Last edited 25 Nov 2020

Advanced network planning

Programmes describe the sequence in which tasks must be carried out so that a project (or part of a project) can be completed on time.

Programmes will often identify:

Developing a programme for a project can be very complex, as there are a great number of interrelated activities to consider, a change in any one of which may impact on all the others.

Advanced network planning is a process that can be used for planning, scheduling and controlling projects (or programmes – that is portfolios of projects) that consist of a large number of interrelated activities.

Network planning techniques first developed in the 1950s and included techniques such as:

Very broadly, these describe projects as a network of tasks, the interrelationships between which can be used to establish the most appropriate moment for their execution in order to complete the overall project on time.

Creating a network includes a number of steps:

A typical network will include a set of “arrow diagrams” which go from the origin node to the destination node. In this sense, the path is defined as a sequence of connected activities, which flow from the start of the project (node 1) to the end. The time required to follow one of these paths is the sum of the times corresponding to each of the activities. The critical path is that which requires the longest time to progress from inception to completion, and indicates the minimum timeframe required to complete the whole project.

Arrow diagram for a project representing its critical path.png

Complex models can be developed that include additional information such as cost information, and may represent:

  • Variables: Aspects in the model that can be changed, such as product type.
  • Sensitivities: How much performance changes in response to variable changes.
  • Scenarios: The range of possible changes to the network.

Advanced network planning can also be used in applications, such as health and safety management, IT asset sourcing, resource allocation, operations and maintenance scheduling and so on.

This is a complex specialist process that is simplified by the use of software that carries out analysis automatically and outputs results in ways that are easier for the project team to digest, such as gantt charts.

On large projects, the client may appoint a programme consultant who specialises in this subject, and suppliers may have their own programmers.

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