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If you have determined that a plan is encountering unfavorable variances, you have to do something about it. If the project is in trouble, it's important to remember one thing: You should use the plan to manage the project. Don't deviate from the plan; change it! Depending on the type of problem you are having, you can employ different strategies to get the plan back on track. The bottom line is that something needs to change if you still plan to deliver on time and on budget with high quality and all expectations met.
Project provides many tools to help you revise a schedule, but first you have to know what will work for you on this project and in your particular situation. Remember that when it comes to revising a project plan there are limits: scope, time (the schedule), and costs (resources). Project managers must choose a combination of changes to stay within those limits.
Before you even begin to modify a plan in Project, chances are that there are users, customers, sponsors, and managers that you'll need to talk to before you can reflect your strategy in Project. Whatever you decide, you are likely to be forced to make trade-offs. If you use a less expensive resource to stay within budget, the work estimates might increase due to a lack of experience of the less expensive resource. If you reduce scope, you are probably sacrificing some of your objectives to stay within schedule and budget. If you overlap tasks to meet deadlines, you increase the risk of failing to meet other objectives. The harsh reality is that, if there were serious oversights when the plan was developed, the chances of completing the plan according to all its original expectations will take quite a bit of creativity on your part.
The following sections describe what these options mean in Project.
When you cut scope, you're reducing function, taking something out of your project objectives, or delivering less than originally committed. You might also be compromising on the quality of the project goal. Reducing scope in Project can be deployed in limited ways:
Negotiating a reduction in scope or a redefinition of project quality can be among the most difficult tasks you'll face as a project manager. After you define your initial project objectives, removing functions from the deliverables is often technically complicated, requiring advice from many different members of the team. It's hard to decide what you can take out and still have everything function smoothly. Add to this dilemma a group of sponsors who have had high expectations, and you'll find yourself in a pretty difficult situation.
A project might be on target for the completion date and meeting scope and quality requirements but running over budget to achieve those goals. Typically, if you "throw money" at a project, anything is possible. But if staying within the project budget is an important consideration, you need to find ways to conserve expenditures. Possible options include the following:
Reducing Scheduled Duration
If your targeted project finish date is in jeopardy, reducing the project scheduled duration means you first have to find out which tasks are extending the schedule, and then you have to figure out some way to make those tasks finish sooner. In Project, you can reduce the schedule by trying the following:
Schedule reductions can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but the decision should be made with caution. Many elements of risk are introduced to a project plan when you agree to reduce work, overlap tasks, add resources, and maintain scope. Reducing the schedule might lower your confidence in completing on time while increasing your risk of delivering quality. Despite these concerns, project managers are sometimes forced to revise a plan and bring it in early. Here are some ways to reduce the schedule:
When you reduce a schedule, Project does not automatically remove unneeded occurrences of a recurring task. Don't forget to get rid of unneeded tasks, such as weekly status meetings, by modifying the number of occurrences of recurring tasks (on the Task Information dialog box) or by deleting individual occurrences.
Adding resources is sometimes an effective way to recover a schedule that is falling behind, but it usually comes at a price ”the budget. Adding resources is easy in Project. Finding the right resource at the right time for the right price can be challenging.
If you add resources, there are some things you might need to do:
When you're done revising the schedule, your resources might have become overloaded. Load leveling is the final step to ensuring that a revised schedule remains realistic.
Many of these strategies are easy to implement in Project. The hard part is likely to be convincing your project team and sponsors that your strategies for adjusting the plan are viable and acceptable to all involved.
Before you adjust a project plan, it's a good idea to make frequent backups of your project's .mpp file. You might at some point decide that the changes you are making to the schedule are not working out. Rebuilding the plan without a good backup can be painful if you're not careful.
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