Project Management

What Float Is in Project Management and Why It Matters

Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)

What Float Is in Project Management and Why It Matters

What Float Is in Project Management and Why It Matters

Projects usually have a variety of tasks that need to be completed during development. Some tasks need to be completed in a specific order and one cannot start until the prior has been finalized. If delays start to build up it can prevent the deliverables from arriving on time.

Every project has a critical path of tasks that need to be completed. Float is how much time you have until a task will impact the due date of the project. Learning how to monitor and plan for float is an essential skill for every project manager.

In this blog post, we’ll define float time in project management, what the benefits of using float time are, and what it means in a larger context. We will also give an example of float time in action.

What is Float Time in Project Management

What is Float Time in Project Management?

The time a task will take is defined as the float time, which indicates how long you have before it must be completed. The amount of time a task can be delayed without delaying the project’s deadline is known as total float time.

Any additional delay that may be allowed for a particular assignment before impacting the following activity is referred to as the free float time. It’s crucial to remember that float time isn’t always available; it depends on the type of job and its level of complexity.

Float time becomes important in project management when you need to understand how much time you have to delay a task without it impacting the due date of the project as a whole. This becomes especially important when tasks start to build up on the critical path and can delay the project if they’re not completed on time.

Free float delays aren’t as serious as total float delays, usually. If there is enough time for the subsequent task to absorb the delay this may not lead to major issues overall. Any total float delay is very important though, as it may cause the project to miss its date.

Zero Float Time

Finally, you might see the term “zero float time” used in project management. This refers to a task that needs to be completed so quickly there isn’t any room for delays at all. The total float time for a zero float task is always 0, which means it must be started as soon as possible and finished on schedule.

Benefits of Float in Projects

Benefits of Float in Projects

Using float is especially useful for project managers who are overseeing big projects that are juggling different tasks. If one task is delayed the next step isn’t affected because it has some float time to play with.

Float can also be used to offset any other tasks that are behind schedule, so they’ll have enough time to catch up.

This also allows for more flexibility in your daily workflow if you’re juggling multiple projects at once. For example, if you have a high-priority project and several low-priority ones, you can schedule your time to accommodate for the higher priority project by doing some preliminary tasks in advance.

This way if you have an unexpected delay for one project, or get ahead of schedule on one of the others, your overall daily workflow stays relatively under control.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the major benefits of using float:

  1. Prevents tasks from building up and impacting the due date of the project
  2. Allows for more time to complete high priority tasks
  3. Helps to manage resources more efficiently
  4. Can help to avoid rushing to complete tasks at the last minute
  5. Reduces stress and allows for a more relaxed work environment
  6. Keeps the team on track and focused on the project goals
  7. Helps to avoid overtime and additional costs associated with it
  8. Allows for a more accurate assessment of how long tasks will take to complete
  9. Prevents unnecessary delays from occurring and causing a ripple effect

What is the Critical Path in Project Management

What is the Critical Path in Project Management?

The critical path is the sequence of tasks in a project that is necessary for the project to be completed on time. If any of these tasks are delayed, it will impact the overall completion date of the project.

Project managers can determine the critical path by analyzing the dependencies between tasks. If a critical task is delayed, all tasks that depend on it are likewise delayed.

If there are multiple projects with different scheduling requirements, you can define a separate critical path for each project to help define your float time more accurately.

Float is an essential part of project management because it allows teams to assess their scheduling requirements and define a clearer timeline to help them stay on track without sacrificing quality.

Task Type Affects Float Time

As mentioned earlier, not all tasks have the same float time. It’s important to define what type of task you’re working with in order to determine how much delay it will tolerate before delaying the project as a whole.

Here are some specific task types and factors that impact their float time:

  1. Tasks on the critical path
  2. Short tasks with a lot of complexity
  3. Detailed design-related tasks such as testing, inspection, and quality control
  4. Customized tasks such as writing software code or designing complex projects
  5. Tasks that are required to be completed within a strict deadline (e.g., contract deadlines)
  6. Projects that have multiple individuals working on them
  7. More difficult tasks with higher risk factors, such as any task requiring innovation or creativity

Calculating Float in Project Management

Calculating Float in Project Management

In addition to allocating float time for different task types, there’s also a formula you can use to define how much delay is tolerable before total project completion. Using this calculation is a valuable tool in defining your schedules and identifying the most critical tasks that define the timeline of a project.

To define total float time: Subtract the finish date for the last task in the project from the date the project is due. This will give your total amount of leeway to deal with any delays.

To define free float time: Subtract the current task’s end date from the projected start date of the next task.

What Kind of Project Management Methods Benefit From Float?

Float can be used by project managers following many different types of frameworks. No matter what you have been trained in, or are looking at learning, float will become a key part of your knowledge base.

Using float is very beneficial in the following types of project management methods:

Agile

Agile

Agile methodology is a term used in project management for a framework that allows for changes and adaptations during the course of the project. It’s typically used in software development, but can be adapted for other types of projects as well.

One of the main benefits of using agile is that it allows for more flexibility and responsiveness to change. This makes it an ideal methodology for projects that are constantly evolving and changing.

Since Agile methodology is based on short sprints, it also allows team members to easily measure their progress and adapt their plans as needed.

Lean Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma

The Lean Six Sigma methodology is a data-driven approach that helps organizations improve their quality and efficiency. It’s a combination of two popular methodologies- Lean and Six Sigma- and is designed to help teams achieve their goals in a more streamlined way.

One of the main benefits of using the Lean Six Sigma methodology is that it helps teams focus on the big picture. By identifying and addressing problems early on, teams can prevent them from becoming more costly and time-consuming down the line.

Critical Path Method

The critical path method, or CPM, is a project management tool that helps you define and optimize your project timeline. It does this by identifying the tasks on your project that are most critical to its success and then calculating the amount of float time available for each task.

The main benefit of using the critical path method is that it allows you to focus on the tasks that have the biggest impact on your project timeline. This helps you stay on track and avoid delays.

DMAIC

The DMAIC(or define, measure, analyze, improve, and control) method is a data-driven approach to quality improvement. It’s a problem-solving methodology that helps teams identify and address problems early on.

The main benefits of using the DMAIC method are that it helps teams focus on the big picture and it allows for more flexibility and responsiveness to change.

PERT

The PERT method is a project management tool that helps you define and optimize your project timeline. It does this by identifying the tasks on your project that are most critical to its success and then calculating the amount of float time available for each task.

The main benefit of using the PERT Method is that it allows you to focus on the tasks that have the biggest impact on your project timeline. This helps you stay on track and avoid delays.

Kanban

Kanban

Kanban is a project management method that helps you visualize your work and optimize your workflow. It does this by allowing you to track the status of each task and identifying any bottlenecks in your process.

The main benefits of using the Kanban Method are that it helps you focus on the tasks that are most important, it allows for more flexibility and responsiveness to change, and it helps you identify and address problems early on.

Float Time Example

Float Time Example

To give you the clearest idea possible of what float time is in action, let’s use a construction example. When building a house there is a critical path of tasks that need to be completed in order. You can’t install the toilet until the flooring has been laid down in the bathroom.

There’s no way to lay the flooring until the walls on that level have been erected.

In this case, if any of these tasks on the critical path are delayed, then the entire house construction project is delayed. This means that there is zero float time on a task like this and it can’t be delayed without delaying the entire project.

Let’s look at a less critical task.

If you were painting the interior of the house, this is not a task that impacts the whole project if it’s delayed. This means that there is some float time available to push off the painting until later without delaying the entire house construction project.

This does not mean that it can be pushed back infinitely or for an unlimited amount of time. If the painting task is pushed back to the point where it would delay handing the keys back to the client, then that’ll end up affecting the total float time.

Conclusion

Understanding float is an essential skill for project managers. No matter what methodology you like to run your projects with, incorporating float can keep your team on time and on budget.

Delays are inevitable but if you know how much you can absorb before it will push back your project completion date, you can plan ahead for worst-case scenarios.

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