Use Excel to Perform Critical Path Calculations
Are you planning a small project and need to identify the Critical Path to create a project schedule? Are you teaching a course on Project Management and need your students to understand the Critical Path concept? Can't afford Microsoft Project? Excel may be a good solution to your problem.
Microsoft Excel doesn't have a component that can help you identify the critical path of your project. However, with a little customization you can use Microsoft Excel to identify the critical path for small projects. For larger projects, you should consider purchasing project management software, such as Microsoft Project.
The steps to use Excel for critical path calculations are:
- Create a Precedence Diagram
- Prepare the Excel Spreadsheet
- Identify the Critical Path
- Create a Gantt Chart
Step 1: Create a Precedence Diagram
A Precedence Diagram provides the flow of project activities from the start to the end of the project. In this article, we’ll use the Precedence Diagram shown below as an example. (Click any image for a larger view.) To learn how to construct a Precedence Diagram and how to use the Critical Path Method, read:
Step 2: Prepare the Excel Spreadsheet
For CPM computations, you need three main headings: Activities List, Duration of Activities, and possible activity paths. Open Excel and enter the headings as shown in the image below. Next, under the Activities heading, enter a list of activities, as shown below. Under the Duration heading, enter the duration of each activity. For example, the Purchase Plot activity (cell B2) will take five days. Therefore, enter 5 in cell B5. Similarly, enter the duration of each activity as shown in the image below. Now, input the paths identified under the Paths heading. To do this, input 1 for all activities that are in Path 1. For example, Path 1 has the Purchase Plot, Select Design, Purchase Wood, and Assemble Shed activities. Therefore, you will input 1 in cells B8, C8, D8, and J8. For all activities that are not in Path 1, enter 0. Therefore, cells E8, F8, G8, H8, and I8 will contain 0. Refer to the image below for the inputted data as per the Precedence Diagram.
- Screenshots taken by author.
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