The critical path is one of the classic instruments in project management and an excellent tool for project time planning. However, project management students and even experienced project managers often have difficulties explaining what the critical path really is. Our 5 questions on the critical path will help you to gain a better understanding:
5 Questions on the Critical PathSabine Pfleger, Monday 27 May 2013 | Reading time: unknown
What is the critical path?
The critical path is the sequence of activities and milestones in a project plan that determines the minimum duration of the project. All activities comprising the critical path are dependencies and do not include buffer time. In order to determine the critical path, it’s essential to know the duration of all project activities, due dates and the logical dependencies of activities. Each activity is defined by the earliest date it can be completed and the latest date it must be completed at. Connecting all activities in a project plan shows where and how much buffer time is calculated into the project plan. This may result into a project having more than one critical path.
What’s critical about the critical path?
All activities that permit no delay in order for the project to be completed in time belong to the critical path. If the duration of any activity on the critical path exceeds the planned time frame, the planned duration of the entire project will be changed. The total buffer time of all activities on the critical path is zero. If the project team needs an additional day in order to complete an activity that is included in the critical path, the entire project completion will automatically take one day longer than planned.
Why is the critical path useful in project management?
The Critical Path Method (CPM) reveals bottlenecks in your project plan. Applying this method, it’s easy to identify which delays in the project are particularly risky, allowing you to counter-act time-frame problems early on. Activities that lie on the critical path should be continuously monitored. If you manage to save time on the critical activities, you can shorten the duration of the entire project.
How do you prevent the critical path from extending the overall project duration?
It is crucial that activities on the critical path are not delayed. You can prevent a delay by allocating additional resources to these activities. Moreover, it is helpful to do affected tasks in parallel instead of completing them sequentially. A timely completion of the project is especially risky, if one project contains several critical paths that run parallel.
How do you determine the critical path in InLoox PM?
With InLoox PM, you don’t have to calculate the critical path manually. The only prerequisite for determining the critical path is a complete project plan in InLoox PM that includes all activities, their start and end dates and their duration.
In order to display the critical path, open your project and click on Planning. You’ll see your current project plan. Select the View tab and click on Show Critical Path. The critical path will be highlighted in red in your project plan. Click on Display Slack to see how much buffer time is included for each activity.