Join Bob McGannon for an in-depth discussion in this video Dealing with multiple critical paths, part of Project Management Foundations: Integration.
- If you've ever taken a road trip using a GPS, you would know that upon entering the address of your destination, multiple routes are generated. Deciding the best route to take can be based on a number of factors. If you had time to experiment, you may take one route while somebody else takes another. Critical paths for integrated projects can be a bit like this. If you're working on an integrated project, you'll have a critical path for your own project. But you will also need to be aware of the critical path of other projects, where your project touches on theirs.
If you view all of the tasks required to be completed for all integrated projects, you may end up with critical paths that cut across several projects. This is difficult enough, but where it can get really messy is when you change your integrated project schedule, because this may mean someone else has to change their schedule, and this can change the overall critical path. You need to avoid optimizing the delivery of your project at the expense of the delivery of other projects.
You may want to move a resource onto your project to enable you to finish on time. But this may result in a delay to another integrated project and ultimately, the overall program. Say, for example, you're implementing a new HR system. Another project, which needs to be integrated with yours, is implementing a new finance system. But the two share some common functions, such as payroll functionality. You may require a developer to work additional hours on your project to enable the HR system project to be fully completed by a particular deadline.
But the same developer is also working on the finance system project, and has now missed a key deadline on that project because of the additional hours he spent working for you. The overall program will now be delayed. To avoid this, I recommend the use of an integrated project tracking tool, like the one I mentioned in an earlier movie. This provides a comprehensive overview of all tasks associated with the integration effort, so that those tasks can be tracked in one place.
When a change to one aspect of the project needs to occur, the tracking tool allows stakeholders to see what's going on in terms of workload changes. Alternatively, you may keep a distinct separate list of the tasks from each project that touch upon one another. This allows the overall project critical paths to be managed. Start with each project and its critical path. The management of these project level critical paths may be delegated to the integrated project managers or project leaders.
If you use the example I referred to earlier, you will have a critical path for the delivery of the HR system project, but the other project manager for the finance system also has a critical path for that project. One of them needs to manage the overall critical path of both projects to ensure integration is smooth. You can have meetings to adjust your overall schedule when any of the integrated critical path tasks change. Managing an integrated project involves give and take.
If you are managing one project in isolation, you could use resources to ensure you hit an important milestone or target on time. However, if you take that resource from another integrated project, you can end up disrupting one or more other projects. Think about balance, and the status of the integrated projects from a holistic perspective and you'll get the best results.
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- Planning for integration
- Managing scope, cost, and risk
- Integration and communication techniques
- Staffing the integration
- Mapping project interrelationships
- Dealing with multiple critical paths