A project is often always divided into tasks and subtasks. The more tasks, the harder it is to manage everything. While some of the tasks need immediate attention, others do not so much. With all the talks thrown haphazardly, it is not uncommon to lose your qualms and mess up everything even more.
Enter Critical Path Method.
What Is the Critical Path Method?
Critical Path Method is a management team designed to help teams identify the most important tasks and find the fastest route to accomplishing goals. With the help of this technique, teams can identify the most critical tasks and prioritize them accordingly to make sure the end products are delivered on time.
Critical path prioritizes and links all the tasks, the completion of the last task in the path indicates the completion of the project. All the tasks linked on the critical path are interrelated and have to be completed on time for the project to be successful.
Creating a critical path can help teams determine the exact duration in which the project will be completed. The critical path method or CPM allows you to break the project into smaller, easily manageable chunks and offers more clarity into the working of the project.
Critical Path Method in Project Management
In project management, the critical path is used to schedule a project. The critical path method develops a network diagram highlighting all the tasks in the project, task dependencies as well as the path for the completion of these tasks.
Once the paths are developed, teams can identify the critical path which, in turn, helps determine the timeframe in which the project will be completed.
A critical method in project management helps PMs in several ways. It helps PMs:
- Determine the minimum time in which a project can be completed
- Identify the sequence of tasks that must be completed for the successful completion of the project
- Prioritize differentiate critical tasks from non-critical ones
- Determine the start and end dates of projects
- Track the progress of the project
- Compare actual progress with the expectations
- Identify and avoid bottlenecks early on in the project
How To Calculate Critical Path?
Below is a breakdown of different steps you can follow to calculate the critical path for your project.
1. Make A List of All Activities
The first step in calculating the critical path is identifying and listing all the activities that go into the project. The list of all the activities acts as a foundation for the rest of the critical path.
2. Determine Task Dependencies
The second step in the calculation of the critical path is determining the task dependencies. Identify which tasks are dependent on other tasks. Task dependencies can help you identify which tasks can be done in parallel and which tasks are dependent on other tasks for initiation.
3. Draw A Network Diagram
Your next step should be making a network diagram. The network diagram outlines the sequence of the tasks. Make a flowchart of all the tasks in sequence and mark the dependent ones.
4. Determine The Time Duration for Completion of Each Task
Now that you have all the tasks listed in a sequence, you can start determining the time duration for the completion of each task. To make sure that you do this accurately, you can:
- Use your knowledge and experience in the field
- Use data obtained from previous projects to determine time estimates
- Make predictions using industry standards
- Forward Pass: Forward Pass uses the network diagram to determine the Earliest Start (ES) and Earliest Finish (EF) of a task. The Earliest Start (ES) of a task starts with the Earliest Finish (EF) of the previous task. The Earliest Finish (EF), on the other hand, is a measure of ES + t (time duration of the activity). Identification of ES and EF helps determine the approximate time when the project will be completed.
- Backward Pass: Backward Pass calculates the Late Start (LS) and Late Finish (LF) of a task. LF is determined by eliminating t from LS i.e., LF = LS – t. Late Finish (LF) however is the lowest value of LS of the successor. In contrast to the Forward Pass, Backward Pass moves from the last tasks to the first ones.
The early and late start and end dates can help determine the float of the path.
5. Calculate Float
Float is the length of time a task can be delayed without affecting the flow of the project. Calculating the float of a project helps determine the level of flexibility in a project. The most critical tasks have zero floats, but positive float numbers indicate that the task is non-critical which means they can be delayed.
There are two types of floats in a project:
- Total float: Total float is the amount of time a task can be delayed without affecting the timeline of the project. The formula for calculating total float is, Total float = LS – ES or LF – EF.
- Free float: Free float is the amount of time a task can be delayed without affecting the next activity in the sequence. The formula for calculating free float is Free float = ES (succeeding task) – EF (present task).
6. Determine The Critical Path
Now that you have gained insights into all the critical tasks and the time required to complete them, you can start determining the critical path of the project. All the tasks with zero float make up the critical path of the project.
You can also do this manually:
- Calculate the start and end times of each activity in the sequence.
- The end time of the last activity determines the total amount of time required for the completion of the project.
- The sequence of the tasks with the longest completion time is the critical path for the project.
7. Update It on The Go
A critical path is not set in stone; you can make changes in the path as and when you see fit. While executing the critical path, you can update the critical path to eliminate bottlenecks and make it as accurate as possible.
Critical Path Generator Project Management Software
Determining a critical path in project management can help you save time and efforts. While we encourage the calculation of critical paths, the task can consume a significant amount of your time if you are doing it manually.
Enter critical path generator project management tools.
You can reduce the amount of time and effort you spend on generating critical paths with the help of a critical path generator project management software. An efficient tool can offer you insights into the project and help you deliver quality end products within the set timeframe.
How Can Critical Path Generator Project Management Software Prove Beneficial for You?
A critical path generator software can ease things for you in multiple ways. It can:
- Help plan and schedule activities in proper order
- Save your time and efforts by automatically calculating the critical path
- Monitor your performance with time
- Recalculate and adjust critical path with the progress of the project
- Offer insightful data for successful completion of tasks
- Offer a big picture of the workflow
Using nTask For Calculation of Critical Path
While looking for a relevant tool for the calculation of a critical path, you will come across a variety of different tools. Thankfully, you do not have to explore all the options in the market because we have got the best solution for you – nTask.
nTask is an all-encompassing project management tool with multiple functionalities. Much like all the other features, nTask does not let you down in the calculation of critical path.
You can use nTask’s Gantt chart to draw your own network diagram, identify dependencies and chat the critical path for a specific project.
The tool is an all-in-one stop shop for all your needs in project management. The tool is a miracle worker with a highly intuitive, user-friendly interface equipped with advanced features. Moreover, it offers high functionality in considerably lower pricing plans.
The tool is the perfect solution for all businesses that wish to generate critical paths without exerting any effort manually.
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This was all about the critical path and how you can make the most out of project management tools for the calculation of critical path.
We sincerely hope this article will help you determine the critical path for your project, but if you can’t, don’t worry, nTask will do it all for you!
Try nTask now and let us know how it has helped you in generating a critical path for your project. We would love to hear from you.