What is Critical Path Method Project Management, and what are best practices, tools and online templates for teams and organizations?
Definition of Critical Path Method Project Management
Critical Path Method (CPM) Project Management is a step-by-step project management process in which the project is split into the most critical, smaller tasks that progress from idea generation to project completion. A hallmark of CPM involves mapping out the most important tasks in any project and using that to estimate the project completion date. Its history can be traced back to the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s.
Description of Critical Path Method Project Management
There are six steps to follow when using CPM Project Management:
- Step 1: Create a Work Breakdown Structure. At the beginning of the project, the project team should meet to create a list of high-level tasks that must be completed in order to finish the project. Detailed activities are not included in CPM Project Management. After identifying the tasks, the team should group the activities into reasonable blocks to create the project timeline.
- Step 2: Establish A Timeline. This step is especially important if one task is dependent on the completion of the prior task in order to begin. Identify who is responsible for each stage and ensure that each team member is aware of who runs the task that precedes, follows or occurs simultaneously with their own. This will help to ensure accountability and prompt project progress. Each team member should also have knowledge of what task comes before their own so the correct order is followed.
- Step 3: Chart the Project. The network diagram or the critical path analysis (CPA) chart is a visual representation of the task order. It specifically depicts which tasks depend on the completion of another.
- Step 4: Project Task Completion Times. An experienced team member can help estimate the time needed to finish each step in the process. Alternatively, the project team use a best case/worst case estimation method and create an approximate completion window from there.
- Step 5: Identify the Critical Path. By examining the chart created in Step 3, the team can identify the sequence of tasks that take the longest time to complete. This will be the critical path. In the event that there are multiple critical paths, it is likely that there might be a change in the project schedule.
- Step 6: Update the Critical Path Diagram. As the project progresses, actual completion times can replace the estimates, creating a more realistic timeline. During this time, a more realistic time frame may emerge and give the team more accurate results.
Tools & Templates
A CPA can be drawn by hand or can be created on the computer using Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel or other software programs that enable you to create visual representations.
upBOARD's Online Critical Path Method Project Management Tools & Templates
Unlike most traditional Critical Path Method Project Management techniques, upBOARD’s online Critical Path Analysis Project Management tools allow any team or organization to instantly begin working with our web templates and input forms. Our digital platform goes far beyond other software tools by including progress dashboards, data integration from existing documents or other SaaS software, elegant intuitive designs, and full access on any desktop or mobile device.
Learn more about upBOARD’s portfolio of other project management best practice tools and templates including:
Action Item List, Agile Project Management, Benefits Realization Methodology, Critical Chain Project Management, Critical Path Chart, Critical Path Method, Event Chain Methodology, Extreme Project Management, Gantt Chart, Integrated Project Management, Issue Tracker, IT Roadmap, Lean Project Management, Lean Six Sigma, Plan of Intent (PoI), Plan of Record (PoR), PMBOK Project Management, PRINCE2 Project Management, PRiSM Project Management, Process-Based Project Management, Program Management, Project Budgeting, Project Charter, Project Dashboard, Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Project Portfolio Timeline, Project Risk Management, Project Rollup, Project Schedule, Project Scorecard, Project Timeline, Project Tracker, Requirements Breakdown Structure, SCRUM Project Management, Skills Requirement Checklist, Task List, Time Card, To Do List, Waterfall Project Management, and Work Breakdown Structure.