Shortening the critical path

Shortening the time that is allotted on the critical path shortens your project's duration. The converse is also true; lengthening the time that's allotted on the critical path lengthens the project. In all probability, you, as the project manager, are also responsible (at least to some extent) for the cost of a project. Typically, the longer a project goes on, the more it costs. Therefore, shortening the critical path is often the project manager's goal.

Shortening a project's duration can result in an earlier finish. But it also can mean starting later. Obviously, the second alternative is riskier, particularly if you are not confident in your estimates. If you are new to project management, you probably should not plan to start later; instead, use project management tools to help you evaluate the accuracy of your estimating skills. Over time (and multiple projects), you'll know how accurate your estimates are, and then you can take the risk of starting a project later than initially planned.

To reduce the time that is allotted on the critical path, you can do one or both of the following:

♦ Reduce the duration of critical tasks.

♦ Overlap critical tasks to reduce the overall project duration.

To reduce the duration of critical tasks, you can do any of the following:

♦ Reassess estimates and use a more optimistic task time. The PERT Analysis views can help you here.

♦ Add resources to a critical task. Remember, however, that the task must not be a fixed-duration task — adding resources to a fixed-duration task does not reduce the time of the task.

♦ Add overtime to a critical task.

To overlap critical tasks, you can do one or both of the following:

♦ Adjust dependencies and task date constraints.

♦ Redefine a finish-to-start relationship to either a start-to-start or a finish-to-finish relationship.

After you know the techniques that you can apply to adjust the critical path, you need to ask the important question: What's the best way to identify tasks that you want to change and then make the changes? The answer: Select a view, and filter it for critical tasks only. I prefer the Task Entry view, which is a combination view of the Gantt Chart and the Task Form view, because the top pane displays a graphic representation of your project and the bottom pane displays most of the fields that you may want to change, as shown in Figure 9-17.

Figure 9-17: The Task Entry view, filtered for critical tasks, is probably the easiest view in which to work if you're trying to adjust the critical path.

To set up this view, select the Gantt Chart view. The table that you apply to the Gantt Chart is a matter of personal preference; you may consider the Schedule table because it shows slack information. After you select the Gantt Chart view, choose WindowOSplit. The Task Form appears in the bottom pane.

Tip If you don't see the Predecessor information in the Task Form, right-click the Task

Form window and choose Resources & Predecessors from the menu that appears.

To filter for critical tasks, choose ProjectOFiltered forOCritical. Click each critical task to evaluate it, and make changes in the Task Form at the bottom of the screen

Tip You also can sort your critical tasks by duration. That way, the critical tasks are in order from the longest to the shortest, and you can focus on trying to shorten * longer tasks.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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