By Manjeet Singh (based on excerpts from the free ProjectMind's quick guide to project management)
A Workbreakdown Structure ( WBS) allows you to identify groups of activities that you need to accomplish in your project. However, the WBS does not show the dependencies or sequence between these activities. A network diagram will allow you to illustrate this. Once your network diagram is ready, only then can you realistically start determining your project’s schedule.
Here is a simplified network diagram for the “Build Shed” project:
The above network diagram shows the relationships (arrows) between the main activities (rectangles) that are required to build a shed. You can flesh out the following information from the above diagram:
- The Cut wood activity can be carried out in parallel to the Build shed base & Supervise cement hardening ones – this of course assumes that you have different teams working on each set of activities.
- The dark arrows show what is known as the Critical Path (Buy materials->Build shed base->Supervise cement hardening->Assemble shed). The Critical Path is the sequence of activities that takes up the most time to complete your project. Any delay in this sequence of activities will impact the overall timeframe of your project. Therefore, you should monitor carefully monitor all activities on this path.
After you have finished working on your network diagram, you need to create your Gantt chart. A Gantt chart is a very useful project management tool that provides you with an overview of your schedule (something that the network diagram did not).
Here is the Gantt chart for the build shed project:
A Gantt chart does not show the relationships between the activities of your project. However, a number of project management software packages allow you to show such relationships on a Gantt chart providing you with an overview of the schedule, and the critical path of your project.
Thanks to the WBS, network diagram and Gantt chart you now know what are the activities involved in a project, the sequence of these activities, and the overall schedule of the project. Include all of this information in your project plan.
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Articles on project management concepts & phases
- Closing your project effectively
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- Change control procedures
- Creating a Workbreakdown Structure (WBS)
- Ensuring your team works well
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- Managing & leading
- Network diagrams & Gantt charts
- Resolving conflicts
- Resolving project problems
- The project lifecycle
- Writing a Statement of Work (SOW)