Monday, December 10, 2007

Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)

A project is a series of interconnected activities that can be represented by the project network diagram. Various techniques exist for constructing network diagrams. One of the most common is the precedence diagramming method (PDM).

The PDM uses nodes to represent project activities and connecting arrows to show activity dependencies. This technique is also called the activity-on-node (AON) network approach.

To construct a network diagram, you need to consider four types of precedence relationships: finish-to-start (FS), start-to-start (SS), start-to-finish (SF), and finish-to-finish (FF).
  • finish-to-start (FS)
    The FS relationship is one in which activity A must finish before activity B can begin. This is the most commonly used type of precedence relationship.
  • start-to-start (SS)
    The SS relationship is one in which activity A must start before activity B can start. As an example, let activity A be compiling a phone list, and Activity B be calling the people on the list. In this example, compiling the phone list (A) must start before calling the people on the list (B) can start.
  • start-to-finish (SF)
    The SF relationship is one in which activity A must start before activity B can finish. Let activity A be breathing on one's own. Let activity B be breathing with the aid of a respirator. Breathing on one's own must start (A) before breathing with the aid of a respirator (B) can finish.
  • finish-to-finish (FF)
    The FF relationship is one in which activity A must finish before activity B can finish. Let activity A be a telemarketing department compiling a phone list. Let activity B be calling the people on the list. Compiling the phone list (A) must finish before calling the people on the list (B) can finish.
To convey as much information as clearly as possible, project network diagrams also include early and late schedules.
  • the early schedule
    The early schedule is made up of the earliest start (ES) and earliest finish (EF) times. In a project, the ES for an activity is the earliest possible time that the activity can begin. The EF is the earliest possible time that the activity can end.

    You can determine the ES for an activity by looking at its predecessors. No predecessors means that the ES is day one, the beginning of the project. One predecessor means that the ES for the activity is dependent on the EF of the predecessor. More than one predecessor means that the ES of the activity depends on the maximum of the EF times of the predecessor activities.
  • the late schedule
    The late schedule consists of the latest start (LS) and latest finish (LF) times. In a project, the LS and LF are the latest times that an activity can begin and end without causing project delay.

    You can calculate the LS and the LF times by using the early schedule. First, set the LF time of the last activity to the EF time of the same activity. Likewise, you can determine the LF time of all immediate predecessor activities by choosing the maximum of the EF times on all predecessor nodes.
Once the early and late schedules are in place, you can determine a float for an activity by taking the difference, LF minus EF.

LF - EF = LS - ES

The activity has no float if this number is zero. Float allows for some flexibility in project management and can change as the project progresses.
In a project network diagram, the series of activities that determines the earliest possible completion of the project is called the critical path. The critical path is usually defined as those activities for which float is zero.

To determine the critical path, begin with the first activity in the project. Look at its successors. Compare the successors' float values. Select the one with zero float. This is the second activity on the critical path.

Continue from the second activity on the critical path and compare the float for its successors. Select the activity that has zero float and include it in the critical path.

Continue this process to the final activity for a complete critical path. Ultimately, a project cannot finish any sooner than the time it takes to complete the activities on the critical path.

The PDM represents a project as a network of interrelated activities. The PDM is a way to prepare project activities for scheduling by organizing them in terms of the project's relationships, early and late schedules, float, and critical path. In this way, the PDM allows you to arrive at a realistic, workable project schedule.

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