PERT stands for the “Program Evaluation and Review Technique.” It was developed by the US Navy to enable them to manage the development of the Polaris missile in the 1950s. Parallel to the military’s development of PERT, DuPont created Critical Path Analysis to manage the complicated processes required to maintain chemical plants. Eventually these two methodologies merged and so a PERT diagram and a CPA diagram is the same thing.
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The PERT method requires the creation of a chart. This is a project timeline that examines dependent processes and sequences them into a path. All paths may be adjusted to start earlier or later, but one path will control the entire timeline of the project. This path cannot be shortened and it determines the duration of the project. From this, given a specific start date, the project management team can project the project end date. Alternatively, given a deadline, the project team can specify the date upon which the project should start.
The PERT chart can be represented as either a Gantt chart or as a network diagram. The formulation of the chart starts with a table listing each task of the project. The duration and the earliest start date are noted for each task. The prior step to each task is also noted -- that is, the task that has to be completed before that task can start. The dates and durations given in the table are week numbers. Thus, any task that can be begun today is given an earliest start date of “week 1.”
The PERT diagram is a goal that forces the project management team to think of the project in terms of its component tasks. The requirements of the system also force the team to work out the order in which those tasks have to be performed and to identify chains of tasks that can be performed in parallel. This enables resources to be better focused on the current task in each path rather than getting bogged down in the enormity of a large project.
Any start up or any business undertaking an entirely now project that hasn’t been attempted before would rely on guess work for task duration estimates. As each task has to be logged as enduring multiples of weeks, both the guess and the time units sometimes result in widely misallocated resources. The project plan will need to be constantly adjusted for new information and the benefit of experience that arises. This means that the PERT scheme can sometimes just be a business-like way of making a guess.
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