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The critical path method (CPM) was developed in the late 1950s to resolve the problem of increased costs due to inefficient scheduling.
The technique can help you identify and map out critical tasks you need for project completion. The critical path is the longest sequence of tasks that must be finished on time. Any delays in critical tasks will delay the rest of the project.
This technique allows you to set realistic timeframes and manage task dependencies.
CPM helps to plan projects, allocate resources and schedule tasks.
Finding the critical path involves looking at the duration of critical and non-critical tasks:
List all the project activities or tasks required to produce the deliverables of each task.
The list of activities in the work breakdown structure serves as the foundation for the rest of the CPM.
From your work breakdown structure, determine which tasks are dependent on one another to identify any work that can be done in parallel with other tasks. The dependent tasks, known as an activity sequence, will be used to determine the critical path.
For example, a marketing team is producing a new interactive blog post. In the example above:
A network diagram is a flowchart that shows the chronology of activities.
Create a box for each task and use arrows to show task dependencies. Add other time-bound components to the network diagram until a general project schedule is worked out.
To calculate the longest sequence of critical tasks, you need to estimate the duration of each activity.
How to estimate the duration:
Use the forward pass and backward pass technique to calculate float.
Calculating the critical path can be done manually, but a critical path algorithm can save time.
Step 1: Write down the start and end time next to each activity. The first activity time is 0 and the end time is the duration of the activity. The next acitity start at the previous activity end time. Do this for all activities.
Step 2: Look at the end time of the last activity in the sequence to determine the duration of the entire sequence.
Step 3: The sequence of activities with the longest duration is the critical path.
Float, or slack, refers to a given task's flexibility. It shows how much the task can be delayed without impacting subsequent tasks or the end date of the project. Critical tasks have zero float. Their dates are set.
How to determine the two types of float:
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