How to Complete a Project 2013 Task in Less Time - dummies

How to Complete a Project 2013 Task in Less Time

By Cynthia Snyder Stackpole

If you do your homework and add contingency reserve to the project, you’re making the plan realistic but also adding time to the project. When the project finish date just won’t work for the powers that be, you have to try a few tactics to chop the timing down to size.

Check dependencies

The timing of the plan is determined by the duration of each task and by its dependencies the relationships you build between tasks. Ask yourself whether you’ve built all dependencies in the best way possible.

Perhaps one task didn’t start until another was finished but the second task could have started two days before the end of its predecessor. Building in this type of overlap (known as fast tracking) can save you time. Over the life of a project with hundreds of tasks, adding that kind of overlap to even a few dozen tasks can save you a month of time or more.

Use the Task Inspector pane to scope out dependencies.

Manage the availability of resources

Another factor that drives timing is the availability of resources. Sometimes in a dependency relationship, one task can’t start before another ends, simply because the resources aren’t available until the predecessor task is over. Look for these potential problems with resource-dependent timing:

  • You delayed the start of a task because a resource wasn’t available. But perhaps another resource can do the work. If so, switch resources and let the task start sooner.

  • Project calculates the duration of auto-scheduled tasks (Fixed Work and Fixed Units with effort-driven scheduling) according to the number of resources available to do the work. If you add resources to these tasks, Project shortens their duration.

  • If you assign a more highly skilled resource to certain tasks, you may be able to reduce the hours of work required to complete the task, because the skilled person can finish the work more quickly.

  • Assigning more resources to tasks on the critical path can shorten those effort-driven tasks.

  • You have money but no time or resources. Consider hiring an outside vendor to handle the work.

Delete tasks

When all else fails and you’ve reduced as much time as possible, it’s time to cut some specific corners. First, consider skipping non-vital tasks. Then ask whether you can revisit the goals of the project with stakeholders and perhaps reduce its scope so that you can jettison tasks from the schedule. You can even negotiate for less-stringent quality or performance levels.

Never eliminate all slack in the schedule. Slack is your friend; it provides scheduling flexibility around resources.

Trade time for cost

Sometimes, the most critical objective in a project is the schedule. If that’s the case on your project, you may be able to negotiate for a larger budget to reduce the overall duration. You then use the extra funds to pay for overtime, add resources, expedite shipping, or increase the hourly commitment of existing resources.

Reducing the schedule by throwing money (in the form of resources) at the problem is called crashing. However, not all tasks can be crashed. Tasks that have truly fixed durations take as long as they take, regardless of the number of resources you throw at them.

To crash the schedule, start by analyzing tasks to see where you can deduct the longest length of time from the schedule for the least cost. After you exploit this task, move to the next least-expensive task, and so on.

Focus only on the tasks that are on the critical path. Reducing the duration of tasks that aren’t on it does no good if you’re trying to reduce the overall length of the project.

At some point, you’ll reduce the duration of the critical path to the extent that you have a different critical path. Then you can go to work on the new critical path.

The more you fast-track, crash, and de-scope the project, the more likely it is to be late. That’s right: At some point, you’ll have compressed as much time as possible from the schedule and it will have multiple critical paths and near-critical paths.

If any task on any of those paths slips, the project will need to use some contingency reserve. And if you aren’t careful, you’ll use it all up and make the project late.