Network Diagram: An Important Tool for Effective Time Management

Network Diagram: An Important Tool for Effective Time Management

Eshna Verma

Published on January 31, 2012


As a project manager, you tend to get slightly confused in the beginning of a project. The main confusion is around prioritizing the activities. As a project manager it is very imperative to set a logical relationship among the activities so that everyone understands about the nature and sequence of the activities in the project. It is also imperative for a core project team to decide the dependencies among the activities so that they can work in ideal manner to accomplish the project goals. There must be certain planning in deciding the dependencies among the activities. Remember that there would be some mandatory dependencies which you need to consider while planning.
Now, it is imperative to know how to prepare network diagram, know the contents of a network diagram and before all, you should first know the definition of a network diagram.
A network diagram is a graphical representation of the project and is composed of a series of connected arrows and boxes to describe the inter-relationship between the activities involved in the project. Boxes or nodes represent the description of activities and arrows show the relationship among the activities. There must be a start and finish activity and all the other activities fall within these two. There are so many ways for drawing the network diagram, such as precedence diagramming method (PDM), arrow diagramming method and GERT (Graphical Evaluation and Review Technique). Now-a-days, mainly project manager use precedence diagramming method to draw a network diagram. You need to decide which activity is the successor and which one is the predecessor.
You need to create a dependencies chart as well. Before creating this network diagram you need to create a logical relationship between the activities. There are generally four types of logical dependencies:

Finish to Start: It is very common form of dependency among the activities. It means you need to wait till the predecessor’s activity finish before starting successor’s activity. You can’t start the successor’s activity before ending of the predecessor’s activity unless some schedule compression technique applies to your project. If you are doing so, quality will come down. And in maximum cases, you cannot begin the next process in any of the above circumstances.

  • Start to Start:  Dependencies are also very important. A predecessor’s activity can start and after sometime the successor’s activity could start without waiting for completion of the predecessor’s activity. You can say that there is a partial dependency among the activities.
  • Finish to Finish: The predecessor’s activity must finish before the successor’s activity finishes. It is now rarely used in the project management.
  • Start to Finish: Very rarely used these days . The previous activity will begin when the successor’s activity finishes.

As a project manager you need to analyze these dependencies before creating a network diagram. GERT is a modification network diagram, which allows loops among the activities. It is very rarely used now-a-days. But a project manager should know the reason behind drawing Network Diagram through GERT.
Advantages of Using Network Diagram:
Don’t start working on the project without preparing a Network Diagram. It is very imperative to prepare the Network Diagram before proceeding on the project work. A project manager should involve several stakeholders including the core team members while preparing the Network Diagram. Even when a new team member(s) joins your project in between, a project manager can refer him/her to Network Diagram for a better understanding of the project.
Note that, there could be some mandatory dependencies which cannot be converted into soft logic dependencies. In this regard, you need to prepare the Network Diagram accordingly, reflecting those scenarios.  On the basis of this Network Diagram you will be getting overall project duration after incorporating the number of resources and the number of working hours (or any similar metrics) against each and every activity. Accumulating these lets you derive overall project schedule. So, you can understand how important this tool is for a project manager while accomplishing the project goal.    
Hence, the bottom line is, a project manager should prepare the Network Diagram effectively so that it shows a true path of project success. If your Network Diagram is accurate, half of your project problems could be solved through this only. Try and explain the importance of Network Diagram to your team members for effective execution of the project.

About the Author

Eshna is a writer at Simplilearn. She has done Masters in Journalism and Mass Communication and is a Gold Medalist in the same. A voracious reader, she has penned several articles in leading national newspapers like TOI, HT and The Telegraph. She loves traveling and photography.


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