What is Critical Path in Project Management ?

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Yesterday we posted about how to show critical path in a Primavera P6 project planning. I was wondering that maybe there are some people who still do not understand about Critical Path. What is Critical Path in Project Management?

In Primavera P6, Microsoft Office Project, Project Libre and many project management softwares we can see that there always be Critical Path. This critical path is actually the longest sequence of activities in a project plan which must be completed on time for the project to complete on due date. An activity on the critical path cannot be started until its predecessor activity is complete. If it is delayed for a day, the entire project will be delayed for a day unless the activity following the delayed activity is completed a day earlier.

Critical path contains the most important works or activities in a project plan. As a planning engineer or control engineer, you have to watch on these activities very carefully.

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Critical Path Example.

Critical Path Example.

How are critical activities identified? Based on Oracle website, we can choose between two options for identifying activities as critical : float and longest path. Float is a measure of schedule flexibility. P6 Web Access uses the Critical Path Method (CPM) to generate a project schedule. This method calculates four dates for each activity in the project plan : Early Start, Late Start, Early Finish, and Late Finish. If the Early Start date and Late Start date for an activity are the same, the activity is said to have zero float. Activities that have zero float must start on time to prevent the schedule from slipping. Critical activities can also have negative float. Negative float occurs when an imposed finish date creates a schedule that is shorter than the duration calculated to complete the activities on the critical path. A project with negative float is behind schedule. To meet the specific requirements of your project, P6 Web Access lets you specify the float tolerance used to identify activities as critical. For example, in some situations you might want critical activities to be those with zero or negative float. In other situations, activities with float of three days or less might need to be identified as critical.

While the longest path defines the sequence of driving activities that determine the project end date. The longest path is broken when activities are no longer driven by relationships; that is, when activity dates are driven by constraints or resource leveling. Longest path calculation includes interproject relationships. Therefore, activities designated as on the longest path may change depending on whether you schedule a project alone or with its related projects. If a project has interproject relationships and you schedule it alone, the interproject relationships are treated as scheduling constraints.

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6 Responses

  1. Toni says:

    Thanks for this information, this is nice!

  2. VJay says:

    Can you provide the explanation of Works Breakdown Structure in this blog?
    I cannot find it right now..

  3. George says:

    Brilliant!
    A short explanation about Critical Path that makes me understand it better,..
    Thanks, Dude

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