One of the most essential tools used in modern Project Management is Critical Path Methodology (CPM). But what exactly is the Critical Path and how is it determined?

In brief: A project comprises activities, a duration for each of those activities, dependencies between the activities and a logical end point for each activity (e.g. project milestone or specific deliverable). CPM calculates (a) the longest path of planned activities to their logical end points or to the project end, and (b) the earliest and latest that each activity can start and finish without making the project longer. The calculations allow the tool to determine the longest path of dependent activities, which, conversely, also represents the shortest path from start to finish – the ‘Critical’ path.

Who uses CPM, and where? Project Managers. Everywhere. Any tranche of work, in any industry, in any sector, will have a critical path comprising the different components required for successful completion of the project. It will have activities that need to be completed, resources (e.g. people, material) that need to be allocated to those activities, deadlines, end points – including a project end point, and it will have dependencies and inter-dependencies between many of these components.

CPM, and Project Management in general, are used, literally, everywhere – from a building site where a Project Manager ensures everything happens in the right order, using the right materials (e.g. put the walls up before you put the roof on!), to an IT software project whose Project Manager has to ensure all the individual components of a system are developed in the right order and that each section works in conjunction with its neighbours. Projects are everywhere, they all have a critical path and they all have to be managed to ensure the best result.

If a career in Project Management interests you, check out the specialised courses here at ECA – contact us for more details…and get started along your critical path.