Decoding the Critical Path Analysis in Project Management

Introduction

Critical Path Analysis (CPA) is one of the scheduling techniques which is used in project management. This technique helps to draw a network diagram, symbolizing the sequence of tasks required to complete a project. Project managers make use of CPA to establish timelines on the Gantt Chart. Furthermore, this scheduling technique helps to allocate resources optimally. Project Management Professionals gain insights on this technique through the PMP Training course.

What is Critical Path Analysis?

Critical Path Analysis, Critical Path Method
Critical Path Analysis

Critical Path Analysis is a method used by project managers to draw a network diagram. This diagram represents the sequence of tasks required to complete a project. Allocating the time for each task helps in assessing the total time taken for finishing a project. Implementing the critical path analysis helps to differentiate critical and non-critical tasks of a project. This further helps in finding the longest path that passes through all the critical tasks and identifies the fastest time to complete it. Project managers can easily understand this through the graphical representation of CPA.

Steps involved in Critical Path Analysis:

Prior to analysis, a project manager must ensure that all the tasks and their dependencies can be identified. Let us have a look at the step involved in analyzing the critical path.

Step 1: Defining the scope of the project

The first step in CPA is to define the scope of the project. In simple terms, a project manager is required to list out all the activities that are to be performed. This helps project managers to identify the dependent tasks of the project.

Step 2: Identifying the critical path

Listing out the activities and their dependencies helps to find out the activities that cannot be started without completing the others. Project managers need to draw the sequence of such activities known as the critical path. This path consists of all critical activities to be completed within the schedule to avoid project delays. Such activities need the supervision of project managers to avoid disruptions in the project.

Step 3: Drawing critical paths

Critical path can be easily represented on a network diagram. The diagram showcases various critical paths for completing a project. However, a project manager is required to choose a path that includes all critical activities. This path should be the longest one among all, allowing a significant amount of time to finish a project.

Step 4: Estimating the duration

In this step, the project manager is required to estimate the time taken to complete each activity. On allocating the time, project managers need to determine the earliest and latest possible start and end times for each activity.

Step 5: Calculating the float value

Float value refers to the difference between the latest start and earliest start times of a particular activity. Critical activities tend to have zero float time. As a result, such activities assist in determining the activities that are required to be completed sequentially. This helps in completing the project on time. Non-critical activities have a float value or slack time which does not affect the end results. As a result, such activities can be delayed without creating any ripples.

Step 6: Selecting the critical path

Documenting the above findings helps project managers to choose the most critical path of the activities. This path is the longest time taken for a project to be completed as per the desired outcomes. A work plan can be easily drawn from the identified critical path whilst eliminating non-critical activities.

It is important to note that critical paths may change over time. This can be due to various factors like changes in requirements of clients or changes in government policies. Project managers are required to constantly foresee such changes.

Advantages of Critical Path Analysis:

PMP certified project managers follow critical path analysis technique while handling complex projects. With the help of a diagram, project managers can easily determine the schedule and costs required to complete a project. Let us have a look at some of the benefits.

  • Critical path analysis can be represented on a diagram. This helps project managers and the project team to easily understand the sequence of activities to be performed.
  • Project delays can be overcome by following critical path analysis. The critical activities of a project are completed on time, thereby saving ample time for other tasks.
  • Project managers can easily identify the actual and planned progress through critical path analysis. This helps in taking immediate action to bring back a project on track.
  • Dependent tasks can be easily identified through a network diagram. This assists project managers in sequencing the critical activities and their dependencies.
  • The major advantage of implementing CPA is to assist PMP certified project managers in completing a project within the given schedule.

Conclusion:

PMP certified project managers prefer CPA as one of the essential scheduling techniques even today. Applying this method has benefitted several organizations to complete a given project on time. To learn more about critical path analysis, aspiring project managers can take up PMP Certification Training. This in turn helps in earning the most prestigious certification of PMP.