Using Networking Diagrams for Task Breakdown & Tracking

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  • 0:03 What Is a Network Diagram?
  • 1:44 Benefits of Using…
  • 3:33 Two Real Life Examples
  • 4:37 Some Tools & Techniques
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Audrey Brown

Dr. Audrey E Brown’s Mastery in Program/Project Management consists of five certifications, along with 15+ years of experience in the field.

Network diagrams are useful in creating high-level or detailed pictures of your project schedule and tracking activities. In this lesson, you'll learn the definition of a network diagram and how it aids in managing and tracking project activities.

What Is A Network Diagram?

Are you familiar with the phrase ''a picture is worth a thousand words?'' This is what creating network diagrams will assist you with in managing and tracking your project activities.

A network diagram is defined as a picture view of your project schedule, and it's designed to help you view your project activities at a high level and/or breakdown project activities to level of tasks. Project management body of knowledge (or PMBOK) states that network diagrams help you identify your project dependencies, which means to identify the sequence of your project activities in your work breakdown structure. PMBOK also states that a project schedule network diagram is one of your project artifacts, which is the term used for an input for developing your project schedule.

For example, a project manager took on a volunteer assignment for a church building renovation project. Although unfamiliar with the construction industry, the project manager worked closely with her subject matter experts (or SMEs) and created a project schedule network diagram. Note, prior to joining the project, the church leaders estimated the project would take 6 months to complete. Her SMEs provided her with a list of remediation tasks, including replacing the roof, asbestos removal, creating plumbing drawings, electrical drawings, telephone pole sub-project, etc. The project manager and SMEs strategically plotted the dependencies and the sequence of the project activities. The project schedule network diagram allowed SMEs and non-technical resources to view tasks needed to be completed on the project and a realistic project schedule was constructed. The project was completed in 3 years, right on schedule.

Benefits of Using Network Diagrams

Generally speaking, project schedule network diagrams are commonly used by project managers for sequencing project activities, which means strategically plotting the project activities for project dependencies and computing the order of project activities. In other words, a project manager could expect a network diagram to help with strategically plotting project activities for dependencies and determining the earliest dates and latest dates to start project tasks or work breakdown structures. The network diagram allows you to illustrate the tasks for the predecessors and successors.

Ease of tracking the progression of your project is another common use for project schedule network diagrams. Some individuals use a color scheme to demonstrate the project status. For example, you may want to use the following color scheme:

  • Green = When tasks are in progress and on time
  • Yellow = When tasks are in progress and late
  • Red = When tasks are either starting late or delayed
  • Blue = When the project is completed

Though sequencing the work breakdown structure and project tracking are the most common uses for network diagrams, let's take a look at a few additional benefits for using network diagrams for project task breakdown and tracking:

  • Critical path: This provides a picture of the earliest possible time you can deliver your project and/or the longest path of your work breakdown structure to complete your project

  • Shortening project timeline: The picture view project schedule will allow you to better identify opportunities to schedule tasks from your work breakdown structure in parallel (meaning to complete work simultaneously)

  • Elimination of rework: A graphical schedule helps to create a logical order for task breakdown

  • Gap identification: After you develop your project schedule, creating a picture view helps with identifying gaps in your task breakdown structure

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