Critical Path Analysis

DEFINITION of 'Critical Path Analysis'

A project-management technique that lays out all the activities needed to complete a task, the time it will take to complete each activity and the relationships between the activities. Also called the "critical path method", critical path analysis can help predict whether a project can be completed on time and can be used to reorganize the project both before starting it, and as it progresses, to keep the project's completion on track and ensure that deliverables are ready on time.


Either manually or using computer software, the project manager first lists each activity, the order it must be completed in and how long it is expected to take, and then diagrams the process.

BREAKING DOWN 'Critical Path Analysis'

The critical path refers to the way the diagram shows those activities that must be completed, and complete in a specific order, so that the project can be completed successfully and on time. A series of lines and circles visually depict the critical path. Each circle represents an activity that needs to be completed and each line shows the relationship between two activities. The critical path will be the longest path through the diagram, and will show how long a project is expected to take if the scope does not change and everything goes according to plan.

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