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Project 2007: Fast-Tracking a Project Schedule

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 7/6/2011

In this how-to article, we'll take a look at how to use Project 2007 to fast-track your project.

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    While Fast-Tracking is a project management strategy to avoid, sometimes it is inevitable. Project 2007 offers an easy way for you to fast-track your project. Follow the steps below to fast-track your project schedule using Project 2007.

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    Step One: Sort your Tasks

    First, find the tasks with the longest duration and sort your critical tasks. Fast-tracking works best on tasks that can be completed concurrently. To sort tasks in Project 2007, make sure you are in the Gantt chart view. Then, filter for “critical." Next, sort tasks by duration by clicking on the sort window in the main toolbar and selecting duration. Make a note of critical and long tasks.

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    Step Two: Identify Tasks to Fast-Track

    You can now identify the tasks to fast-track. Other than shortening the duration of long tasks, there are two other ways to fast-track a project: Partial Overlaps and Concurrent Tasks.

    Before overlapping any critical tasks, be aware of risks. If one task requires a deliverable produced in another task in order to get successfully underway, then fast-tracking those two tasks should be forgone. The best tasks to fast-track are those independent of a complete product.

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    Step Three: Fast-Tracking Partial Overlaps

    Picture courtesy of Stock.xchng To fast track tasks as partial overlaps, first select two tasks and link them using the Chain Link icon in the Project 2007 menu (if they have not already been linked). Then, double-click on the second task to bring up the Task Information box. Once this box is open, select “Predecessors." This will list all task dependencies leading up to the current task. Under “type" select “Finish to Start." Next, in the Lag column you can adjust the overlap time between the two tasks. The way "Lag" works is as follows: if the number in this column is "0," The successor will be scheduled to start when the predecessor task ends. If the number in the Lag column is positive, this is the number of days between the finish of the predecessor and the start of the successor. To fast-track your project, you will set this number to a negative number. If the predecessor task is scheduled for ten days, and you want to begin the successor halfway through, set the number to "-5." Project will then adjust the schedule accordingly.

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    Step Four: Fast Tracking Complete Overlaps

    You can run tasks in parallel to one another – so long as they require different resources and the risks involved with running tasks in this manner are known and minimal. The easiest way to do this is to break the dependency between the two tasks so that the tasks are now scheduled concurrently. While this way is easy, it can also cause confusion. Sometimes when you delete the dependency between the predecessor and successor, the successor disappears from the screen.

    The second and better way to schedule parallel tasks is to create a new predecessor for the task you are moving up in time. Link the successor to the new predecessor before deleting the link between the two. This way, you will not lose sight of the newly rescheduled task.

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    Step Five: Review for Errors

    Before adhering to the new project schedule, you should double check your work for any errors, missed dependencies, etc. This way, you can help to ward off any of the risks that come with fast-tracking your project schedule.