The Critical Path Method (CPM) provides a way for project managers to determine which tasks are critical (zero slack time) and which tasks can be delayed (and for how long). Normally, you’d need specialized software such as MS Project but not anymore. Now you can just download our CPM spreadsheet that implements the CPM / PERT algorithm in Excel. If you can copy and paste, enter data into cells, and follow a few simple guidelines, you can do a critical path analysis with almost no learning curve.
With our free critical path template, you will be able to calculate the project slacks and take necessary steps to prevent those slacks.
Critical Path Template
Use for Excel, OpenOffice, and Google Sheets
All projects will have some tasks that are not as time constrained as others. These are the tasks on the schedule that will not jeopardize the project completion date if they are finished a bit later than their planned dates. The time between the soonest date the task can be finished and the latest date it must be finished is called slack. The CPM spreadsheet produces a Gantt chart showing the critical path tasks as well as the potential delay times for the flexible tasks. You may need to be familiar with some of the basic terms used in the CPM method, but the template is very easy to use and does not require you to enter formulas. CPM spreadsheet is an actual bar chart object, and you can resize it and change font sizes to get it to display the way you want.
The Gantt chart in the Critical Path Method spreadsheet is very similar to what you’d see using Microsoft Project, except that it doesn’t add the lines with arrows pointing from the end of one task to the start of a successor. But, that is an extremely minor limitation compared to the benefit you’ll get from the lower cost and ease of use. Except for the calculation of the Finish Date, there are no calculations in the worksheet that are based on dates. So, if you want the times to represent hours rather than days, then you can just change all labels to say “Hours” instead of “Days” and delete the Finish Date cell. When you enter the O, M, and P values, just consider them to be hours. The template is set up initially to fit the entire analysis on a single page. If you want to do something different, then all you have to do is download our amazing free critical path template.