Crashing in project management can save projects from coming in late. But be warned: do it without proper care, and face costs going through the roof! Read on to learn how to do it without blowing your budget.
Despite how thorough and watertight your project plans may be, some projects might still go off track, or need to be delivered faster than originally expected.
In instances like these, you’ll want to change the project scope (if that's possible) or add in more resources to meet the deadline.
Technically, such a rerouting or change in the project plan is called crashing in project management.
It’s often a course you'll want to avoid - or only take as a last resort. However, in some circumstances, crashing might be the only way to save your project altogether.
Here’s everything you need to know about it:
Project crashing or project time compression is a method in project management that accelerates a project’s timeline by adding more resources to it.
Typically, the aim of crashing a project is to complete it before or by its timeline without changing the scope. It’s only in certain instances that the project’s scope is changed as part of crashing.
Let’s say you’re launching a new mobile app for your client. The deadline is set and immovable since you and your client agreed the best date to launch this dating app is Valentine’s Day.
For reasons that are unclear, a bug keeps resurfacing. But the team is too hard-pressed for time to dedicate any more resources to fixing it.
Now the only way to meet this immovable deadline is to crash the project.
One possible way to do so is to either to reduce the number of features you’re launching so the team can pay attention to the bug. Alternatively, you can onboard an external contractor to help with the issue at hand.
For whatever route you take, make sure you calculate costs and consequences so you can crash the project with minimal loss.
Since project crashing speeds up a project’s timeline, it’s often employed for projects that you need to complete fast. For instance, projects with a time bonus incentive where you get a bonus for meeting a specific project completion date.
Project crashing is also a handy technique to leverage when there’s a supply disruption.
Overall, common reasons that’d require you to crash projects include:
In cases where the project timeline is unchangeable, you’ll need to employ project crashing tactics to meet the project completion date.
Stakeholder management can be a challenging nut to crack. In instances where you’re dealing with a particularly hard-to-satisfy client, you’ll need to use project crashing methods to complete the project by the agreed date to win the client.
With thoughtful resource planning, you can avoid crashing projects for this reason. However, in unforeseen circumstances (think: a labor strike), you may need to resort to project crashing methods.
If you’re known for meeting your deadlines, for example, you’ll want to crash the project in instances when things don’t go as planned.
Despite efficient capacity planning, it’s entirely possible that you find yourself taking on projects with a quick turnaround time. It’s also possible you’re in the middle of a heavy workload season.
Whatever your unique case may be, you might need to crash a project or two to keep the other projects moving by their planned timelines.
Lastly, you might need to use project crashing methods to qualify for time bonuses that require you to finish a project early. In instances like these, project crashing can make more financial sense so it is worth leveraging.
Crashing in project management requires you to review and alter the scope, timeline, and resource plan of a project.
Essentially, this is a lot of work — demanding critical thinking and thorough analysis of the consequences of changing planned aspects of the projects before you decide how you can crash the project.
Timeline compression also mostly revolves around not changing a project’s scope. Meaning: you’ll likely want to add in more resources to reach a milestone or deadline more quickly. This translates into bloated project budgets, which may impact your profit.
It’s for all these reasons that project crashing is often treated as the last resort to fast-track a project’s duration.
All in all, the drawbacks of project crashing include:
There’s no defined project crashing blueprint that you can follow.
The reason behind this is simple: every situation requiring a project crash tends to be unique, needing a unique action plan to complete the project.
However, what stays the same for all project crashing cases is the need for:
You’ll also want to keep stakeholder requirements first and foremost as you recreate a fresh compressed project plan.
So how can you make sure you don’t overlook any of these essential pointers as you make your crashing decision? By taking these steps:
Go back to your original project plan to chart your critical path.
Recall that a critical path is a sequence of the most important tasks that you need to do to complete a project.
These are tasks that you can’t adjust or eliminate. For this reason, they're often referred to as the critical tasks of a project.
As you review your project plan, create a list of these critical tasks that you need to complete at all costs.
By doing so, you’ll be left with a list of another set of tasks that aren’t so critical. These are tasks that you can shorten or eliminate without compromising the project’s quality.
The previous step should give you a list of non-critical tasks that you can eliminate. It’d also give you a list of critical tasks that you must complete.
With both these lists ready, work out a possible action plan. That is:
For all possible solutions that you’re brainstorming, think of the additional resources including the budget required.
If you’re planning to put more folks to work on critical tasks, for example, evaluate the impact of doing so.
Ask yourself: do you have people with the right skillset available to work on these tasks? If so, how will their utilization rate be affected if you enlist their help on this project?
The key to successful project crashing isn’t in devising new solutions but in evaluating the trade-offs of taking the new route to faster completion.
So what’s the easiest way to make the most accurate evaluation? Visualize the impact.
Visualizing the consequences of the possible ways to crash a project helps you make the most informed, cost-effective decisions.
Now, of course, you can manually create charts to visualize the impact.
But we don’t recommend doing so since that can quickly become very time-consuming. Not to mention, the risks of human error are high.
The solution then is to use your project and resource management software.
If you use Runn, for example, you can:
Runn holds your resource inventory, which not only gives you a list of people and their skills but also an overview of when they’re due and off.
Use filters in Runn to find folks with the exact skillset and availability you need within minutes.
By showing you the time employees have available, you can plan around their existing workload and scheduled holidays and time off — preventing resource clashes.
What’s more, with real-time charts, you can easily edit and visualize schedules with evolving plans and milestones.
Make tentative (or bound to change) plans in Runn to see the impact of different ways to crash a project on resource utilization rate and capacity.
Again, this makes visualizing the trade-offs super easy, helping you make informed decisions.
Runn shows you how your project costs are tallying up to the total budget.
Using this information, you can easily forecast budget changes including how far above they can go from the overall budget as you crash a project.
The best part? You don’t need to plan this new action plan for a project in silo.
Instead, you can see all your projects and upcoming milestones in one place in Runn. This way, you can make sure the new plan doesn’t disturb or delay other projects in your pipeline.
By the end of this step, you should have full clarity on:
Pick the best path to proceed based on all the evaluations you did in the previous step.
Next, recreate a fresh (read: updated) project plan. Make sure you outline:
Also, update the budget to prevent any confusion moving forward.
Updating all your project documentation at this point is useful for staying on top of things and keeping stakeholders updated.
Make sure you keep a record of the original project plan though. This way, you easily reflect on the changes you needed to make to review how well they worked out once the project wraps up.
The final step is to execute the refreshed plan while tracking milestones.
When all is said and done, commit time to reflect on how things went. Make note of lessons learned and mistakes you need to avoid in the future.
This helps you improve your project management skills and processes as well as prevent regular project crashing for the wrong reasons.
Ideally, project crashing should be your last resort.
It’s why most of the tips we share below align with helping you optimize your project processes and taking the most cost-effective route to crashing when you must.
Let’s dive in:
Always be mindful of just how adding more resources to shorten the project timeline impacts the overall cost.
If you can, consider adjusting the project scope, which often is a budget-friendly option. However, crashing the scope is often only possible with internal projects.
So remember: try to keep the costs at a minimum when crashing projects.
If you find yourself regularly changing project scopes or resources, consider reviewing your project management strategy.
In most cases, you’ll identify patterns in your work processes that bring you to project crashing.
If your project management strategy happens to be the culprit, look into creating a hybrid strategy instead of relying on one (waterfall or agile).
Don’t want to make large-scale changes just yet? Test a hybrid project management strategy to save an at-risk project and see how it goes for you.
Last-minute change in plans increases the risks of failure. You might put in more resources but still end up not meeting the completion date.
The solution then is to crash a project either at its start or toward the middle of its duration. This ensures a higher success rate as you can pivot just in time to meet the new milestone.
Between creating a plan that satisfies stakeholders and minimizing costs, capacity planning may end up on the back burner, forgotten altogether.
This, however, runs the risk of impacting the quality of the deliverables and burning out employees if you end up assigning them more work than they can manage.
A resource clash is also possible, derailing another project’s progress.
So make sure you visualize not just resource availability but also capacity as you crash a project.
The right tools make it easy to:
With Runn, you can also track milestones and timelines for all projects in one place. This makes it easy to keep all the projects rolling without interruption even as you crash a project.
As long as you’re strategic about it, project crashing doesn’t have to be challenging or profit-draining.
Just make sure you visualize trade-offs of potential ways to crash a project. This lets you take a route that comes with minimum negative consequences.
And to get a leg up, always use a reliable software to manage resources and projects. This way, you can see resources’ availability and utilization rate, your project capacity and milestones — all in one place, which helps you make informed decisions.
Looking for a trustworthy platform for optimal project and resource planning? Consider using Runn for free to get a flavor of how it can help you.
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