Critical Path Project Management
Completing projects on time is easier said than done, as every team leader can attest. That's why it's important to implement useful methodologies such as Critical Path project management to meet deadlines. And, it's based on the critical path method (CPM) used in multiple industries, from aerospace through to software development.
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What is CPM and how does it help you achieve your goals?
CPM dates back to the 1950s and developed by James E. Kelley of Remington Rand and Morgan R. Walker of DuPont. Its primary aim was to determine the maximum time it would take to complete projects by taking into account all tasks involved in the process. Furthermore, CPM truly shines when applied to complex projects that consist of numerous tasks.
Below, we'll go deeper into Critical Path project management and explain how it helps increase efficiency.
Understanding The Basics
Before we begin implementing CPM, we need to understand several basic concepts beforehand. In a nutshell, CPM helps determine the maximum distance between the start and completion of a project. But we have to ensure accuracy by taking into account the duration of all tasks involved, including the earliest start date, the earliest finish date, float, and crash duration before we prepare our project schedule.
Now, let's go through these terms and explain what they mean concerning CPM:
Earliest Start Date
The earliest date that you'll commence your project. Take all necessary actions and complete any unfinished tasks before commencing. Also, determine if conditions are favorable to begin this new project on this specific date.
Earliest Finish Date
The earliest date that you'll complete your project. You'll determine this date by having a clear understanding of all the applicable tasks and their related timeframes. If any remaining tasks surpass this date, then they risk overshooting the schedule and possibly derailing the project itself.
We use the term float or slack to describe how long we can delay a task before it overshoots the project schedule. Moreover, we can categorize tasks as float and zero floats, meaning that we allow some leeway to non-critical path assignments and zero leeway to critical path assignments.
By looking at your schedule and trying to find ways to shorten the amount of time it takes to complete specific tasks. While crash duration isn't foolproof, it does help reduce the time it takes to complete a project. However, this may reduce the overall quality of your goods and services, so consider the consequences beforehand.
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Why Critical Path Project Management Makes Sense
By understanding and internalizing the above concepts and terms, you'll come to appreciate how they aid you in scheduling your projects efficiently. It's an intimidating prospect having to deal with large and complex projects that often seem impossible in their scope. Furthermore, it's difficult to determine how long tasks will take if you or your team haven't done these before.
But you shouldn't allow a lack of experience in specific areas hinder you from moving forward. After all, what makes CPM so powerful is how it facilitates breaking down large projects into manageable chunks. Since you already know that projects have critical and non-critical paths, you can schedule the non-critical paths earlier while you come up with solutions for the critical paths that your team can handle later.
Therefore, your projects don't need to stall even if you've already determined that there will be bottlenecks present. You'll also schedule tasks according to their dependencies, which makes it easier to group them and let team members work on these concurrently. This way, you save precious time by completing tasks dependent on each other instead of tackling them haphazardly.
Four Steps To Success
Every team leader should have good task management and organizational skills to implement CPM successfully. If you possess these skills, then you'll find that it's relatively easy to use CPM and reap its rewards.
There are four steps that you'll need to understand, and these include the following:
- List all tasks before commencing your project. Use a work breakdown structure (WBS) template that makes it easy to comprehend the hierarchical structure of all the elements that make up your project through a graphical depiction. Also, you'll focus on all the necessary deliverables and the intended outcome of your project.
- Determine the duration of all tasks. You and your team should have a clear picture of how long each task will take. Furthermore, you'll need to assess if there'll be any bottlenecks that will hinder you from completing tasks on time.
- Determine if tasks require dependencies before moving forward. It may be impossible to complete specific tasks without completing other related tasks beforehand. You don't want to jump on a task without clearly understanding what it entails in detail. Not only does this waste time, but your risk missing important milestones and failing to complete critical tasks entirely.
- List all milestones that your team needs to reach to make the project a success. Ensure that your team understands what it means to miss these milestones and how it impacts the project. Also, list all deliverables and key phases relative to these milestones and share these with everyone on the team.
You'll spend much time collecting data during these four steps and consulting with team members and other stakeholders. Once you've collected enough data, you'll start preparing your schedule while considering critical, non-critical, and float tasks.
The end-goal is to complete your project on time, and that's why you'll need to minimize risk. Thus, you'll need to provide some slack in your schedule for those non-critical tasks that won't derail the project. But ensure that your schedule depicts those critical tasks and why they must be completed on time.
The Bottom Line
Critical path project management helps break down complex projects into manageable chunks, making them easier to complete on time. It's a methodology that dates back to the 1950s, but still relevant today in modern enterprises. Contact us today to find out how Techno-PM's project management templates can help you achieve your goals cost-effectively and efficiently.