Critical Path Analysis

Critical Path Analysis has ties with corporate strategy and human resources. It enables a business to gain a competitive advantage by effectively planning their time to pursue a goal. This can be especially important when they are trying to be first to market or when the process requires a lot of routine steps. It is also relevant in the computing sector and neural networks.

Detailing the steps involved can help to create a better picture of the complexity of a project. To do this, Critical Path Analysis Diagrams are used to break down the project into stages.

Critical Path Nodes

Each stage is made up of nodes, and each node is made of three numbers, the nodes are the circles in the image above (there are two) and have a path between them, Each path has the project that will be completed on the top and the time on the bottom.

Each node has a number on the left half, the earliest start time on the top and the latest finishing time on the bottom. Some diagrams also denote the direction of the path, however, it usually starts on the left, and ends on the right.

Some Critical Path Analysis Diagrams can become complex and take a long time to complete, some stages may also require few or many steps to complete, it is for this reason that Critical Paths are also shown on a diagram.

Critical Path with Four Nodes

In the diagram above, there are four nodes and therefore more work to be completed, however having a top and bottom section has so far proven redundant. It is only when there is an alternate path that these nodes become useful.

Critical Path Analysis Network with a denoted Critical Path

We can now see that having the latest finish time has meant that the project now cannot be finished until the ninth day as the task ‘Air Transport’ Requires a longer time period than the other tasks. This is why the fourth node now reads ‘9’ on the latest finish time. Additionally, there is now dashes along the Critical Path as this task must be completed in order for the project to remain on time.

Critical Path Advantages

Finding the critical path of a project allows a business too;

  • Conduct better contingency planning as they can see clearly where projects have the potential to get held up in the process and aren’t slowed down due to failures in the system.
  • Optimize workflow for employees as they will be able to better manage the time they need to complete a task, should a task have a long lead time, the task could be delayed without affecting the progress of the project, for example, a node having a quicker ‘earliest start time’ than other tasks.
  • Allows a job to be completed in the shortest amount of time possible.
  • It can help to reduce risk on projects that have complex time dependencies.

Critical Path Disadvantages

  • However, it does not account for the likelihood of failure of a task where it was poorly planned from the beginning.
  • It does not account for the fact that a project may eventually have stages that need changing as time progresses or situations change.
  • It depends on the accuracy of the projects predicted time-scale.
  • It may not account for other factors like cost or trade-off.
  • Resources may not be as flexible in the long term as previously planned.

Calculating Probabilities Using The Confidence Interval Formula

Confidence Intervals can be used to estimate the population mean from a sample mean and finding a confidence interval can be calculated by using this formula;

confidence interval formula

Symbol Property
x bar Mean of the sample
z value  Standard score
standard deviation squared (variance) Standard deviation squared (variance)
n Number in sample

The Standard Score can be calculated by taking one away from the probability dividing by two and then adding the probability back to the answer and using the table to calculate. So for example, a probability of 95% would be,

calculating z value of 95 percent probability for a confidence interval

Of which z value to point 975 is found by using percentage points of the normal distribution.

normal distribution table for 95 percent z value

Using a Confidence Interval of 95% would allow you to assume that you are 95% confident about your results and that there is supposedly a 5% area of doubt where the samples are uncertain, It is important to consider this factor when conducting a conclusive statement.

Why Establishing Proper IT Development is Important for the End User

When a project is at its initial planning stages, it is important that the communication between the customer and the IT system’s creator is maintained to ensure that the project is what the customer wants and needs, that the project meets the customer’s requirements and at the same time a list of requirements is drawn up for the customer to confirm, In doing so it ensures that the customer and client have a consistent idea of what the project will do/how it will function. In doing so, errors are less likely to snowball and problems are identified before they are greater than an idea.

Having an open dialogue during development also allows the customer and IT member to have a good understanding of the requirements of the user and what the user is not interested in, this is especially important for systems where the customer will not be the main user for the system, otherwise problems that the customer did not identify may crop up at later stages, which could be costly and time consuming to rectify in non-common IT systems (unlike common IT systems, where a fix may be easier).

Some projects are started and never completed because many projects do not have realistic deadlines, fail to identify the needs of both the customer and the user. fail to identify the needs of the client, are too expensive or are beyond the ability of the person or team making the project happen.

Why effective ICT teamwork is essential to the development of a successful project.

Effective teamwork ensures that every IT member works to their strengths and that they all have a clear idea of what is expected of them and what they need to do next, what others are doing and what is the end result, this ensures that the project is consistent for the end user and customer and works effectively. Failing these crucial steps may mean that some aspects may need to be repeated, the project may not be completed on time or the overall effectiveness of the project is not as good as it could have been. Developing a project also requires following and leaving rigorous documentation for future development of a solution.

Proper IT Development Methodology

Factors that influence the success of an IT development go beyond catering for the end user.

Two factors that are relatively important when developing a project are ‘effective focus of individuals resources and skills’ and ‘effective time scaling and delegation of tasks’.

Effective Focus of Individuals resources and skills ensures that a network manager is not programming the frontend of an application, although he may be able to ‘give a good go of it’ he or she will not be as good as the front-end developer, especially so if the developer has had consistent immersion with the topic.

Effective time scaling and Delegation of tasks ensures that complex problems are not given too little time to work them out, some problems may also require a long time to work out, so need ample time, additionally if a project, like designing a website takes too long. Then other tasks toward the end of a development may not be completed.

Failing to identify the needs of a client may mean that a project is incorrectly understood and could features are mis-implemented or do need meet one of the clients requirements. This could result in numerous users having to resort to time-intensive ways of working around this task or not using the solution. Additionally systems that are not implemented without proper documentation can delay fixing problems.Some problems may also be that developers did not account for backing up the system, so when a project has a failed implementation or data is not backed up when upgrading a system, the data could be deleted due to poor redundancy steps.