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Are You on the Critical Path?

Posted by ManageForce | 4/20/16 11:00 AM

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As an executive sponsor of a project there are a few key things that you probably want to know to understand the status of a project.  The most common questions are; is the project within budget, is the project on time, and is the project staying within scope?  Those questions tend to overlap quite a bit.  For example, if you add scope to the project then it could very well affect the timeline and the budget.  The same could happen if you limit the budget; the timeline and scope could be reduced.  


The most accurate way to answer those questions begins with reviewing the project plan and identifying where the project is according to the critical path. In order to determine what impact certain tasks will have on the project, it is important to pre-determine the critical path. 


The term “critical” may sound dramatic, but it is nothing to fear.


The critical path is simply the sequential tasks that determine the total duration of the project.  Why is this important to know and understand you ask?  If you can identify the tasks that fall within the critical path, you are able to determine which resources are not flexible and what tasks cannot undergo any scope creep without impacting the timeline.  The second advantage of identifying the critical path is that you can have the ability to manage other tasks with some flexibility.  


By understanding what tasks do not fall on the critical path, you are able to adjust resources and the budget of the project.  Of course all of this sounds great, but who really has the time to continuously review the plan, verify critical path, and evaluate when task should run in parallel?  That is where a project manager can provide the added value.  As a project manager it is our responsibility to track the critical path, maintain the budget, and supply you with the needed information.   


Benefits of Using the Critical Path Method

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a useful method that assists project managers when scheduling out a project and when making decisions. CPM offers many benefits since it encourages planning ahead, allocating resources properly, and the continuous monitoring of the timeline and schedule. This increases efficiency, improves productivity, reduces uncertainty and increases instances of deadlines being met.

When using CPM, all necessary activities and resources are identified within the planning process. The most efficient plan of execution is determined and the timeline is delineated before to beginning the project. Resources can then be allocated accordingly so that each activity within along the timeline has  the appropriate number and quality of assets when needed. Understanding of interdependent tasks can lead to possible reductions in project duration. Sub-critical tasks that are not on the longest timeline can be performed in parallel, also reducing the overall timeline  and efficiency of the project.


Thi was a guest post by Jason Hanahan, project mananager at ManageForce.


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Topics: Managed Services, Project Management

Written by ManageForce


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