Advantages of the Critical Path Method

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Advantages of the Critical Path Method
Advantages of the Critical Path Method (Image: Jeremy Kemp, Wikimedia Commons, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pert_chart_colored.gif)

There are many advantages to using the critical path method. Over the years, the critical path method has been developed to provide efficiency and effective management procedures. It uses a mathematical process to help determine a time line for a project, what resources will be needed and what order the activities need to occur first. This system has streamlined all aspects of a projects process and how management is undertaken.

Function

Critical path method uses a mathematically-based algorithm in effective project management. The system helps an individual or organization establish a set of activities and find the best schedule to finish each task. The critical path method helps a project manager plan which events need to occur first to complete the whole project when the project has interdependent activities. For example, the construction of a house calls for plumbing and sheet rocking. The installation of the plumbing needs to be completed before the sheet rocking can be done. The algorithm in critical path method helps determine the time it will take to do the plumbing and when to schedule sheet rocking.

History

First developed by the U.S. Navy during the 1950s, the critical path method helped project managers build the submarine fleet. It used a series of time lines that allowed for a timely and decisive program. The Navy determined when it wanted the project finished and analyzed each step that would need to be taken. It then factored in inevitable delays and planned the exact time that each part of the project would need to start. By the time the first wave of the fleet was completed, the system was so well developed that it was adopted by many different business models.

Features

In order to achieve the full advantages of the critical path method, a model of the project must be created. First, a list of all activities to be performed must be completed. This is known as the "work breakdown structure." Every individual activity is identified. The next step is to figure out which steps are interdependent of each other. This will help determine the exact time and date the different parts of the project should be started. The order of the project takes shape and the project managers are able to better monitor the start and completion of the project.

Significance

Critical path method is paramount when attempting to manage the progress of a project. If a portion of the project needs to be shortened, also known as "fast tracking," the project manager can order more of the activities to take place at the same time. Using the critical path method, a manager can also increase the productivity of an individual activity by "crashing the critical path." This means that additional resources are added to shorten the duration of the activity. Overall, the best advantage of the critical path method is the ability to speed up or slow down the processes of a project.

Considerations

When using the critical path method to its full potential, a project manager must also include the actual materials that go into the process. If an individual or organization includes the time that materials will be shipped and received, the critical path method further helps them determine when to start a project, how fast portions need to be completed and when the project should be completed. This prevents what is known as a "resource bottleneck," in which all the work that can be done is completed and the project is only waiting on materials and resources. Adding this concept to the critical path method gives the user the advantage known as "resource leveling."

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