases because it usually necessitates new tasks.  Crashing is a controversial technique because adding project resources can increase project complexity or risk and may ultimately have a negative impact on the schedule.  Crashing does not involve reducing project scope or eliminating project tasks.
  • Fast Tracking – Fast tracking is a schedule compression technique in which project phases or activities usually conducted sequentially are performed in parallel to reduce duration. Care must be taken to ensure that parallel work does not create additional work or increase risk.  Fast tracking frequently results in increased complexities in task dependencies, so additional project controls must be implemented to ensure ongoing and accurate insight into schedule performance.

Using this analysis and techniques one can understand the progress, requirements and modification needed in the project. Thus, helping the project manager to ensure that project is on time or any additional requirements are there for completion of the project success.

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