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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You might need to reduce the scope (scope: The combination of all project goals and tasks, and the work required to accomplish them.) to meet the finish date or the budget (budget: The estimated cost of a project that you establish in Project with your baseline plan.). 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 (deliverable: A tangible and measurable result, outcome, or item that must be produced to complete a project or part of a project. Typically, the project team and project stakeholders agree on project deliverables before the project begins.) 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.

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  • 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.

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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.

Number 3 Adjust the plan to take advantage of additional time    

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After you build your plan and Project 2007 calculates the schedule (schedule: The timing and sequence of tasks within a project. A schedule consists mainly of tasks, task dependencies, durations, constraints, and time-oriented project information.) and cost (cost: The total scheduled cost for a task, resource, or assignment, or for an entire project. This is sometimes referred to as the current cost. In Project, baseline costs are usually referred to as "budget.") for the project, you might have more time or an increased budget (budget: The estimated cost of a project that you establish in Project with your baseline plan.). You can choose to end the project ahead of schedule or under budget. Or you can increase the scope (scope: The combination of all project goals and tasks, and the work required to accomplish them.) and add quality (quality: The degree of excellence, or the desired standards, in a product, process, or project.) to the project deliverables.

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 (resources: The people, equipment, and material that are used to complete tasks in a project.) 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 (report: A format in which you can print schedule information that is appropriate for the intended recipients. You can use the predefined reports provided by Project or create custom 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