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Tracking changes to the Critical Path during the life cycle of a project

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Pete McCann
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Hello colleagues. I was wondering if there is a way to track changes to the critical path of a project during the lifecycle of the project. 

In our projects we usually have a Start date ("Coming into Force") and an End Date ("Acceptance"). Inside a trypical plan we have maybe 6-8 key blocks of work (but many hundreds of individual tasks). The blocks of work are usually something like "Survey", "Permits"; "Manufacturing"; "Installation"; "Testing"; "Commissioning"; "Acceptance". Some of the blocks of work overlap but all of the detailed tasks within the blocks are connected through predecessors and successors. So, we can usually see a Critical Path (as determined by MS Project) from start to finish. The actual critical path at any one time may be, for example, "Permits"; "Installation"; "Commissioning"; "Acceptance". While at another point in time the critcal path may be "Survey", "Manufacturing"; "Commissioning"; "Acceptance". So, as the Plan of Work (POW) evolves through the course of the project, the critical path may vary. 

Is there a way to automatically compare just the critical paths of one issue of the POW compared to another? In our case, we issue a completely new POW every month and I have not found a way of retaining a previous plan's CP information inside the current version. 

If the following chart shows the evolution of the critical path of a Plan of Work (Earlist at the bottom // most recent at the top), is there a way to create this information by comparing the CPs of individual mpp files? The colourd bars would represent the duration of the "blocks" of work making up the CP.

Replies

Tom Boyle
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Pete,

The method Zoltan describes is equally applicable in P6 or MSP.  The activity codes Zoltan describes in P6 are most similar to (though substantially more powerful than) custom flag fields in MSP.  The simplest approach in MSP is to use custom flag fields, e.g. "Criticaljan" and "Criticalfeb" for marking tasks as being on the critical path at different times, with the caveat that you can fairly quickly run out of the limited flag fields available.  For a longer project, you can experiment with concatenating values in text fields - more useful for filtering than for grouping.

Grouped, filtered, and sorted views in MSP have the same fundamental restrictions as activity layouts in P6: a given task/activity can only be displayed once.  Thus, an activity/task that is critical in January and March must be displayed primarily in one month or the other.  While nested groups can provide insite from month to month, they don't offer a time-phased view of the changes in the critical path over many months.  For that, you need to export, analyze, and display the data externally, using Excel or another data reporting tool.

Good luck, tom

Pete McCann
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Hi Zoltan - this sounds like an interesting idea. When you refer to "Activity Codes" in MS Project, is this a custom Field or is it a Flag. I'll be honest, I have not come across the phrase "Activity Code" in MSP.

Zoltan Palffy
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there are severla ways to do this one way is each month export the activites to excel and you can compaire them there

another way is to create a activity code call it mypath and lets say for january make the value for the code criticalajan

now filter for the critical path and assign each activity on the critical path with the criticaljan code

next update February add the code value criticalfeb 

now filter for the critical path and assign each activity on the critical path with the critcalfeb code

now filter where any

mypath eqauls criticaljan

or

mypath equals criticalfeb

now group my mypath 

the critical activities in january will now be grouped togther and the february critical path actvities will be group together 

now you have distinct seperation of the critical path activities from one moth to the other. 

Pete McCann
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Thansk Santosh. I think I can do something similar (to what you show) in Excel but it is an additional external step I was hoping to avoid. However, Excel is very good for the presentation aspects. Thanks for your reply. Best regards.

Santosh Bhat
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Pete,

I don't know how it can be done in MSP natively, but thats more due to my own lack of awareness of MSP's capabilities. But the tool I've developed called Turbo-Chart is capable of presenting upto three different versions of MPP schedules displaying criticality of selected tasks in each.

This page shows an example in P6, but MSP would be similar: Preparing Gantt Charts with Turbo-Chart | Turbo-Chart

Pete McCann
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Apologies - I was not able to insert the actual image that I wanted to show - here is a stock image .....

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inserted-stacked-bar-chart.png