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What if our best attempts to minimize time and cost overruns in projects, are pointless?

All over the world, the incidents of time and cost overruns and lack of synchronization in major projects are continuing unabated. Most think that the primary problem is of visibility and monitoring. And hence, technology seems to be the proverbial silver bullet for all our project woes.

Since the 1960-s, computational abilities have multiplied in jumps. In recent times, with high-speed internet and increased mobile access, we should expect huge improvements in visibility. With APIs becoming commonplace, there is also the promise of an interconnected and aligned project ecosystem. And all of these, appear to be easy and well within our reach.

Yet, even during the last 15-20 years, time and cost overruns continue to be impervious to these advancements. Worse still – after countless man-months spent to create a unified system, organizations generally settle for a compromised scope of semi-automatic and semi-manual processes and continue to experience the same de-synchronization as before.

But, how is it possible that technology is not being able to make a dent in the armor of time and cost overruns?

How are projects planned, executed and monitored around the world? The answer is well known – we manage our projects using the Critical Path method.

In this context, it might be important to refer to the original paper submitted by Kelley and Walker. When talking about how to deal with resource shortages this is what the authors had to say:

“All schedules computed by the technique are technologically feasible but not necessarily practical. For example, the equipment and manpower requirements for a particular schedule may exceed those available or may fluctuate violently with time. A means of handling these difficulties must therefore be sought – a method that levels these requirements...”

“...The difficult part of treating manpower leveling problem from a mathematical point of view is the lack of any explicit criteria with which the ‘best’ use of manpower can be obtained”

Given that projects almost always face shortage of resources (Direct, Indirect or Managerial) and no alternate technique is available yet, is it possible that we can control project timelines by applying the Critical Path method?

If not, then can we possibly benefit by applying layers of technology on something that does not work?


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