Do you need to provide a Critical Path
for a Tender or Proposal?
If you already have an application such
as Microsoft® Project available to you, then
you can produce a Critical Path. If not, you could buy some software,
try to put one together using a spreadsheet - or ask us to help.
What IS a Critical Path?
A project is made up of a series of
tasks, each of which will have a duration.
Some tasks are dependent on others: for
instance, you need to fill a kettle with water before switching it on
(unless you want a burnt-out kettle). Others can be carried out at the
same time: someone else can be getting out the cups and putting in milk
and sugar while the kettle is being filled and the water boiled.
Once you've defined all the tasks in the
project, and worked out their estimated durations and dependencies, you
can draw a Network Diagram (also called a PERT chart).
Using this, it's possible to work out
which tasks can be delayed without affecting the end date of the
project, and which ones can't. The tasks which cannot be delayed are
said to be Critical, and the path that can be traced through them
on the Network Diagram is called the Critical Path - shown in
yellow in the picture above. Software can do this for you automatically.
If you put in the start date for the first
task, you can plot the tasks against dates: this is called a Gantt
Chart. Again, you can use software to produce the Gantt Chart, and this
is usually what is called for when a Critical Path is requested.
So do I have to
buy some software?
You can use a spreadsheet to draw the
Gantt Chart, but this can be a very time-consuming process.
If you only need to produce Critical Paths
occasionally, buying software to do it may not be the best solution:
apart from the cost of the software, there are hidden costs associated
with having to learn how to use it, as well as learning how to identify
the tasks and dependencies.
What's the alternative?
4c Systems can help you with identifying
the tasks in the proposed project, and the dependencies between them.
Using your estimates for durations, we can feed the information into 4c
and produce a Gantt Chart (and Network Diagram if required). This can be
exported as a picture file (JPG, GIF, TIF, bitmap, etc.), which you can
include in your proposal document. We can also provide you with a file
which can be read by Microsoft® Project (MPP).
A major advantage of using 4c to produce
your Critical Path is that we can enter a target end date for the
project: we can then tell you the latest date by which the project needs
to start to meet that end date. This can help you decide whether the
project is feasible. Not all critical path analysis software can do this
(it's called Reverse Scheduling).
What does it cost?
for further details.