Critical Path on an AoA diagram

The critical path is one way to evaluate a schedule. It is defined by the activities which will determine the shortest expected completion of the project. If any of the activities on the critical path takes longer, the project will take longer. The calculation is based on the expected activity durations and the dependencies between them.

The critical path is one schedule analysis technique. Others include rolling wave planning and leads and lags.

The critical path can be changed by adjustments to the resources that are available or other changes to the schedule. Some of the types of schedule changes would include adjustments to the dependencies or timing of events like approval gates.

Some advantages of determining the critical path are

  • gaining a better understanding of how quickly a project can be completed,
  • understanding which activities can take longer (and how much longer) without affecting the overall timeline, and
  • knowing where delays to an activity will delay the overall project

Understanding where delays in particular activities will affect the overall project, focusses attention on these time-critical activities.

Related: plan schedule management, scheduling tool, schedule network analysis, project management software, resource breakdown structure, activity diagram, resource leveling

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