Project Management, Critical Path Method, ThurmanCo, Angela Thurman

Why understanding your customer is so important in determining the critical path

The Critical Path Method (CPM) is a project modeling and scheduling technique for large or complex projects.

The method gets its name from identifying the critical path: the longest stretch of tasks with interrelated dependencies. Simply put, the critical path is the sequence of related tasks that take the longest time to complete.

Benefits of employing CPM include:

  • Budget and cost control: Prevention of project delays, visibility into potential cost overruns, and the ability to break budget and cost details down based on sub-tasks instead of considering the entire project as a single entity.
  • Better communication: Gathering input from key stakeholders and participants, soliciting expertise across team members and subcontractors, and pragmatism around scheduling from the beginning of the project. 
  • Improved risk detection: Avoiding surprises, earlier identification of correction opportunities, and a clearer understanding of the relationships between tasks.
  • Easier prioritization: Identification of float for each sub-task and how each element fits into the larger picture.
  • Improved visual representation: A concise network diagram articulating the project’s timeline and progress, highlighting alternatives.
  • More adaptability: Tools to rapidly rework or adjust schedules as necessary.

Understanding your customer is crucial in all approaches to project management, and CPM is no exception.

While understanding your customers’ needs is undoubtedly a key element in project success, regardless of project management methodology, it has relevance with CPM in several specific ways:

Customer expectations

Understanding your customer’s needs, goals, and expectations is vital in determining the project scope from the start. Without that key input, any scoping errors can negatively influence critical path analysis related to the project’s objectives. Project teams can easily fall into the trap of identifying critical activities based on the project team’s perception in isolation. Customer input often provides more precise context to determine which activities are the most important to achieve the project goals.

Resource allocation

A primary responsibility of the project manager is allocating resources. The project’s success depends on it. By understanding the customer better, project managers can more effectively allocate resources toward the essential activities required to meet their expectations. When resources are limited, or timelines are constrained, this can be particularly important in dealing with complex prioritization options.


Understanding your customer can facilitate effective communication among project stakeholders. Customers can provide valuable feedback throughout the project’s lifecycle, including identifying potential risks or changes to the project scope, which can impact critical activities and timelines.


Understanding your customer is vital in using CPM as it helps define project scope, allocate resources, and facilitate effective communication among stakeholders. By incorporating customer feedback into project planning and execution from the beginning, project managers can help ensure that critical activities are aligned with customer expectations, leading to a successful project outcome.

At Thurman Co., we embrace best practices and proven methodologies as part of the foundational framework driving how we operate and interact with clients, suppliers, and partners.

We help businesses manage projects to significantly impact their success and growth. When you’re ready to put your project in the hands of a trusted professional organization, contact us to learn more about working together.

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