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Complex projects require a series of activities, some of which must be performed sequentially and others that can be performed in parallel with other activities. This collection of series and parallel tasks can be modeled as a network. In 1957 the Critical Path Method (CPM) was developed as a network model for project management. CPM is a deterministic method that uses a fixed time estimate for each activity. While CPM is easy to understand and use, it does not consider the time variations that can have a great impact on the completion time of a complex project. The Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) is a network model that allows for randomness in activity completion times. PERT was developed in the late 1950's for the U.S. Navy's Polaris project having thousands of contractors. It has the potential to reduce both the time and cost required to complete a project. The Network Diagram In a project, an activity is a task that must be performed and an event is a milestone marking the completion of one or more activities. Before an activity can begin, all of its predecessor activities must be completed. Project network models represent activities and milestones by arcs and nodes. PERT originally was an activity on arc network, in which the activities are represented on the lines and milestones on the nodes. Over time, some people began to use PERT as an activity on node network. For this discussion, we will use the original form of activity on arc. The PERT chart may have multiple pages with many sub-tasks. The following is a very simple example of a PERT diagram: PERT Chart
The milestones generally are numbered so that the ending node of an activity has a higher number than the beginning node. Incrementing the numbers by 10 allows for new ones to be inserted without modifying the numbering of the entire diagram. The activities in the
1. Identify the specific activities and milestones. 2. Construct a network diagram. A distinguishing feature of PERT is its ability to deal with uncertainty in activity completion times. the activities are depicted by arrowed lines and milestones are depicted by circles or "bubbles". Determine the critical path. 4. Identify Activities and Milestones The activities are the tasks required to complete the project. 3. The milestones are the events marking the beginning and end of one or more activities. Update the PERT chart as the project progresses. Determine Activity Sequence This step may be combined with the activity identification step since the activity sequence is evident for some tasks. Steps in the PERT Planning Process PERT planning involves the following steps: 1. Determine the proper sequence of the activities. Other tasks may require more analysis to determine the exact order in which they must be performed. 4. a network diagram can be drawn showing the sequence of the serial and parallel activities. Software packages simplify this step by automatically converting tabular activity information into a network diagram. the model usually includes three time estimates: . For each activity. 6. Construct the Network Diagram Using the activity sequence information. It is helpful to list the tasks in a table that in later steps can be expanded to include information on sequence and duration. If done manually. but any consistent unit of time can be used. 5. 3.above diagram are labeled with letters along with the expected time required to complete the activity. 2. Estimate Activity Times Weeks are a commonly used unit of time for activity completion. several drafts may be required to correctly portray the relationships among activities. For the original activity-on-arc model. Estimate the time required for each activity.
The latest start and finish times are the latest times . It is common practice to specify optimistic times to be three standard deviations from the mean so that there is approximately a 1% chance that the activity will be completed within the optimistic time.• • • Optimistic time . the total project time does not change. The earliest start and finish times of each activity are determined by working forward through the network and determining the earliest time at which an activity can start and finish considering its predecessor activities. Note that this time is different from the expected time.Latest Start time LF . Most likely time . To calculate the variance for each activity completion time.the longest time that an activity might require. Pessimistic time . The amount of time that a noncritical path activity can be delayed without delaying the project is referred to as slack time. the expected time for each activity can be approximated using the following weighted average: Expected time = ( Optimistic + 4 x Most likely + Pessimistic ) / 6 This expected time may be displayed on the network diagram. For a beta distribution.generally the shortest time in which the activity can be completed. if three standard deviation times were selected for the optimistic and pessimistic times. it may be helpful to determine the following four quantities for each activity: • • • • ES .Optimistic ) / 6 ]2 5. The critical path determines the total calendar time required for the project. Three standard deviations from the mean is commonly used for the pessimistic time. PERT assumes a beta probability distribution for the time estimates.Earliest Start time EF .Latest Finish time These times are calculated using the expected time for the relevant activities. so the variance is given by: [ ( Pessimistic . then there are six standard deviations between them. If the critical path is not immediately obvious.the completion time having the highest probability. If activities outside the critical path speed up or slow down (within limits). Determine the Critical Path The critical path is determined by adding the times for the activities in each sequence and determining the longest path in the project.Earliest Finish time LS .
Activity start and end dates. the project can be accelerated by adding the resources required to decrease the time for the activities in the critical path. Such a shortening of the project sometimes is referred to as project crashing. Since the critical path determines the completion date of the project. The normal distribution assumption holds if the number of activities in the path is large enough for the central limit theorem to be applied. In cases where there is little experience in performing an activity. The activities that have slack time and that can lend resources to critical path activities.that an activity can start and finish without delaying the project. Limitations The following are some of PERT's weaknesses: • The activity time estimates are somewhat subjective and depend on judgement. In cases where there are delays. As the project unfolds. 6. The critical path then is the path through the network in which none of the activities have slack. one can calculate the probability that the project will be completed by a certain date assuming a normal probability distribution for the critical path. The difference in the latest and earliest finish of each activity is that activity's slack. Benefits of PERT PERT is useful because it provides the following information: • • • • • Expected project completion time. additional resources may be needed to stay on schedule and the PERT chart may be modified to reflect the new situation. The critical path activities that directly impact the completion time. Probability of completion before a specified date. Given this variance. the estimated times can be replaced with actual times. LS and LF are found by working backward through the network. Update as Project Progresses Make adjustments in the PERT chart as the project progresses. The variance in the project completion time can be calculated by summing the variances in the completion times of the activities in the critical path. the numbers may .
usually they can—but there is a limit to the amount of time an activity not on the critical path can be delayed. This is the critical path. Most likely there are multiple paths from project start to completion. Don’t get too infatuated—this network diagram will likely change. Sometimes you might see slack as “float. In other cases. It’s called the critical path because if any activities on it are delayed. To overcome this limitation. Even if the activity times are well-estimated. Monte Carlo simulations can be performed on the network to eliminate this optimistic bias in the expected project completion time. if the person or group performing the activity estimates the time there may be bias in the estimate. Calculating Project Slack Given you know that activities on the critical path cannot be delayed. the project completion date is also going to be late. follow the project conception through each task to the final deliverable of the project. Total slack This is the total time an activity can be delayed without delaying project completion. The critical path is the sequence of events that determine the project completion date. The underestimation of the project completion time due to alternate paths becoming critical is perhaps the most serious of these issues. One of the project paths will take longer than any of the other paths. PERT assumes that the probability distribution of the project completion time is the same as the that of the critical path. looking at the PND. There are three different flavors of slack. Now that the PND has been constructed. For example. but the actual distribution may be different. you can find the critical path. Analyzing the Project Network Diagram One of the most satisfying accomplishments in IT project management is to step back and. PERT consistently underestimates the expected project completion time. or float: • • Free slack This is the total time a single activity can be delayed without delaying the early start of any successor activities.• • be only a guess. . PERT assumes a beta distribution for these time estimates.” but it’s the same business. This limit is called slack. Even if the beta distribution assumption holds. The critical path is the longest duration from project start to project completion. Because other paths can become the critical path if their associated activities are delayed. what about activities that are not on the critical path? Can these projects be delayed? Yes. imagine that you have created and analyzed your network diagram.
Add the duration of the activity to the ES and you’ll have three. (You can print out Figure 7-7 from the CD if you’d like. Follow these steps: 1. To find the slack for each activity. 2. it’s in Adobe Acrobat format. you’ll find the critical path— the longest path to completion. for an ES of five. D. and F first. if you start on Day one. The ES for Activity F is 9 and the EF for Activity F is 15. For this example. but it’s really not that hard to do manually. Now let’s try the forward pass. The EF for Activity A is two. Why? Because Day three is the next day in the schedule. In this example. The EF for Activity B is the ES. you do just the reverse through the “backward pass”—you’ll find the latest possible start and latest possible finish date for each activity. The ES for both of these will be three. not three. Make the Early Start (ES) for Activity A one because you’ll start on Day one. plus the duration. Let’s finish the ES for activities B.• Project slack This is the total time the project can be delayed without passing the customer expected completion date. Figure 7-7: The longest path to completion is the critical path. Now this part trips some folks up: you’ll subtract one day from the value of the ES and the task duration to arrive at the Early Finish (EF) of the activity. it’s ACEF because it takes 17 days while ABDF only takes 15 days. there are different methods of completing this science. Here’s one of the most common approaches. the earliest possible day to begin either activity. If you add up the duration of each path. The number over each node represents the duration of the activity.) If you examine the network diagram. The reason is that the duration of Activity A is only two days. (Again. right? In other words. you’ll first find the earliest possible start date and the earliest possible finish date for each activity by completing what’s called the “forward pass. we’ll be using a simple network diagram as seen in Figure 7-7. The ES for Activity D is six and the EF for Activity D is eight. The next activities are Activity B and Activity C. so don’t be alarmed if you’ve been exposed to a different one). 3. you should have two days of work to get to Day two. Most project managers allow their project management software to calculate the available slack on each activity. you’ll see there are two simple paths to completion: ABDF and ACEF.” Once you’ve got this info. minus one. There are a few different methods for calculating project slack. .
Activity F. This is because Day 17 is the latest day the project can finish without being late. Figure 7-8: The ES and EF dates are found by completing the forward pass. So. plus one. . The LF for Activity D is ten—one day prior to the ES of Activity F’s LS. 3. It is because this activity is on the critical path. which equals an LS of 11. You get the LS for Activity D by subtracting the duration of the activity. You’ll begin with the last activity in the Network Diagram. The LS for Activity A is. It’s a cinch. plus one. It’s no coincidence that the EF and the LF have the same value of 17. which equals eight. and A. it’s time to do the backward pass. Do you think it’ll have any float? Hey! You’re right—it’s on the critical path so we can skip it for now. Because you’re going backward in the network you’ll add one rather than subtract one. Figure 7-8 shows the project updated with all of the ES and EF dates. minus the duration of the activity. well. So. The LF for Activity E is ten and the LS for Activity E is eight. and A. C. plus one. This accounts for the full day of work you have completed on the first activity and the last activity. 2. The ES for Activity F is actually 11. Let’s go back and complete the backward pass for E. Next let’s do activities D. Activity F is the last activity in the project so you can bet it’ll be on the critical path—with no slack. which has an EF of 17. the EF for Activity F is actually 17. E and F. 4. plus one. Activity F has an LF value of 17. The Late Start (LS) for Activity F is the LF value. Yes. less the duration of seven. The LF for Activity A is two and it’s LS is one. Now that the forward pass has been completed. it’s the first activity in the project. The LF for Activity B is seven and the LS for Activity is five. The LF for Activity C is seven while its LS is three. Now let’s do activities C. The ES for Activity E is eight and the EF is ten.4. It’s also no coincidence that the ES and LS have the same value of 11. Figure 7-9 shows the completed backward pass. B. It’s 11 because Activity F cannot begin until your project team completes Activity E. You’ll make the Late Finish (LF) the same as the EF value: 17. The ES for Activity C is three and the EF is seven. just follow these steps: 1.
Figure 7-9: The backward pass reveals the LF and the LS. the activity has slack. In this example. For example. To finalize the process of finding slack. (Funny how it always seems to work out that way. or either day can have two days of slack. technically they both don’t have two days of slack. you can then apply this time to a calendar and. or other events scheduled before the second phase of the project would be allowed to begin. For example. Activity B and Activity D can each have one day of slack. activities B and D have two days of slack. Okay. This approach usually increases project risk. walkthroughs. you might assign 16 more people to this task to complete it in a matter of weeks. it may take them months to complete. wherever there’s a number. you’ll subtract the LF from the EF and the ES from the LS on each activity. if either activity goes two days beyond its expected completion time this project is late. The date that you have computed will typically be beyond the date management has requested. you can complete the same work in less time. This is known as schedule compression. if you have to physically install 1. By making adjustments to when tasks begin or by adding additional resources. Or you could say. you may allow two phases of the project to overlap slightly where normally you’d have quality control events. after accounting for holidays and weekends. you have a task on the critical path. Crashing Crashing allow the project manager to add more resources to effortdriven activities in an attempt to shorten their duration.) What you will now have to do is adjust and readjust the critical path. There are four processes you can do to affect the flow of project schedule: • • Fast tracking This method allows activities to be done in parallel that would normally be done in sequence.000 workstations and you’ve only eight people assigned to the task. Wherever there’s a zero. Adjusting the Project Schedule Once you’ve found the critical path information. Chances are the target completion date your network diagram predicts and the target completion date requested by management or your client won’t be the same. However you slice it. there’s two days of slack on the whole project. a target completion date can be predicted based on the project start date. Crashing doesn’t always work because some activities are a fixed duration and additional . If you crash the project.
you elect to allow the activity to connect the PCs to the new network as soon as half of the new cables are ready. Consider relationships between tasks to change FS to SS. you have to wait four hours for all of the records from other databases in the network to recognize the database and synch with this database server. To begin schedule compression. To speed up the schedule. Lag time Lag time is waiting time. For example. Lag time adds time to the project schedule. Consider adding additional resources to tasks to shorten the duration required to complete tasks. Identify tasks that require lag time and evaluate the predecessor task to move it earlier in the workflow. after installing a database. For example. you may have to install a new network cable throughout a campus.) . It’s often applied to activities where there must be an added duration between the tasks. to begin. does not have to be complete for the second activity. (Not all tasks can be shortened with additional resources. Lead time Lead time is negative time because it brings activities closer together —even allowing them to overlap. Consider any tasks and the level of acceptable risks by changing relationship types. The first activity.• • labor won’t ensure the activities will finish faster. do the following: • • • • • Analyze the critical path to move tasks earlier in the workflow—where possible. Crashing usually increases project costs because of the expense of the labor. Your schedule calls for all of the network cables to run before any PCs plug into the new network. connecting to the new network. to run the network cables.
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