One of the most crucial steps in project management when taking on a new operation is laying out the critical path. This step in planning will give you the best indication of how long the project will take, allowing you to set realistic start times and deadlines for completion. This also gives you a clear indication of actions that could delay your project if not completed on time. Identifying the critical path in your project is an excellent way to ensure everything runs smoothly and is completed on time.

Identifying the Critical Path

To identify the critical path, the project must first be broken down into individual tasks. Arranging those tasks in the order they need to be completed will give you a map of the project. Some tasks can be completed immediately, while others require the completion of another task to get started. Begin by writing out all the tasks that have no prerequisites in a column. In the next column, write down the tasks that depend on completion of those from the first column. You can then create more columns and continue to link new tasks to activities that must be completed in the column before. Continue this until every task has been listed.

Once you have your tasks outlined, estimate the amount of time needed for each one and write it beside the task. You can use any known quantity, such as delivery time estimates, to determine how long it should take to complete. When you have finished this, look at the lines you’ve drawn and find the chain between all columns that requires the greatest amount of time to complete. This is your critical path.

How Does Knowing the Critical Path Help?

Adding all the times on the critical path will give you a solid estimate of the time it will take to complete the entire project. This allows you to set your start and end dates without short-timing your team. It also identifies the critical activities or those that are most likely to delay the entire project if not completed on time. By focusing some extra attention on their completion, you have a better chance of meeting the deadlines you set.

Because you know how important these tasks are to your time line, this can also help you work your budget and resource allocation around critical activities and ensure the people assigned to these tasks have all the tools they need to complete their assignments. If budget or resource mistakes are made, it will have a lesser impact when they affect noncritical activities and will be easier to recover from.

Determining the critical path of a project can be a time-consuming yet worthwhile endeavor. Creating an informed estimate of the time required to complete a project ensures you don’t expect faster results than are possible and pushes your team to finish in a reasonable time frame. Focusing on this critical path and meeting the deadline for each task on it will give you the best chance of maintaining the level of efficiency needed to complete your project on time and prevent the waste of resources and man-hours that can be allocated to the next project on your list. If your business is in seeking to improve its current project management processes, contact EIRE Systems for more information on our service and product offerings.