Goal: Optimize the project plan to meet the finish date

After you build your project plan, you need to review the scheduled finish date. If the plan does not meet your targeted finish date, and if meeting your finish date is important to the project's success, you can optimize the plan to meet this date. As you change the aspects of your plan that relate to the finish date, however, remember that you are likely to change the costs and scope.

Tip   This article is part of a series of articles within the Project Map that describe a broad set of project management activities. We call these activities "goals" because they are organized around the project management life cycle: Build a plan, track and manage a project, and close a project.

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Optimize the finish date goal graphic

number 1 Specify and review the project dates     Reviewing the project dates can help you to see whether you are meeting the targeted finish date and whether you need to make any further adjustments to meet that date.

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Number 2 Adjust the plan to meet the finish date     You can use a variety of strategies, including adjusting the calendars, scope, tasks, and assignments, in order to meet the targeted finish date.

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  • Specify a project start date or finish date that begins or finishes on a date that is earlier than the date of the current plan. If this is an option for your project, try changing the start date first.

  •  Modify a calendar

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    • Create a task calendar if the task calendars that are applied to the critical path tasks are unnecessarily delaying the finish date. Modifying or removing a task calendar may have the least effect of any changes to the three types of calendars (task, resource, and project) in Microsoft Office Project 2007.

    • Modify a resource calendar if the resources are actually working more than their calendar reflects. For example, if the resource calendar for a resource that is assigned to critical path tasks indicates a four-day workweek, but the resource actually works five days, you will probably meet the finish date.

    • Modify the project calendar if the project is being worked on for more hours or days than your project calendar reflects. For example, if the project calendar indicates that weekends are nonworking time, but you actually are running weekend shifts, changing the project calendar will probably meet your finish date.

  •  Reduce the project scope

    You might need to reduce the scope to meet the finish date or the budget. Or, after building your project plan, you might have more time or money than expected. In either case, you can change the scope of the project. You can choose between changing the deliverables of the product or changing the scope of the project.

    For example, you decide to remove a market research task from a project, and you also reduce the duration of product testing in order to meet the finish date or budget. In this case, the end product and deliverables don't change. However, you changed the method for providing this end product by reducing the scope of the project.

    Do all of the following that apply:

    • Change a duration to meet the finish date by reducing the amount of time planned for critical path tasks. Be sure that the reduced duration still reflects a minimum reality. Also be sure to adjust the corresponding amount of work that is assigned to the resources.

    • Remove a task to meet the finish date. Removing tasks can decrease the quality of the overall project implementation. Tasks that must be done should still be reflected in the plan, and only those tasks that are considered optional should be removed.

    • Replace a resource assignment to meet the finish date. You can replace a slower resource with a faster one, such as a person with more experience, equipment with higher capacity, or material with a quicker setting time.

  •  Adjust a task on the critical path

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    • Show the critical path to keep an eye on the critical path and meet the finish date.

    • Change when a task becomes critical if you want to change the definition of a critical task to mean, for example, a task with one or two days of slack. By default, Project 2007 considers a task to be critical if it has zero days of slack.

    • Change the start date or finish date for a task if inflexible date constraints (such as Must Start On or Must Finish On) were set on tasks. When you make task constraints in the critical path more flexible, Project 2007 can calculate the schedule with fewer restrictions, and you might be able to meet the finish date.

    • Change a duration for a task on the critical path to meet the project finish date.

    • Split a task if the single task comprises multiple elements that can be worked on simultaneously by different resources. If you break a critical path task into these different elements with different assignments, you might be able to meet the finish date.

    • Change a task linkto review the relationships (or dependencies) among tasks in the critical path and to see whether there are any incorrect or unnecessary links that you can change.

    • Set overlap or delay for tasks to adjust the lead and lag time between linked tasks. Adding lead time between linked tasks can help to meet the finish date. Adding lag time where necessary can make the schedule more realistic.

  •  Adjust an assignment to meet the finish date

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    • Assign an additional resource to decrease the duration of a task on the critical path. Assigning more resources to decrease a task duration works as long as the task is effort-driven and not fixed-duration.

      Adding more resources to tasks is called "crashing" or "compressing" the project. Taken to an extreme, crashing can be a risky way to complete a project because of the extra costs and inefficiencies that can result. If you add too many tasks, the length of the project can increase rather than decrease because of the extra complexity.

    • Replace a resource assignment to help meet the finish date if the resource (person, equipment, or material) can work faster or more efficiently or can be assigned more units for tasks on the critical path.

    • Adjust the time a work resource spends on a task by changing the resource's assignment units on a critical task or by having the resource start on the assignment at an earlier date.

Number 3 Adjust the plan to take advantage of additional time    

 More . . .

After you build your plan and Project 2007 calculates the schedule and cost for the project, you might have more time or an increased budget. You can choose to end the project ahead of schedule or under budget. Or you can increase the scope and add quality to the project deliverables.

  • Check with the customers     If appropriate, check with the customers or stakeholders to see how they prefer to use the time or budget. They might prefer to leave the plan as is and have the project come in ahead of schedule or under budget.

  • Check your contract     See whether there are contractual incentives (or in some cases, even penalties) for coming in ahead of schedule or under budget. The type of contract you have (fixed price, cost reimbursable, or unit price) can help you determine how you can take advantage of available time or budget.

  • Add scope     If you have extra time or budget available, you can add tasks or phases that you wanted to implement but thought you wouldn't have enough time or money for. You can increase the duration on existing tasks, so that resources have more time to complete them. Be aware that adding scope is likely to add both time and cost to your plan. Changing the scope and deliverables may have contractual implications, so be sure to check the contract and obtain client approval when necessary.

  • Raise the standard of quality     You can use surplus time or budget to add tasks or phases that add or check for quality. You can increase the duration on existing tasks, so that the resources have more time to do higher-quality work. Another way to raise the quality is to add more highly skilled staff, more efficient equipment, or higher-grade materials. These types of resources can be more expensive, but they can also be a good use of surplus budget.

Number 4 Enter a note about schedule changes     Log information about changes that you made to meet the finish date. Such notes can be helpful when you are tracking actual progress, closing the project, or collecting data for the next project.

Number 5 Evaluate the results of schedule optimization     This evaluation ensures that you did indeed meet the finish date and that costs, workload, and other projects were not adversely affected by these changes.

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  • See what's driving the project finish date to see how the changes that you made to optimize for the finish date affected the critical path. This can help you to see whether you actually achieved your goal of meeting your targeted finish date.

  • Display task and project scheduling information to view the date information for your tasks and project or for projects that are published to Microsoft Office Project Server 2007.

  • Review resource workloads to see whether any assigned resources are now overloaded or underutilized as a result of optimizing to meet the finish date.

Number 6 Communicate the assignment changes to the resources     If you assigned new tasks to the resources or changed or removed existing assignments as a result of meeting the finish date, you can communicate these changes to the affected resources, either online or by printing assignment reports.

Number 7  Add supporting information about a task or resource after the project information changes     Add more information in the form of notes, documents, and links to Web pages.

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Applies To: Project 2007, Project 2007 Standard



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