- What Is Project Critical Path?
- How Does the Critical Path Method (CPM) Work?
- The Importance of Critical Path Method (CPM) for Project
- The Key Elements of CPM
- 7 Steps To Find the Project Critical Path with FoxPlan
- FoxPlan: Critical Path Analysis Software
Every task is essential, but only a few are crucial. Critical path is a series of interdependent tasks that directly influences the completion date of the project. If any critical path work is late, the entire project is late. And in this guide, we are going to cover everything you need to know about project critical path and the Critical Path Method (CPM) in project management.
What Is Project Critical Path? #
Let’s start with the definition! Project critical path is a sequence of tasks or occasionally a single task that determines the calculated start or end date of the project.
Walker and Kelley created CPM (Critical Path Method) in late 1950s. The critical path method (CPM) is closely related to the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), a similar method.
Most project managers utilize the critical path method (CPM) algorithm to determine the least amount of time required to accomplish each activity in order to identify the critical path. And with this CPM, project managers could establish a project schedule and predict the entire duration of a project.
How Does the Critical Path Method (CPM) Work? #
The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a powerful but mostly simple way to analyze, plan, and schedule big, complicated projects. The tool determines which of a project’s many jobs and tasks or activities are “essential” and how to arrange them to meet a goal date at least expense.
The primary strategy for implementing CPM is to build a project model that contains the following:
- A list of any and all necessary tasks to accomplish the project.
- The interdependencies among the tasks
- The estimated time (period) required to accomplish each activity / task.
Using this information, you can start estimate the critical path by identifying and quantifying the longest chain of dependent actions. Once you’ve determined which tasks are on the longest, or crucial path, it’s easier to determine which have total float, or may be delayed without extending the project’s duration.
The Importance of Critical Path Method (CPM) for Project #
Project work must be scheduled to fulfill a deadline. Without planning the tasks, your project scope might easily expand and get off track.
The critical path technique helps project managers evaluate which activities must be completed on time, which can be postponed, and how much slack they have.
When performed correctly, critical path analysis can help project managers to:
- See task dependencies, resource limitations on the project, and project dangers (project risks).
- Give estimation for each task’s duration precisely and also make estimation on the length of the whole project.
- Prioritize jobs according to their float or slack time, which facilitates project scheduling and resource allocation.
- Identify jobs that cannot be delayed and ensure they are performed on schedule.
- Monitor project progress and calculate timetable deviation.
- Utilize approaches for schedule compression such as crash duration and quick tracking.
The Key Elements of CPM #
These are the CPM key elements that any successful project managers need to understand before calculate the critical path;
- ES (Earliest Start)
Earliest start time (ES) is the earliest time a project work can begin. This can’t be determined without knowing if there are task dependencies.
- LS (Latest Start)
This is the latest time for you to start a task before it delays the whole project.
- EF (Earliest Finish)
Based on an activity’s duration and earliest start time, the earliest it can be completed.
- LF (Latest Finish)
Based on an activity’s duration and latest start time, the latest it can be completed.
- Float / Slack
Float defines how long a task can be delayed before affecting its task sequence and project schedule. Critical path tasks can’t be delayed, hence they have zero float.
7 Steps To Find the Project Critical Path with FoxPlan #
Assuming that you understand the fundamentals of CPM, here is a step-by-step guide on how to estimate the critical path in seven simple steps.
1. Define the Project Scope and all the tasks #
To begin, you must define the project scope and list all of the tasks that must be completed before the project can be declared a success. You can start your project planning by simply log in to FoxPlan and use the breakdown structure and list all the tasks.
For example, let’s say that you are SEO consultant and hired by client for SEO service, your tasks will be something like this:
- Website audit
- Competitor analysis
- Keyword research and recommendation
- Create SEO friendly brief for writers
- Checking on-page SEO implementation (technical and content)
- Create link-building strategy and recommendation (Off-page)
2. Identify task dependencies #
When we examine the task on step one separately, we see that we cannot begin some of them until others are finished. In other words, certain tasks depend on others. In the table below, we’ve outlined these relationships:
3. Create critical path analysis with Gantt chart #
Critical path analysis is based on the premise that some tasks can only be started after others have been completed. In order to go to the next level, each step must be completed before the previous one can begin. Sample schedules can be shown using FoxPlan’s Gantt Chart.
There are a few key path activities that must be accomplished in order to ensure that the project completes by a specified date. All the activities and tasks on the critical path must be regulated with absolute accuracy. If tasks in the critical path slide, prompt action must be taken to bring the project back on track. If not, the entire project will be delayed.
Imagine that you have a project that needs to be finished within 40 days. If the first activity on the critical path is delayed by 4 days, the total amount of time needed to finish the project will increase to 42 days, unless another activity on the critical path can be finished one day sooner.
Remember, your project’s finish date is largely determined by the critical path in the schedule for the project.
4. Set the project baseline #
The baseline can be established once the project timeline, including deadlines and project budget (cost) has been created. The baseline records your statistics for comparison with your actual improvement.
Add the task’s start date and completion date to the Gantt chart to establish the project’s baseline. These anticipated start and finish dates will be compared to the actual project data to determine whether or not you are on track.
5. See your project critical path #
If you are using FoxPlan, you may quickly locate the project’s critical path.
To display the critical path, you just need to click on the following button :
Links between tasks are then marked in red if they are on the critical path. This helps you to check what must be done to complete the job and indicates whether you are falling behind.
6. Monitor the project on FoxPlan’s dashboard #
After planning your project, a dashboard is the ideal approach to track its progress.
Track project progress on the dashboard. FoxPlan dashboard analyzes project parameters, such as variance, tasks, and displays them in easy-to-read charts and graphs.
7. Generate reports for a project in one click! #
Reporting helps you gather project data and offer views on its progress. Various reports provide a glimpse of a project’s performance.
The software allows for the generation of reports on a variety of topics, including critical path, task progress, project status, expenses, and more. FoxPlan performs the computations, and you can select the results to display only the information you choose.
FoxPlan: Critical Path Analysis Software #
FoxPlan is a cloud-based application that uses real-time data to compare your planned schedule to the actual schedule, allowing you to make adjustments as needed. With FoxPlan’s Gantt chart views, it’s simple to create your own critical path. Critical paths in our software emphasize when particular activities are scheduled and indicate where delays can impact the overall project process.
You can utilize critical paths on FoxPlan’s Gantt charts to focus on the tasks that are most important to your project, as well as rearrange jobs to determine how they might be streamlined without hurting the project’s deadline. So, what are you waiting for? Take advantage of FoxPlan FREE trial to see how it can help your project or contact our representative for the live demo!