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What Is PERT in Project Management?

If you intend to pursue a career in project management, you will become very familiar with Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) charts. PERT charts help managers plan projects from beginning to end. These charts have been used for more than 60 years and have stood the test of time. Here is how the PERT chart works and why it is considered an indispensable part of the planning process.

PERT – The Basics

PERT charts provide a graphical look at each component of a project. The U.S. Navy created PERT charts in the 1950s in order to plan the building of the Polaris nuclear submarine.

An advantage of PERT charts is that they break down all the tasks allocated to the timeline of a project. Each task appears on the chart as a rectangle, circle or node. Each node represents a specific milestone or event. Connecting the nodes are lines, also known as vectors, representing specific project tasks.

The chart provides project managers and others an easy way to determine the schedule of the project. For example, when one task is connected to a second task by a vector, the first task must be completed before the second.

PERT charts typically involve different scheduling estimates. They may, for instance, represent a few different completion times, including the fastest, the longest and the most likely amount.

Benefits of PERT

Project managers who favor PERT charts like the bird’s-eye view of completion times and resources required for various project components. PERT charts also promote effective communication among different departments as they make it clear who is responsible for what aspect of the project.

Thanks to advances in technology, accessing and using PERT charts is easier than ever before. Managers can quickly create a PERT chart by dragging and dropping components, and they can make fast updates on the fly. The charts automatically recalculate schedule dates when changes are made, and all team members can easily view updates in real time.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

Most project managers would say the benefits of PERT charts far outweigh any disadvantages. This is not to say the charts are perfect, however. They typically focus on project deadlines, so they don’t provide much information on the financial aspects of a project. In addition, they can be labor-intensive when a project is complex, which requires additional time and resources.

All things considered, there is a reason project managers are still using the PERT chart after 60-plus years. It provides a quick, concise snapshot of the goals of a project, making it easy for all stakeholders to understand what needs to be done in order for the project to be a success.

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