Does BuildIT have a Critical Path?

"Does BuildIT have a Critical Path?" — we're often asked that question.  First, some background:

Critical Path (also known as Critical Path Method, or CPM) is a scheduling method for dealing with multiple activities (or "tasks" as we call them) required to complete a project. The duration of the project is the sum of sequential tasks, with each task having it's own duration.

The relationship between tasks is such that a change in a critical task will most likely change the overall construction timeline, either shrinking it, or extending it. I say "most likely" because in construction, scheduling tends to be more of an art than a science, and often there are negotiated activities that take place to ensure the project is kept "on track", like doubling up of trades, working on non-working days, and working longer hours in the day.

CPM is taught at the university level as part of construction project management. Tonnes of books are written on it. Thick ones, expensive ones. There is a Project Management Institute that teaches and certifies project managers. There is a science behind CPM, and some big words /phrases that come along for the ride:

  • predecessors/successors
  • resource levelling
  • sequential dependencies / linked tasks
  • float
  • crashing / fast tracking

BuildIT made the decision years ago to provide a better solution to small to mid sized construction professionals, many of whom are artisans, business owners, and do too much without enough hours in the day. We saw the landscape of software available to this audience, and quite frankly, it was way too complicated and costly for the majority of the folks we had interviewed, and continue to speak to on a daily basis.

There is not a week that goes by that we don't hear from someone that "we tried software X for scheduling, and it was way more than what we needed". How can that be if it had all the bells, whistles, buzz words, fancy computer algorithms and a printed Gantt chart that would make any Ph.D. drool!?

There is enough complicated, complex, "enterprise level" software out there for those of you that need it. Call me and I'll make some recommendations if you feel you need more than what we offer.  One project manager quipped that "you could run a small country with [Microsoft Project]" – but that's not what our customers are up to!

The fact is, we wanted to offer a simpler scheduling solution that gets the job done without a bunch of overhead.

Consider a simple schedule with a dozen or more tasks. All tasks are displayed in chronological order based on start date. That's how most of you would view a schedule.

Now say that something happens which affects the schedule. There is a delay in a shipment, the crane broke down, someone forgot to show up on Monday, AND you forgot your wife's birthday – all throwing a wrench into the system.

You have some options:

1. Modify one task, independent of the rest of the schedule

2. Modify a selection of tasks, independent of the rest of the schedule

or what I refer to as our Critical Path option:

3. Select a task, extend or reduce its duration, and choose a function to change ALL SUBSEQUENT tasks by the same number of working days.

Presto, you essentially are saying that the entire schedule from that point forward is "critical", and all tasks are bumped (accounting for non working days such as weekends and stat holidays).

There are also other strategies for effectively managing critical paths within a BuildIT schedule.

For instance, say you had 100 tasks for a project, and 70 of them were critical (the other 30 were there, placed appropriately in the timeline, but were not tied to the critical path in any way). You can assigned those tasks a CRITICAL code, then just filter on that code to view the critical path, and adjust as necessary.

For more help with how to use BuildIT to accomplish your scheduling goals without the nightmare of task linkages, sequential dependencies and arrows all over the page, call BuildIT support.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1