Trading time

We have seen that time is unique and that unlike other resources such as money and people, lost time can never be replaced. However, this does not mean that time cannot be traded. By trading time, in the project management context, we mean either giving up time for something else, or giving up something else and getting more time in return. The 'something else' is always definable in terms of scope or cost or risk or quality (The so-called 'triple constraint'). So if you are short of time in your project, you may want to identify options to create more time, and you can start to identify options by considering:

  • scope is there a way to reduce the scope of the project so as to create more time?

  • cost is there a way to spend more money, that is to increase costs, in a way that creates more time? (That 'buys time'?)

  • quality is there a way to reduce the quality of the work to create more time?

  • risk what additional risks can be accepted by the project, or what existing risks can be accepted in greater degree, so as to buy time?

The problem can also be the other way around, that is how to trade time by giving up time (that is, taking longer) in order to obtain more of some other resource, such as money or people, or in order to reduce risks or raise quality. An example of trading time in return for money is given in the Channel Tunnel mini-case study.

Case study

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Though the tunnel that links Britain and France was completed in late 1994, the contract to construct a high-speed link between London and the end of British end of the tunnel at Folkstone was not awarded until February 1996. A consortium called London & Continental Railways Ltd (LCR) was to build a high-speed line from the coast to London and then across London to St Pancras station. The project was to be financed by LCR which would then draw revenues from Eurostar, the train operating company. Construction was expected to start in 1998 and finish in 2003.

At the end of 1997 it became clear that Eurostar's revenues were not going to be sufficient to repay the debts if the project went ahead unchanged, and it was made clear soon afterwards that the government would not make good the 1.2 billion shortfall with a grant. So the money available to do the project had become much less than originally anticipated: cost was out of balance with time and performance.

In June 1998 a solution was agreed that brought cost, time and deliverables back into line. The project was split in two: one part, linking the tunnel with the outskirts of London, would go ahead immediately, and the other part, crossing London, would be delayed. Construction of the first section is on target for completion in 2003, but completion of the entire link is unlikely before late 2006.

The LCR consortium were not the cause of the financing problem, but they had to manage it anyway. At the time they did this it would still have been possible to shut down the project without too much cost, and this was probably their next-best solution after the one that was agreed. The option simply to carry on and hope that it would sort itself out would have cost far more than either of the other options. LCR recognized the severity of the problem and redefined the project so that the new plan met the changed requirements.


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Definitive Guide to Project Management. The Fast Track to Getting the Job Done on Time and on Budget
The Definitive Guide to Project Management: The fast track to getting the job done on time and on budget (2nd Edition)
ISBN: 0273710974
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2007
Pages: 217
Authors: Sebastian Nokes
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