Project Management Fast-Tracking: How to Fast Track a Schedule


Fast-tracking in project management is a way to manage time, schedule and activities. This method rejects traditional project management methodologies to work in a way that allows for quicker project execution.

But is fast-tracking right for you and your project? Read on to learn exactly what it means to fast-track a project and how it differs from other techniques in dealing with the project schedule and its scope.

What Is Fast-Tracking In Project Management?

Fast-tracking in project management involves executing activities at the same time rather than sequentially. This is called performing in parallel. Unlike one activity following the other as most projects are done, fast-tracking doesn’t wait for one activity to end before another begins.

Some activities are dependent on others, and cannot start or stop until another starts or stops. Fast-tracking in project management will only work if all the activities are able to overlap with one another. However, if project activities don’t overlap then fast-tracking is a viable alternative, as it usually doesn’t add any extra costs.

That said, rearranging activities in your project to fast-track them can increase risk. Because you’re now executing all activities at once, project managers might have to rework the project. Rearranging your project is likely to result in losing time and having to push your final deadline further out.

Therefore, fast-tracking in project management might not be for everyone. There are, of course, other techniques that can be used when executing the project. A project manager must make the decision as to which of these is best for the project and its stakeholders.

What Is Schedule Compression in Project Management?

Schedule compression in project management is a technique to shorten the length of the project but keep the project scope unchanged. It’s commonly used to adjust the project schedule when falling behind, or when you need to complete a project sooner than expected.

Fast-tracking is one of the techniques used by project managers when needing schedule compression. Another technique that project managers is called project crashing. More on that in a moment.

Whichever technique you use, controlling your schedule, especially manipulating it to get done quickly, is going to require project management software. Most scheduling for projects is done on a Gantt chart.

ProjectManager has an interactive Gantt chart that does more than just organize activities, link dependencies and show the whole project on a timeline. For one, you can filter for the critical path, which is essential when using schedule compression. Try ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart
Fast track all your activities on ProjectManager’s Gantt chart project view. Learn More!

What Is Project Crashing in Project Management?

Project crashing is a technique wherein more resources are added to the project while attempting to not greatly increase costs.

These cost and schedule changes are analyzed in order to get the maximum compression for the least cost to the project. However, crashing will add costs to the project because it involves increasing resources.

The analysis of cost and schedule tradeoffs is based on the lowest crash cost per unit of time. This gives teams insight into which activities have the most value while not racking up too much cost. The results of such analysis are shared as a crash graph. The crash graph shows activities that save the most time with the least increase in cost.

Project crashing is only viable when adding resources will complete the project sooner. The extra resources can include overtime, incentives and more. The additional costs of achieving this goal are reviewed.

Project Fast Tracking vs. Project Crashing

Schedule compression is used to shorten project duration. That can be achieved through two techniques, fast-tracking and project crashing. Both have their pros and cons, so let’s take a closer look at both and see how they compare.

Fast-tracking is executing your project activities at the same time. Project crashing is adding resources. Therefore, both can help you make up for lost time, but fast-tracking is not likely to impact your budget, while project crashing will require additional costs.

As noted, there is more risk associated with fast-tracking and more costs with a project crashing. These differences don’t make one better or worse than the other. They’re really just different and should be used for different reasons. In short, it depends on the project.

If you choose fast-tracking the project, be sure to keep those activities you’re working on in parallel to be those that are on the critical path. If the critical path cannot be made shorter, then there is no chance you’re able to shorten the duration of the project.

Should I Fast Track My Project Schedule?

When fast-tracking a project schedule you first have to ask yourself five questions. If you answer yes to the following, then it means you can fast-track your project:

  1. Is your schedule realistic, with all tasks and activities identified?
  2. Do you know your dependent tasks?
  3. Can you define the project requirements, objectives and priorities?
  4. Are you working well with stakeholders?
  5. Does the project have governance, oversight and problem management?

How to Fast-Track a Project Schedule

Once you’ve determined that your project can benefit from fast-tracking, then it’s time to follow these seven steps.

  1. The first step is to define what your goals and capabilities are when fast-tracking. You can’t move forward without a clear picture of your capabilities and an understanding of the project goal.
  2. Next, you’ll need to identify any task dependencies in the project. You can’t work parallel if you have tasks that must finish or begin before another can stop or start.
  3. Then you want to look over your project schedule and see where there are opportunities to fast-track, such as the activities that can be done simultaneously without negatively impacting the project.
  4. You’ll also want to note all the viable alternatives to the schedule. What can be adjusted and what is not able to change?
  5. With those alternatives in mind, you’ll want to start making decisions on the project schedule and what can be fast-tracked and what cannot.
  6. These decisions shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. Seek consensus from your team and stakeholders before moving forward. You want to get buy-in and make sure everyone is on the same page before starting.
  7. Finally, as in any project, you must monitor and track progress and performance. As issues arise, identify them and work swiftly to resolve them.

Benefits of Fast Tracking

Fast-tracking is not without its risks, which we’ll get to. In fact, fast-tracking will increase your chances of risks occurring. But there are benefits to fast-tracking—or project managers wouldn’t turn to it when they need to tighten up their schedules.

One of the reasons that project managers will fast-track a project is that it increases productivity in the scheduling resource utilization of the project. Of course, fast-track projects will help you make up for lost time or complete the project sooner if that’s necessary.

You might need to end the project sooner than planned because of circumstances changing which make it impossible to keep to the original schedule. It will also allow for meeting specific priorities that might have been impossible with the original schedule.

What Are the Risks of Fast Tracking a Project?

Fast-tracking a project will increase risk. The reasons are obvious—you’re no longer working in sequence, but all at once. Parallel work is simply harder to manage because you’re trying to control everything at once.

Also, when you’re managing all the activities in a project at once, you still have to manage the triple constraint to deliver on the quality, scope and stay within the budget. That’s hard when you’re working one activity at a time and only becomes exponentially more difficult as you fast track.

Fast-tracking requires extra care in planning because of the increased risk level. If you’re not careful, the project becomes too risky to attempt fast-tracking. Any benefits you might achieve would be overshadowed by issues and problems that can sidetrack the project or worse.

How Can Project Management Software Help You with Fast Tracking?

Planning is key to successful fast-tracking in project management. Not only planning, but you must monitor and track the project closely to identify risks when they arise and resolve them quickly. ProjectManager is cloud-based project management software that gives you real-time data to make better decisions more quickly to help keep your project on track.

Track Key Project Metrics on Dashboards

We’ve already explained how you can plan your fast-tracking on our Gantt chart, which filters for the critical path, but once you have your schedule fast-tracked you need to make sure it keeps on track. That’s where our real-time dashboard comes in. Unlike other tools, our dashboard doesn’t have to be configured. It’s ready to go, automatically collecting and calculating live data that is then displayed in easy-to-read charts and graphs. It’s like an instant status report whenever you need it.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

Work How You Want to Work

Your teams need to execute all activities at once, but it’s unlikely they’ll want to use a Gantt chart. Our multiple project views allow teams to work how they want. With robust task lists, kanban boards that visualize workflow or a calendar that keeps important dates front and center, teams can work how they want. All data is updated simultaneously across every tool so everyone is working on the most current data. This is especially helpful for hybrid teams who might be working in different locations.

Task list in ProjectManager

Generate Instant Reports

Our collaborative platform keeps your teams connected and productive, but you also have to update stakeholders. They’re not going to need the same granular information teams need to execute activities, which is why ProjectManager’s reporting feature can be filtered to show just the data stakeholders want to see. Get reports on costs, tasks, workload and more. They’re all easy to share with stakeholders whether they want a PDF or printout.

ProjectManager's status report filter

ProjectManager is award-winning project scheduling software that organizes work to keep you productive and organized. Control your schedule with Gantt charts, monitor in real-time and easily reallocate resources to help you fast-track your projects and get them in early without substituting quality or breaking your budget. Try ProjectManager today for free!