FIRST EDITIONS IN ORIGINAL WRAPS OF THE TWO PIONEERING TECHNIQUES FOR PROJECT PLANNING AND MONITORING, commonly called the Critical Path Method (CPM) and Project Evaluation Review Technique (PERT). Quite independently, both techniques were developed in the United States in the late 1950s.
PERT is a statistical mathematics tool. Formal work on on it began in early 1958 with the objective of creating “a management method for handling the hundreds of contractors who would be designing, constructing and testing the POLARIS submarine and missile systems” for the Navy (Stretton, A Short History of Modern Project Management, PM World Today). It was designed specifically to analyze and represent the tasks involved to successfully complete any given project.
“In the PERT network, the emphasis was… on project events or milestones instead of the project activities” (ibid). This meant that the methodology was able “to incorporate uncertainty by making it possible to schedule a project while not knowing precisely the details and durations of all the activities. It is more of an event-oriented technique rather than start- and completion-oriented, and is used more in projects where time is the major factor rather than cost. It is applied to very large-scale, one-time, complex, non-routine infrastructure and Research and Development projects” (Wikipedia).
CPM, a term developed for marketing purposes, was developed between 1956 and 1959 in a ‘think tank’ group at E. I du Pont de Nemours and in conjunction with a group at Remington Rand Univac. Technically speaking, it is an algorithm employed for the scheduling of a set of project activities.
Both CPM and PERT techniques are based on networks and both use the concept of critical paths and slack. The main differences are that while PERT is probabilistic, CPM is deterministic; while PERT is event-oriented, CPM is activity-oriented; while PERT analysis is concerned essentially with the time factor and does not usually consider costs, CPM analysis attempts to tease out the relationship between project duration and cost; while PERT is used for non-repetitive projects, CPM is used for repetitive ones; and while PERT can be analyzed statistically, with CPM statistical analysis is not applicable. Item #598
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