As a project manager, I know the value of the touchstone – the place where all milestones, dates, tasks, and key deliverables rest. The Critical Path is a living tenet of the project and changes to this document must be reflected upon with due measure as they impact the overall project in all manner of ways.
External and internal influences can affect how often the Critical Path needs to be adjusted but ideally, it should be minimized as the impact affects stakeholders, bidders, vendors, subject matter experts, deliverables, compliance, and governance.
Here are the top 8 advantages of critical path analysis and how exercising a review of it daily can mitigate risk.
1. Enhanced project management
Visibility both macro and micro are key to managing any project. Because the critical path method breaks large tasks and objectives into smaller parts, it can help to plan projects more thoroughly.
Dividing large and complex milestones into achievable tasks simplifies the project and more importantly helps everyone on the project to understand their roles and contributions.
2. Clear identification of critical tasks
Critical path analysis enables project managers to identify the most critical tasks within a project. This insight allows those tasks to be in order of priority.
This allows for the most complex tasks to be given focus and attention. Risk management hinges on preventing projects from becoming delayed as the team may have overlooked an important task. Identification early on can make or break due dates and on-time deliverables.
3. Clear communication of project plans
The critical path becomes the finished product in many ways and with that allows the project manager to communicate project plans, details, targets, risks, and exposures.
Critical path is the structure behind the project documentation and as such easy to both describe and share. Clear and structured communication of the project can strengthen the team's understanding of the tasks and objectives of the project.
Clarity rules supreme on any project but the larger, more time-sensitive and more complex a project is, the more important managing the critical path becomes.
4. Accurate determination of project length
Time management is a core tenet for any project as meeting project deadlines and preventing them from overrunning is key to risk management and cost overruns.
Critical path analysis helps to streamline time management by determining its duration complete with built in extensions (when necessary).
In addition, project managers can compare expectations with actual progress. A rewarding feat when the project stays on track and ON TIME.
5. Cost control (Budget)
Planning a project with the appropriate consideration of the resources requirement to make it happen, and the related costs, can enable projects to remain within budget. This cost control is achieved by allocating portions of the budget to individual tasks rather than budgeting for the overall project.
This approach makes all the difference at the front end of the project both in terms of understanding the budget and setting a realistic budget to begin with. With this method managers can mitigate the risk of overspending. Equally, it is much easier to identify and remedy deviations from budgetary parameters.
6. Precise scheduling
The critical path method separates critical and noncritical tasks so that project managers can schedule them more effectively. It can identify the essential or high-priority tasks and outline them in the plan so that project participants don't overlook them.
This keeps the project running efficiently. The devil is in the detail comes to mind here and even the smallest ‘to-do’ can impact the project if not attended to.
7. Improved allocation of human resources
Critical path analysis can ensure the correct distribution of human resources on a project. Using a structured and considered approach to truly understanding the resource requirements of each project task and objective, the project manager can allocate the human resource requirements more effectively.
This particularly holds true when you take into consideration the expertise and experience of individual team members. Developing newer team members by assigning them non-critical tasks so they can familiarize themselves with the project while they're still learning the job is vital to strengthen the resource pool and improve the breath of available talent to participate in ongoing projects.
8. Minimize slowdowns
There are by the very nature of project management bottlenecks and risk that both need mitigating and forecasting. By pinpointing a project's critical and non-critical tasks, critical path analysis allows adjustments to be made earlier or at best more deliberately if a constraint occurs.
Project slow-downs are never ideal so understanding in advance where they may occur allows for a preemptive adjustment. Equally, this method while helping to prevent bottlenecks can also help project managers identify project activities that can run simultaneously. This both saves time and keeps the project running smoothly.
Knowing these tips can help leverage the value of creating a critical path or using critical path analysis to improve the smooth running of your projects.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DINA O'REILLY
Dina is 4xi's growth lead, project management office and ghostwriter in residence all in one. To learn more about 4xi, you can contact Dina directly at email@example.com or visit our website to learn more about who we are, what we do, and how we inspire a brighter future, together: www.4xiconsulting.com
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