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Magical Ways to Compress Project Schedules

Project managers are like magicians. When a sponsor asks for an eight month project to be completed in six months – poof, the PM and their team deliver. In his blog, PM South, Harry Hall reveals some of the best time-saving tricks of the PM trade.

Project Magic 101

The fundamental technique that every PM magician knows is project decomposition. Breaking down a project into its most basic units, its deliverables, and then breaking those deliverables down into an even smaller set of actions, sets the stage for the true magic to begin.

Next, activities are sequenced into their most efficient order, meaning they are prioritized. Some activities can even be performed in parallel. One must consider any dependencies on external sources and should notice any wait times that appear. Once the proverbial deck of cards is stacked in your team’s favor, it’s time to consider which tricks will be necessary to compress the project.

Tricks of the Trade

Start by reworking dependencies, by questioning whether or not Task A relies on Task B, and so on. Though it will likely increase risks, consider fast tracking your tasks by working on them in parallel. Get creative by reducing project lags. And when it comes to external dependencies, eliminate unnecessary wait times. For instance, purchase something locally rather than waiting for it to be delivered.

Additionally, time requirements are often calculated with the associated risks in mind. Can you erase certain risks? If so, you become free to reduce the time requirements. You may also try increasing resources to the critical path (this is known as “crashing” and it does increase both cost and risk factors). Another factor that increases speed with cost is to seat a more experienced team member on the critical path. Finally, check with project sponsors to see if the project’s scope can be reduced.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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