Critical path analysis

Critical Path Analysis

Definition and Purpose

  • Critical path analysis is a project management tool used to plan the tasks that must be completed as part of a project.
  • It serves to identify the minimum length of time required to complete a project, and to determine which tasks are critical, i.e., must be completed on time for the project to finish on schedule.
  • It also helps to find out redundancies, where resources are underutilised, and how delays would impact the overall project completion time.

Steps in Critical Path Analysis

  • Begin by listing all the tasks that are needed to be completed as part of the project.
  • Next, each task should be broken down into its individual activities.
  • For each activity, you should then estimate the duration time required to complete that activity.
  • These tasks should then be arranged in the proper sequence of events, taking into consideration the dependencies between activities.
  • Once activities and their durations are confirmed, draw a network diagram or a PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) Chart, including all the activities with their respective duration and showing the dependencies between them.
  • Afterwards, you must identify the critical path. This is the sequence of activities that has the longest overall duration. So, if any activity on this path is delayed, it will delay the completion of the entire project.
  • You must then monitor the critical path. If an activity on the critical path is ahead or behind schedule, it will affect the due date of the project.

Dataset Representation

  • Critical path analysis data is often represented as a network diagram.
  • Each activity is represented by an arrow, the start and finish of which are events represented by nodes.
  • The activity time or duration appears above each arrow.
  • Dummy activities, which have zero duration and denote dependencies, are represented by dotted lines.
  • The critical path is the longest path through the network and determines the shortest time to complete the project. It is often highlighted.

Use in Revision

  • Understanding critical path analysis forms an important part of Decision Making in Project Management and is most likely to appear as a topic in examination papers.
  • Practice drawing and interpreting network diagrams, and calculating the shortest time of a project and its critical tasks.
  • Understanding the impact of changing activity times and resource constraints on the critical path and project duration is critical. Create and solve problems involving these factors to gain a deep understanding.

This topic’s content is a blend of math skills, strategy and logic. Understanding the underlying principles will not only help in solving exam problems, but also serve in general problem solving and project management scenarios.