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Understanding CPM and its significance in Time Management

Imagine a situation. You’re a new project manager and wish to initiate a big project involving multiple tasks and a large team. You’re tight on budget as well as time. You want to do it as early as possible to keep organizational bosses happy. You appoint the experts and hand over the tasks to the team members.

Initially, the project runs smoothly, but all of a sudden, you realize that it’s going nowhere. Many hurdles on the way have hampered its progress. You also notice that every task is gobbling up a huge chunk of the budget. What’s more troubling is that you don’t see the end.

Obviously, being the head of the project, and under pressure to deliver the results on time, you feel irritated, confused and sometimes, angry. Therefore, you consult a team and time management expert, recalculate the time, reschedule the tasks and attempt to bring the project on track for timely completion.

It’s a familiar scenario for the enterprise owners and managers world over. An ambitious project sometimes goes haywire midway resulting in a huge loss of time and, therefore, of money. Precisely to overcome this problem, a project management tool named as Critical Path Method (popularly known as the CPM), was designed by DuPont back in the fifties and is used widely by the organizations world over.

The CPM

The term Critical Path Method (CPM) or Critical Path Analysis (CPA) is a project management tool comprised of multiple tasks in a human network. It is used by organizations to frame the schedule of a long duration project and estimate budget. It is in fact a mathematical algorithm of the events in the form of charts and graphics to calculate and predict the projected completion of time.

An example of a CPM chart

The algorithm is in a graphical form as shown in the figure. It takes into account several factors to initiate, maintain and complete the tasks involved in a project. It is expected that every task is completed on time. Therefore, the tasks directly affecting the completion date are thought to be critical. That path from the beginning of the project and leading to its completion is a critical path in this method.

This critical path takes into consideration the amount of time needed for the completion of the tasks, but not the actual dates. The process facilitates optimum utilization of the available human resources and finances. It also provides the managers an opportunity to view, review and modify the tasks, reschedule a task if necessary and avoid delays in the timely completion of the project.

Identification of the Critical Path

Critical path has a big impact on the entire project. The time delays or timely completion of the project actually depends on it. It’s identification and analysis therefore becomes significant for the success of the project. It can be identified based on the earliest start time and latest end time of a particular task running through the entire project as shown in the following diagram.

The Critical Path (shown in red)

The CPM therefore is an essential project management tool used extensively by the organizations in production, publication, development and distribution of all sorts of .products. Project of any length nowadays usually depends on the proper designing of CPM and CPA.

Time Management in CPM

The critical path analysis is an invariable part of project in an organization for the management of time. The CPM chart assists project managers to determine when some resources is required, which task is in need of  rescheduling or refinancing and at what step. That helps the manager avoid unnecessary delays in the completion of the task, and of the project. Sometimes, with the help of the critical path, they can even accelerate the activity mid way, if required.

The CPM chart as shown in the above graphics points out to the multi tasking activities in a project. Network lines connect each task here. The lines show the time needed to complete the task. The longest path (marked red) is the critical path, which consumes maximum amount of time, money and human resources and can make or break the schedule of the project.

When the identity of such a critical path is confirmed, it becomes easier for the project manager to estimate time, identify progress or delay, manage resources and control the expenses of the project. It also helps him to file weekly status reports to keep his organizational bosses well-informed and ….. happy.

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