What if scenario analysis in project management

What if scenario analysis

No matter how bulletproof your plans seem, curveballs are inevitable and something will always appear that knocks things off course.

Priorities shift, new projects get requested, timelines slip, and resources come and go. Anticipating and mitigating these impacts is crucial to keep your projects on track. Enter the superhero of project management – what if scenario analysis.

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What is what if scenario analysis?

What if scenario analysis is a technique in project management that lets managers explore how variables and changes to things like your projects and resources can impact your overall plans and timelines. Projects do not live in isolation and changes in one area will likely have impacts somewhere else. 

Rather than operating in the dark, what if scenario analysis gives managers a crystal ball so they can understand the likely impact of changes rather than relying on everything going to plan.

These are just some of the things you can model with what if analysis:

  • The impact of a new project being requested.
  • What if you hire more people?
  • What if you have to reduce headcount?
  • What if a project takes longer than expected?
  • What if your delay a project?
  • What if your priorities change?
  • What if you reduce the number of people working on a project?

Benefits of what if scenario analysis

Scenario analysis is a project superpower. It lets you analyze and compare different project and resource options and trade-offs so you can make better decisions and pre-empt problems. Importantly, it allows this to be done quickly without affecting any of your current plans.

More successful project outcomes

What if scenario analysis lets you stress test your projects up-front meaning variables can be considered and mitigations built into project plans.

Better informed decisions

What if scenario analysis helps you make better decisions as you can see how different solutions to a problem are likely to play out and compare each back to back.

Rapidly evaluate options

What if analysis lets you rapidly evaluate and respond to situations quickly so you can minimize the impact. As what if analysis is done at the macro level it does not involve any detail-level planning or schedule changes to see the results.

Embrace change

Projects frequently face unforeseen shifts. Scenario planning equips teams with alternative strategies adaptable to evolving circumstances.

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How to do what if scenario analysis

To perform what if scenario analysis, you have two choices – use software or build your own what if analysis spreadsheet solution using Excel or Google Sheets. However, building what if analysis in a spreadsheet is very difficult and error-prone and is rarely a viable solution.

At a high level, these are the steps involved in what if scenario analysis:

Create a scenario: Take a snapshot of your current plan, timelines, resource allocations and resource capacity. 

Identify variables: Pinpoint the key factors (variables) that could impact your plans. These could be things like delays to projects, changes to resource levels or adjusted priorities, etc.

Adjust the scenario. Model the variables such as project timings, new resource hires, adjusted resource allocations and changed project priorities.

Evaluate impact: Review the scenario by looking at the scenarios resource utilization, project timelines etc. Scenarios can also be compared back to back to evaluate which scenario plays out most successfully.


What if scenario analysis software

Our recommended solution is to use what if scenario analysis software such as Kelloo. Kelloo is a resource, project, product and portfolio planning solution that includes what if planning and scenario analysis as part of its toolbox. 

Below we explain how these features work in Kelloo and how you can use them to evaluate how different project and resource scenarios could play out.

What if analysis is done in a sandbox

The first thing to understand, is that what if scenario analysis can be done without changing any of your live plans or data. Therefore, you can try out as many solutions as you wish until you find something that works. In Kelloo, once you have something that works you can make this into your live plan.

what if scenario planning

Extending or shortening a project

If you have a project that looks like it is going to overrun by a month and you want to see what effect that will have. In Kelloo you would use the re-size what if feature. This lets you extend or compress the length of a project. 

A really nice feature is that you can have Kelloo keep the overall amount of work the same or adjust the work based on the new project length.

What if scenario analysis - extend or compress a project

Delaying or advancing a project timeline

If a project start date looks like it is going to change, then use the move project what if. Rather than having to move all the work in the project line by line, the whole project shifts.

What if scenario analysis - move project

Cancelling or approving a new project

Use the include or exclude project what if to model approving a new project or putting an existing project on hold. The project will still be visible but all the allocation data is excluded from utilization and financial calculations. 

What if scenario analysis - hold or cancel project

Hiring more people or reducing headcount

Power up your resource planning using the resource capacity what if. This lets you see the likely impact of increasing or reducing the overall size of your resource pool. 

What if scenario analysis - adjust resource capacity

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What if scenario analysis

What if scenario analysis in project management

The new what if planning features in Kelloo give you a crystal ball at your fingertips so you can see the future. What if planning shows what will happen if you change project timings, delay projects, hire or fire resources or cancel or commit to new projects.