International Project Management Day




Planning and Scheduling: Make Trade-offs and Optimize


Quick Summary
This template provides guidelines for making trade-offs and optimizing the plan after the first pass base schedule has been developed, to address conflicts discovered among the scope, time, and resources/costs. Sixth in a series—see the Related Templates below for the others.


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What this is

This is the sixth of a series of templates on plan and schedule development. This template provides guidelines for making trade-offs and optimizing the plan after the first pass base schedule has been developed, to address conflicts that have emerged among the scope, time, and resources/costs.


Why it's useful

The first pass of scheduling a project rarely leads to an acceptable balance between the business and project objectives, the scope of work necessary to achieve those objectives, the time available, and the resources and budget available to the project. A series of tradeoffs must be made in one or more of these areas in order to align the plan with the project's objectives. Risks to accomplishing the project objectives must also be also be considered and related tasks incorporated into the schedule if necessary.


How to use it

Once scheduling activities have been applied to a task list to create a base schedule, apply the optimization activities listed in this guideline to align the schedule with the overall project goals.

  • Revisit the project's overall objectives.
  • Revisit (or create) the Flexibility Matrix for this project to express what constraints are hard and fast and which areas have flexibility.
  • Apply as many of the optimization activities as necessary to align the schedule with objectives.
  • If project objectives are changed, reaffirm the new objectives with all stakeholders.
Note that the optimization process is iterative with respect to other planning processes; it is likely to cause task definitions, ownership, and dependencies to be redefined. However, be careful about redefining task durations in tasks that have not been otherwise changed. Don't change durations unilaterally in order to "fit" the schedule. Be sure that you reaffirm commitments by the task owners when any duration estimates are changed as part of the optimization process.


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Related Templates
Project Flexibility Matrix
A simple but effective tool that helps guide tradeoff discussions on Scope, Resources and Schedule.

Project Alternatives Tradeoff Table
Use this template to cut through all the complex decisions that can plague the front end of a project. The table gives your team a concise way to document (and communicate!) the alternatives you are considering for scope and features, and the impact of various combinations on the project's cost, schedule, resources, and risk.

Planning and Scheduling: Task Identification and Work Breakdown
Guidelines for developing a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to identify all the activities required to complete a project, with examples. First in a series.

Planning and Scheduling: Assigning Resources
Guidelines on identifying resources needed for each item in a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), including a sample tracking worksheet. Second in a series.

Planning and Scheduling: Identifying Dependencies
How to identify and capture dependencies in a work breakdown structure (WBS). Third in a series

Planning and Scheduling: Estimating Work and Costs
Guidelines on estimating effort, duration, and costs for items in the work breakdown structure (WBS). Fourth in a series

Planning and Scheduling: Project Schedule and Critical Path
Guidelines on scheduling activities to perform on WBS tasks in order to arrive at an integrated schedule in calendar time. Fifth in a series.

Planning and Scheduling: Create Project Plan Document
Guidelines for creating a project plan document providing project essentials like objectives, justification, and how the objectives are to be achieved, and describing how the project will be managed. Seventh in a series.



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