ConstructionOnline Blog

Scheduling Pro Tip #3: What Makes the Critical Path Critical

Many challenges faced in project management could be avoided if the roofer didn’t have to depend on the framer or the carpenter on the plumber, however, we know that’s not the case – what’s the roof to do without the frame? Most tasks in your project schedule have relationships to one another, which is why coordination and visibility is vital. Developing an effective method for communicating, managing, and evaluating the current state of interconnected tasks allows you to see the ripple effects before they occur and work to minimize impact incurred from schedule offsets.

One of the best strategies to be applied for effective schedule management is working with a project scheduling system that supports predecessors, or task dependencies, being built into the schedule and responsively handles adjustments to these tasks. Predecessors are connections laid out between tasks – i.e. insulation must be completed before drywall can begin. In this example, we see a finish-start relationship where Task A (insulation installation) must finish before Task B (drywall labor) can start. While most project scheduling programs recognize multiple relationship types, the finish-start relationship is the most common task relationship.

The critical path highlights the sequence of dependent key tasks, showing the relationship between project duration and project completion (this is how long it will take you to achieve overall project completion). Because the tasks that make up the critical path are dependent upon one another, slippage of any one key task extends the project deadline by as much – which is why it is ever important to assess the critical path regularly. Not all tasks fall on the critical path, allowing for some lag or float time in you project schedule. As updates are made to the schedule, the critical path can change to include new or different tasks, as task durations and relationships adjust. This is why consistent critical path analysis is imperative throughout the project – so that your project manager can see these changes as they occur and respond accordingly.

Project management programs, like ConstructionOnline, make it easy to monitor and control the critical path by identifying the critical path for you, keeping it updated within your schedule, and highlighting the path in red to stand out. Applying this level of regular project analysis maximizes your ability to bring your projects in on time and under budget.

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