Key steps in project planning:
- Assemble your team
- Define the purpose of your project – what are you trying to achieve – what are the objectives?
- What activities do you need to do to complete the project?
- Who is going to be responsible for each part of the project?
- What is the budget for the project?
- What is the time-scale for the project?
Critical Path Analysis
Critical Path Analysis is a project planning tool which enables you to see how long a project is going to take by working out which tasks can be done at the same time and which tasks are inter-dependent. It also enables you to see when you need resources to be available.
The first step of critical path analysis is to define the tasks, how long they should take, and whether they depend on on other tasks being completed first. Here’s an example of baking bread:
|Activity||Preceded By||Elapsed Time (minutes)|
|A – weigh ingredients||-||1|
|B – mix ingredients||A||3|
|C – dough rising time||B||60|
|D – prepare tins||–||1|
|E – preheat oven||–||10|
|F – knock back dough and place in tins||C & D||2|
|G – 2nd dough rising time||F||15|
|H – cooking time||E & G||40|
Next, we draw the network to visualise what needs to happen sequentially, which activities can take place together, and what needs to happen to complete the task. For each activity which is not preceeded by anything, we’ll place them in circles in their own row at the start. Then, add anything that follows sequentially – we know, for instance, that B is preceeded by A, and that C is preceded by B. Once we’ve connected everything with arrows, we can also add time indicators:
Mapping activities out in this way is a quick and visual way of understanding what can happen when. Importantly, by knowing what has to be done sequentially, and what can be done in parallel, you can find an approach that makes the best use of your time and resources.
As well as considering the critical path of a project, it’s worth knowing about Gantt charts, which is an alternative way to visualise the timeline of your project and which tasks can be completed together. A Gantt Chart is a table in which each row refers to a different activity, with a time scale plotted from left to right.