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How do I optimize my schedule ? Tips and Tricks/Suggestions RRS feed

  • Question

  • I made a quick and dirty schedule using MSP 2010 Gantt Chart which works.

    Resources are UNDER-utilized at times. I feel that I could reduce reduce the end date of the schedule further while using my resources to the maximum. 

    Please suggest ways to remove inefficiencies in my Schedule without using manual scheduling and non FS constraints.

    Thanks.


    King

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 8:03 AM

All replies

  • King, I guess there will be a lot of suggestions about this - it's a very broad topic. I'll suggest a couple of thoughts as starting points:

    1) What are you trying to optimise? Your title says the schedule but the detail says your resource utilisation. They are not mutually exclusive but do imply a difference in emphasis. Optimising the schedule is getting everything done as soon (and maybe as predictably) as possible, optimising the resource utilisation is keeping everyone as busy as possible. Another emphasis might be on minimising cost. Think about which of these is most important.

    2) One recommendation for efficient scheduling is to prioritise your resources. Decide which are the most important, difficult to schedule, rarest skills, etc. Schedule these first for the tasks they have to do (no substitution possible) and aim for maximum utilisation without overload. Then the next most important resources and so on.

    Graham

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 10:14 AM
  • Hello,

    The question you are asking cannot be answered through features/use of the software.  This is where the good judgment of a project manager (working in conjunction with the subject matter experts) comes into play.  Please remember this - there is no such thing as "project management software."  However, there is scheduling, forecasting and estimating software - this is the category that MS Project belongs.

    The software is a tool employed by the user to plan and record the events conducted in/on the project.  You decide where to remove the inefficiencies, then use the software to record your decisions.  For example, if resources are under-utilized, you (the PM) decides to assign more work to them during the periods of under-utilization.  Using the software, you (the user) makes those assignments to record when the work will actually happen.

    Hope this helps.


    Gregg D. Richie, PMP, MCTS; Author, Microsoft Project 2010, Microsoft Official Academic Course Series

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 5:15 PM
  • King, I guess there will be a lot of suggestions about this - it's a very broad topic. I'll suggest a couple of thoughts as starting points:

    1) What are you trying to optimise? Your title says the schedule but the detail says your resource utilisation. They are not mutually exclusive but do imply a difference in emphasis. Optimising the schedule is getting everything done as soon (and maybe as predictably) as possible, optimising the resource utilisation is keeping everyone as busy as possible. Another emphasis might be on minimising cost. Think about which of these is most important.


    Cost is not an issue for me. I am trying to do what you said - keep time needed minimum and resource utilization maximum. No resource should be idle.

    King

    Thursday, November 1, 2012 10:05 PM
  • You are talking here about a much bigger topic than project planning. "Optimisation" is part of "operations research".

    You get to choose your own definition of "efficiency" and "optimum", and then make judgement based decisions about how to trade off various objectives in order to meet whatever goals and targets you may set for your project.

    Many definitions of "optimum" contain mutually exclusive or mutually contradictory aims. Simply having everyone busy all the time sounds like a good thing but it could be a short term accountant's view of efficiency and may not be contributing to the real goals. Have a look at the pit crew at the F1. Some guy stands there doing nothing so that he can be available to hand another guy a tool at just the right moment. Have a look at the team in a medical operating theatre. The aim here is not to have everyone busy all the time but to have the right people doing the right things at the right time.

    But the critical path method, which is built into the MSP scheduling engine, is a good place to start. Are you confident that you understand CPM thoroughly?

    Friday, November 2, 2012 12:14 AM
  • As Trevor and Gregg point out, this is a BIG topic and draws on all kinds of skills and judgments on the part of the project manager.

    A common approach for organisations is to have developers do something else in the periods when they are not doing new application coding. This tends to happen in organisations with matrix management. The coders may get assigned to maintenance of other applications. This makes sure there is always something to keep their overall utilisation up but it may be nothing to do with the project where the new coding is required. In this case the project manager would like to schedule the developer to work on the new code according to an efficient project schedule - and he or she doesn't have to worry about resource utilisation. A problem can arise when the maintenance work is assigned higher priority than new coding - for instance when there is a system failure that needs an emergency patch. Then the project new coding effort gets bumped and the project schedule is compromised.

    In the case where all the resources are devoted 100% to the project, then there may be ways of keeping utilisation up by identifying support, non-critical path activities for resources during their slack periods - documentation, preparing training materials, test plan development, etc. This assumes that you have a reasonably multi-skilled project team where people really can work on a variety of different tasks. If your team is not multi-skilled then this approach can lead to increased work/cost because of extra supervision, resource training, rework, etc.

    Friday, November 2, 2012 10:49 AM