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CPM (CRITICAL PATH METHOD)

The critical path method (CPM), is an algorithm for scheduling a


set of project activities. It is commonly used in conjunction with
the program evaluation and review technique (PERT). CPM is commonly
used with all forms of projects, including construction, aerospace and
defense, software development, research projects, product
development, engineering, and plant maintenance, among others. The
most widely used scheduling technique is the critical path
method (CPM) for scheduling, often referred to as critical
path scheduling. This method calculates the minimum completion time
for a project along with the possible start and finish times for the
project activities.

Components
The essential technique for using CPM is to construct a model of the
project that includes the following:

1. A list of all activities required to complete the project (typically


categorized within a work breakdown structure),
2. The time (duration) that each activity will take to complete,
3. The dependencies between the activities and,
4. Logical end points such as milestones or deliverable items.
Using these values, CPM calculates the longest path of planned
activities to logical end points or to the end of the project, and the
earliest and latest that each activity can start and finish without making
the project longer. This process determines which activities are
"critical" (i.e., on the longest path) and which have "total float" (i.e., can
be delayed without making the project longer). In project management,
a critical path is the sequence of project network activities which add
up to the longest overall duration, regardless if that longest duration
has float or not. This determines the shortest time possible to complete
the project. There can be 'total float' (unused time) within the critical
path. This path, with the constraint-generated total float would actually
make the path longer, with total float being part of the shortest
possible duration for the overall project.

Crash duration
Crash duration is a term referring to the shortest possible time for
which an activity can be scheduled. It can be achieved by shifting more
resources towards the completion of that activity, resulting in
decreased time spent and often a reduced quality of work, as the
premium is set on speed. Crash duration is typically modeled as a linear
relationship between cost and activity duration; however, in many
cases a convex function or a step function is more applicable.

Expansion
Originally, the critical path method considered only
logical dependencies between terminal elements. Since then, it has
been expanded to allow for the inclusion of resources related to each
activity, through processes called activity-based resource assignments
and resource leveling. A resource-leveled schedule may include delays
due to resource bottlenecks and may cause a previously shorter path to
become the longest or most "resource critical" path. A related concept
is called the critical chain, which attempts to protect activity and
project durations from unforeseen delays due to resource constraints.
PERT chart (Program Evaluation
Review Technique)
A PERT chart is a project management tool used to schedule,
organize, and coordinate tasks within a project. PERT stands
for Program Evaluation Review Technique. A similar methodology,
the Critical Path Method (CPM) was developed for project management
in the private sector at about the same time.

A PERT chart presents a graphic illustration of a project as a network


diagram consisting of numbered nodes (either circles or rectangles)
representing events, or milestones in the project linked by
labelled vectors (directional lines) representing tasks in the project. The
direction of the arrows on the lines indicates the sequence of tasks. In
the diagram, for example, the tasks between nodes 1, 2, 4, 8, and 10
must be completed in sequence. These are
called dependent or serial tasks. The tasks between nodes 1 and 2, and
nodes 1 and 3 are not dependent on the completion of one to start the
other and can be undertaken simultaneously. These tasks are
called parallel or concurrent tasks. Tasks that must be completed in
sequence but that don't require resources or completion time are
considered to have event dependency. These are represented by
dotted lines with arrows and are called dummy activities. For example,
the dashed arrow linking nodes 6 and 9 indicates that the system files
must be converted before the user test can take place, but that the
resources and time required to prepare for the user test (writing the
user manual and user training) are on another path. Numbers on the
opposite sides of the vectors indicate the time allotted for the task.

The PERT chart is sometimes preferred over the Gantt chart, another
popular project management charting method, because it clearly
illustrates task dependencies. On the other hand, the PERT chart can be
much more difficult to interpret, especially on complex projects.
Frequently, project managers use both techniques.