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Understanding the Critical Path

Overview

Critical Path is a method of outlining a sequence of crucial stages within a project.

Details

The best practices techniques recommended when using critical path include:

  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 necessary dependencies between the activities.

Using these values, the critical path is calculated using the longest path of planned activities to the end of the project. This includes the earliest and latest 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).

Any delay of an activity on the critical path directly impacts the planned project completion date (i.e. there is no float on the critical path). A project can have several parallel near critical paths. An additional parallel path through the network, whose total duration is shorter than the critical path, is called a sub-critical or non-critical path.

                

Within Workfront you can choose to view the “Critical Path” in the Gantt chart by placing a check mark next to the critical path option under the chart options.

In this example, task numbers 11, 13,  and 14 are identified as part of the critical path; however, task 12 has some float in the schedule and is not identified as a critical path task. When a sub task is identified as a critical path task, the parent task, 'Programming & Execution' is also identified as a critical path task.