Sometimes you run into an impossible situation with the project schedule and it must be adjusted. It can be for a number of reasons, but the two main reasons usually come down to these: resource usage or conflicts and the need to meet a forced deadline.
Adjusting the schedule for resource needs or loading
If you find yourself stuck resource-wise and you must make schedule adjustments as a result, there are few options you have and a few things to take into consideration.
- Change the scope of the project or add resources. You can possibly change the size of the project (up or down) and/or add project resources – but keep in mind that more resources always mean more cost. Approval from above will be required.
- Add time to a task. Give a task more time or spilt it in two, modifying resource utilization to make the process work. You can also adjust the basic finish-to-start precedence relationships (if appropriate) by adding lead or lag time to tasks that enable some of the work to occur in parallel.
- Move tasks around to when resources are available. Move a task to a time when more resources are free. This will mean calculating the entire schedule again to make sure the moved task doesn’t impact the critical path of the project.
- Outsource the work. Remember that outsourcing work, while reducing work done by the implementation team, also adds new tasks for vendor management and it can also increase the cost of the task and therefore negatively impact the project budget.
- Negotiate additional time. Negotiate additional time in the schedule with a later completion date and a budget increase. Stakeholder agreement will be needed in order for this to happen and avoid negotiation the time required to complete the tasks because these should be good estimates at this point in the project.
- Reprioritize the goals and scope of the project. Possibly reduce the number of project deliverables and goals for the project as a whole. This is a long shot and will require review and approval of the key project stakeholders.
- Use a phased approach. This is my go to solution for key scheduling issues. Work with the project customer to negotiate delivering components of the project in a phased approach, thereby extending the total project schedule but still giving the customer acceptable products or services.
- Find resources that may be a better fit. This one will be difficult as we usually can’t get resources switched out on our projects – at least not without a lot of give and take. Plus, this option may increase the budget, so be careful even if it is something you can pursue.
Adjusting the schedule to meet a deadline
Many projects have a forced or dictated deadline. A customer may need a project completed by a specific date, someone in your organization may have published a date in a trade journal when an output of the project will be ready (this one happened to me), or it may be a government project and the end delivery date just isn’t negotiable – at least not without considerable liquidated damages or fines as a result…which is usually not something your senior management will be ok with.
Such a project should start as early as possible in case unforeseen delays slow completion. If you’re careful scheduling shows that a project due date is impossible, you have three alternatives:
Reduce the scope of the project. Good luck – but you may be able to negotiate this if you can truly show that it’s never going to work but the key functionality can be delivered on time if you the scope is reduced.
Add additional resources. This is always a costly option, but it may be the only option if it absolutely must be done by ‘x’.
Work out a due date extension. Work out some way to extend the completion date (not always possible). I realize we said this isn’t an option, but never say never. You can always try.
If it isn’t possible to make adjustments to realign the tasks to the schedule, you’ll need to renegotiate the cost-schedule-results equilibrium with the key stakeholders. This is not the fun part of project management, but is the necessary next step for the project manager.