# What Is a Network Diagram in Project Management?

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In this day and age of complex projects that span geographies, time zones, rapidly changing technology and requirements, having tools that enhance efficiency can greatly increase the chances of project success. Project Management tools that help to better manage resources and budgets and which help to track project progress are a boon for stressed and overworked project managers.

One such tool is the network diagram in project management that gives a visual representation of the workflow of a project, thus allowing users to track the progress of the project at any time. In this blog, we look at the various characteristics and benefits of network diagrams in project management.

## What is a project network?

Source: Hygger.io

Visual aids like project networks have been widely used in project management to help project managers and team members stay clued in on the progress of projects and share it with all those involved in the project.

A project network, also called project activity network, is a graphical description of the sequence in which the terminal events or milestones of a project must be completed. The project network is similar to a flow chart. The terminal events of the network represent activities and deliverables derived from the work break down structure and are arranged sequentially like in a flowchart

Project Networks can be created using techniques like Gantt Charts, PERT charts, and Critical Path Management. There are multiple paths in the project network but each terminal element must lie on only one path of the network.

## Project Management Network Diagram

Network diagrams are used by Project Managers to track the progress of activities during the course of the project. In other words, they represent the workflow of the project. Those involved in the project can get a bigger picture of the activities and timeline of the project. Project network diagrams help everyone involved in the project to visually track the progress of every phase of the project from its inception to its completion. The network diagram is a chart and contains boxes and arrows. The boxes denote tasks and responsibilities, and the arrows denote the sequence in which the tasks must be completed and the schedule.

The network diagram also shows how an activity relates to the other and the sequence of activities to be conducted. The precedence of activities as shown in the diagram is important, as some activities have to be completed before the next one starts.

Network diagrams also help to determine the impact of finishing tasks early or late, on the overall project. Managers can use network diagrams to better allocate resources and schedule their timelines.

But creating a network diagram requires a lot of planning. All activities must be identified and estimated as leaving even one task out from the network diagram can cause a cascading effect on the projected schedule, commitments, resource allocation and cost of the project.

## Types of Network Diagrams

Project network diagrams can be of two types:

### 1. Arrow diagram method (ADM):

As the name suggests, this type of diagram uses arrows to depict terminal elements/activities.  The length of the arrows typically represent the duration or time taken for completing a particular activity or task. The tail shows the start of the task while the head shows the completion of the task. The order of activities or their precedence is represented by circles that are connected by arrows.
The diagram may also contain dummy tasks that are used to show the inter-dependency between tasks. Dummy tasks, though, do not represent any real sequenced activity but they are more of check-points or milestones that may need to be completed on the way to moving forward with the next task.

Advantages of the PDM are as follows:

• Simple to create
• Easy to understand
• Helps track project schedule
• Helps in ‘what if’ analyses

Source: www.workzone.com

### 2. Precedence diagram method (PDM):

PDMs too, like ADMs are used in project management. The activities are represented by boxes or nodes. The arrows connecting them represent the relationship between the activities. Depending on the precedence of the activity, the arrows represent different relationships. For example, an arrow can be used to show that an activity cannot start before the completion of its predecessor or if both activities can be started simultaneously.

Here are the four ways of developing the diagram and connecting the tasks based on precedence:

• Finish-Start: An activity has to be completed before starting the next activity
• Start-Start: Both activities can start together
• Finish-Finish: Both tasks need to finish together
• Start to Finish: This is a rare dependency and requires one activity to start before the other can be finished

The duration for completion of the particular activity can be mentioned over the arrow connecting the activity to its successor.

Advantages of the PDM are as follows:

• Makes planning more efficient by focusing on relationships and dependencies between activities
• Critical tasks can be identified and prioritized
• Helps in evaluating alternatives
• Helps to share project timelines across the team and with stakeholders
• Helps the project manager to better manage and control the project

Source: Acqnotes.com

## Benefits of a Network Diagram

Being visual aids, network diagrams have a lot of advantages, such as:

• Aid for tracking projects
• Sequential arrangement of project activities helps to better plan and schedule
• Helps to visually monitor project status
• Detailed representation helps identify critical activities
• Helps identify risks in terms of time delay
• Helps to identify co-dependent activities for tasks
• Helps resolve issues that may arise in the course of the project
• Can be shared with project team members
• Useful for project team members who can better understand visual representations
• Increases project productivity
• Represents project scope on a macro level
• Used to create project schedule
• Helps in budget allocation
• Helps to establish clear deadlines
• Used to estimate the duration of the project
• Helps in resource allocation as items are clearly represented
• Accurate description of activities helps in getting funding and in getting together the right team
• Enhances efficiency as teams are well aware of deadlines

While there are a whole lot of advantages to network diagrams, there are also certain disadvantages:

• Can be an expensive tool to create
• May involve too many activities and tasks and may be difficult to understand
• There may be errors when creating the network diagrams
• Network diagrams can be misinterpreted that can lead to serious errors in the way the project is executed
• May get effected by external factors

## Developing a Network Diagram

Developing a network diagram is not an easy task, in the sense that it requires a whole lot of homework to be done before being created. Project Managers or others who are involved with every aspect of the project and know the project requirements at a very detailed level are ideal candidates for creating the network diagram.

The network diagram requires the involvement of people responsible for the different activities of the project. A well-done network diagram smoothens out the project path and ensures early identification of issues and bottlenecks.

## Requirements for creating a network diagram

As mentioned above, the creation of a network diagram requires a whole lot of pre-planning. The following information must be at hand before the network diagram is created:

• The start and end points of the project must be identified and defined
• All project activities must be identified
• Accurate estimation of the completion time of each activity must be carried out
• Dependencies must be identified

## Best Practices to be followed while creating Project Network Diagrams

Network diagrams when created accurately can bring in a whole lot of benefits. Let’s look at the best practices to be followed while making the network diagram.

• Use standard network diagramming symbols that are universally known and accepted
• If using different symbols, make sure they are correctly defined
• Always use straight arrows
• Avoid crisscrossing arrows
• Use minimum number of dummies
• Arrows should be used from left to right
• Use just one starting point or start event and one culmination point or end event
• Use tools for more accuracy and lucidity
• Make sure your diagram contains relevant and up to date information
• The network diagram must contain the right amount of detail
• Ensure that the data used to create the network diagram is accurate and well managed

## Network Diagram Tools

There are several network diagramming tools available that are precise and make our job easier. Some of them include:

• Microsoft Visio
• Lucidchart
• ConceptDraw Diagram
• InterMapper
• EdrawMax and more.

To conclude:

A picture speaks a thousand words! And what could be of more help to a project management team than a picture that helps one understand the whole project?

By providing a diagrammatic representation of the events, activities, structures, and processes, the network diagram helps all those associated in the project to understand the project at a micro level. Project managers especially, have found network diagrams to be valuable tools in managing projects and ensuring their success

### KnowledgeHut

Author

KnowledgeHut is an outcome-focused global ed-tech company. We help organizations and professionals unlock excellence through skills development. We offer training solutions under the people and process, data science, full-stack development, cybersecurity, future technologies and digital transformation verticals.
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## The Program Manager vs. The Project Manager

When the names- ‘Program Manager’ and ‘Project Manager’ sound so similar, you would assume their roles would be similar as well. Right?  The truth is, while these roles share similar responsibilities, they are quite different. If you are considering these roles for your career or if you’re simply curious to understand how these verticals work hand in hand, it is important to know how they are related.Program Manager vs. Project Manager: Key DifferencesIn a movie set, the director is the person who calls out “Action” and ensures the storyline is captured through perfect shots to make the movie look good overall, but the film crew are the ones who carry out the remaining tasks like lighting, camera work and editing. Similarly, the project manager looks at the company plan from a big-picture perspective and plans how to implement the overall vision. On the other hand, the project manager takes on issues and focuses on executing specific activities that move the project forward. Finally, the coordinated efforts of the project manager and the project manager come together to create a successful project. This table will help you to get a quick view of the key differences between the roles. Basis For ComparisonProgram ManagerProject ManagerDefinitionThe Program manager works on a collection of projects (called a program) and is required to strategically align all the projects that fall under this program with the company goals and vision. They are responsible for the success of all related initiatives within this program.The Project Manager has a limited focus and works on one project which might have limited deliverables.Primary focusContextContentTasksStrategic in natureTechnical in natureTerm PeriodLong TermShort TermProgram Manager vs. Project Manager: Roles and ResponsibilitiesThe success of a project depends on the skills of competent project and program managers. Through cooperation and collaboration, both types of managers support the organizational goals. Responsibilities of Project ManagersProject managers begin with creating a "road map" or a "blueprint" of a project. They direct specific sections or projects in a program. This blueprint will include all the details of the project including the team members involved, and the timeline by when the project needs to be closed, among other details. A well-organized blueprint coordinates the various skill sets of the team so they can multitask efficiently. Project Managers ensure to provide the right resources needed to finish the tasks and make sure the team sticks to the set program guidelines. They also look into and track schedules, risks, budgets, use of resources and help resolve any hurdles the teams face to avoid delays. Organized project managers deliver high-quality, cost-effective products that help in the growth of the organization.Responsibilities Of Program ManagersProgram managers are the people who measure and define how their program objectives will help their organization. After defining the goals and outlining the vision, they come up with strategies to aid the success of the projects that fall within this program. This will include identifying and overseeing the work of the project managers and ensuring the necessary steps are being followed. A major responsibility of a program manager is to envision the requirements and the support required for the long-term growth of the business. They create blueprints and plans that define the budgets, schedules, tentative dependencies and possible roadblocks. But, instead of creating a blueprint on a project level, they create it on the organizational level taking into account the multiple projects that, together, comprise the program. Even though program managers don't oversee each project, they are responsible for its success as well as for building the company's brand.Responsibilities Of Program ManagersResponsibilities Of Project ManagersFocus on long-term goals of the organizationFocus on short-term goals of the organizationCreate strategies to help with the success of multiple projectsCreate strategies to help with optimizing the team and running a project smoothlyHave a direct say on the monetary decisions of programsHave a limited say in the monetary performance and the organization’s balance sheetDespite having varied daily responsibilities, both managers need to work hand-in-hand and collaborate closely in order to be efficient. Listed below are some tools for both managers to benefit from using similar techniques.Dashboards:Dashboards are crucial to understanding the status and the progression of the project. They provide an overview of the entire project and its details at a glance, as well as help with accountability.Templates:Templatizing work could minimize the time to do the initial tasks by a great deal. As many projects have similar requirements, reinventing the cycle every single time is a counter-productive activity that can be done away with. By building on the template that was previously used, teams can adopt the successes from the previous projects.Collaboration:Every project will involve multiple assets, spreadsheets, emails and communication. Keeping track of all these things could get daunting. It will be helpful for the team as well as the program and project managers if communication is maintained in a single, easily accessible thread.Program Manager vs. Project Manager SkillsBoth program managers and project managers require certain key skills to excel in their role.Skills Of a Program Manager:To lead large-scale initiatives and achieve business success, program managers need to have certain skills.Resource Management: To optimize resource allocation across several projects that may be running in parallel, program managers need to have exceptional skills in identifying and allocating resources. They should have backup plans in place for every contingency and should also be able to plan for mitigating possible risks if any should arise.Analytical Skills:Huge amounts of data are created over the lifecycle of a program. A program manager should know how to collate this data and analyze it to make informed financial, statistical and operational decisions.Tools And Techniques:Program managers need to know their way around the most appropriate tools and techniques to support the program over its entire life cycle, including.Negotiation:It is crucial for a program manager to have good negotiation skills and the ability to make the stakeholders see the value of their vision. They need to be able to sell their ideas and get the program up and running.Goal Mapping: Program managers must be able to break down the goals and mark achievement of milestones that can track the progress of work.Process Planning:A program manager needs to spell out the flow required and define the processes to close the program or the project successfully.Skills Of a Project Manager:To be a successful project manager and have a smooth-functioning team, project managers need to have these skills. Leadership SkillsA project manager is, first and foremost, a good leader who must be able to put project plans into action. This skill will allow a project manager to analyze the team and understand their strengths and weaknesses, so they can be assigned tasks accordingly. A good leader motivates and inspires the team to perform better than their best.  Communication SkillsCommunication skills are key to building a collaborative team where everyone is on the same page and supports each other toward achieving common goals. This will create a safe environment to address problems and keep the project progress on track. Risk Management and Planning Skills Risk management and contingency planning are necessary to keep projects moving ahead, despite having challenges and hurdles. This will help project managers avoid last-minute scrambles and potential problems that can derail the project.  Organizational SkillsWithout multi-layered planning, project managers cannot have a successful project. Projects demand detailed planning, and it is crucial for managers to be extremely organized. They need to plan timelines, track progress, allocate budgets, document metrics, coordinate with the team members, and program managers. Skills of a Program ManagerSkills of a Project ManagerResource ManagementLeadership SkillsWork with various tools and techniquesCommunication SkillsNegotiationRisk Management and Planning SkillsGoal MappingOrganizational SkillsProcess Planning and Analytical SkillsProgram Manager vs. Project Manager Job Outlook and SalaryProgram Manager vs. Project Manager Job Outlook and SalaryProject Managers and Program managers typically earn anything between $50,000 to$100,000. The higher end of the range, of course, comes to those managers with additional qualifications and certifications.What Role Is Right for Your Team?Although the project management and program management domains differ significantly, both roles are essential to providing a seamless experience for customers.  Regardless of what type of project or program you are executing, the end goal should be to successfully deliver the products and services within time, within budget and to the highest quality possible. With the right knowledge, tools and strategies, this is achievable.   If you’re looking to start a career as a project or program manager, you must consider where your skills lie, and adopt the right planning strategies to steer your teams to success. To accelerate your career in either of these fields, check out our courses here.
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