What is the roadmap to follow to ensure a project schedule will be successful or not? How would we be able to deliver it on time? These are some questions that project managers usually ask themselves. Well, the answer is ‘Critical Path Method’ — any organization which can successfully manage all the activities on the critical path can deliver the project on time.
If we go by the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK) 5.0, critical path can be defined as “a sequence of activities that represents the longest path through a project, and determines the shortest possible duration.” Activities or tasks on this path have to be dealt with the utmost urgency to smoothly run your project. If the schedule goes wrong for the activities on this chain of activities, your project is doomed to be delayed and potential risks will become issues, and change requests will be needed.
Want to know more about critical path and how you can see it using MS Project?
Learn more about the critical path and how Microsoft Project helps, in this webinar on “Using Microsoft Project to determine where projects lie in relation to the critical path” on April 20, 2016 by Darrin Lange, director of operations and project management at Advaiya.
Determining critical path tasks is a one step process in Microsoft Project, where you enter your tasks and establish predecessors and duration. The following processes and tasks establish the critical path, which play an important role in determining and monitoring the project.
- Forward Pass: A process of using a fixed project start date and activity duration to calculating the early start and early finish dates for all of the activities along a chain or path. This includes both the critical path and non-critical paths.
- Backward Pass: A process of using either a fixed end date or the end date determined by the forward pass and activities during to calculating the late start and late finish for all activities along a chain or path.
- Total Float: It is the amount of time by which an activity may be delayed from its early start without delaying the project finish date. Float can change as the project progresses and changes are made to the project plan. Also known as total slack or path float.
- Free Float: It is the amount of time by which an activity can be delayed without delaying the early start of any immediately following activities.
For a rudimentary use of critical path method, the following are some essential requirements to be fulfilled:
- List of activities (also known as your WBS)
- Duration required for task completion
- The dependency between predecessors and successor activities
- Rational endpoints like milestones, deliverables or the project
Knowing your critical path activities well can ensure, not only project completion on-time, but the most effective type of risk mitigation, successful escalation negotiation with resource managers and more effective status reports to your sponsor.