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About Critical Path Analysis
The critical path method (CPM) of project planning views the project as a collection of specific activities that must be done in order to complete the project. While identifying each activity, it becomes apparent to the project manager that some activities depend on the completion of others before they can be completed.
CPM helps project managers determine the activities necessary to complete the project, to determine the time required to complete the project, and the activities that are critical to the extent they must get done on schedule or else the entire project will be delayed.
Along with the determination of the time required for an activity and any prerequisites for it, critical path analysis can also help determine the feasibility and cost effectiveness of speeding up activities. When you use critical path analysis tools for Excel, you will find that this often complicated process can be expedited.
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Requirements for Critical Path Analysis Tools
The steps of critical path analysis generally follow are as follows:
- List the activities of the project and define the precedence and duration of each.
- Draw the precedence diagram that shows which activities follow other activities.
- Create the critical path spreadsheet.
- Identify possible paths through the project.
- Update spreadsheet and calculate times for each path.
- Identify the critical path. This is the path that takes the longest.
As with many tasks, the task of critical path analysis can be facilitated through the use of computer software programs such as Microsoft Excel. Several critical path analysis tools for Excel are available that will simplify the analysis process while enhancing its results. These tools will guide you through each step of the critical path method and provide the framework needed to simplify the process.
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Critical Path Method & PERT Template
You can download a preformatted Excel spreadsheet from Vertex42's website that will give you powerful critical path analysis tools Excel will use to guide you through the entire process. The spreadsheet you download is set up for OMP timing, beta distribution, Gantt charts, and graphics designed to help project managers identify critical paths as part of the planning process. In this one download, you will get most of the critical path analysis tools for Excel that you need, combined with PERT functionality. This is a free download, although there are products and services offered at the download website that might be of interest to project managers.
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ProjeX is a powerful set of of critical path analysis tools Excel accesses via a software plugin. The tools come in a freeware version, but additional functionality is available by purchasing the full version for a price of $25. These tools will help you calculate dependencies and calculate the critical path for even the most complex projects. Gantt charting, color codes, and other tools work with you as you are guided through the critical path analysis process.
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Now that you know about some important critical path analysis tools Excel can use to make the planning process easier and faster for you and your team, give these tools a try and see how much they can help your project accomplish its objectives on time and on budget.
Image Credit: Critical Path Gantt Chart courtesy of Decision Edge.