After you have created your initial cut of the schedule, you will often find that this schedule will not meet the target date. Adjusting the schedule and adapting to changing circumstance is where a Project Manager earns their money.
Here are some of the actions you can take:
- Focus on the tasks that are on the Critical Path
- Revisit the estimates – do some of the estimates have more safety time built in than is needed? Where can you reduce estimates and not take on more risk?
- Fast-Tracking – look at activities that you have scheduled in sequence due to assumed dependencies. Can you do some of these in parallel or at least have some overlap? For example, you might have “Solution Construction” following “Design” but in reality you can start building some of the solution after some (but not all) of the design is completed. Fast-tracking is a very common practice and you will use this on most large projects.
- Crashing the schedule – this is where you throw additional resources at critical path tasks without regard to efficiency or budget. If meeting the target date is imperative, this is a useful tactic. It is best to plan for this contingency when you are doing your Risk Management Plan in order to have contingency funds in the budget that you can draw on in case the schedule risk is triggered.
- Obtain stronger resources – you can examine the critical path task assignments and look for opportunities where more experienced and knowledgeable resources would allow you to substantially reduce the task estimates.
- Reduce Scope – review the ranked requirements and obtain Sponsor approval to remove or delay requirements that are not essential for the initial go-live date.
- Sacrifice Quality – you can ask the Sponsor for approval to reduce test time for functions that are used rarely or are not business critical.
You are likely to use some or all of the tactics listed above in any project of significant size. It is a critical skill for Project Managers.