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Navigating Project Control: Mapping Dependencies and Avoiding Bottlenecks

Project dependencies come into existence when one task in a project is dependent on the other, a project shares the same resources for a task, and some constraints can impact the task progress in a project.


To be honest, almost every project has the above three factors present. There is a flow of tasks that needs to be followed, one resource is working on two or more tasks, and there are external and internal project factors that you need to manage to keep the project on track.

Thus, you have to forcefully think and plan the tasks, allocate resources, and manage schedules to deal with all of these project dependencies.

Navigating the project control is all about understanding these dependencies. It is done by mapping on a chart. This helps you visualize them clearly to avoid potential bottlenecks.

In this post, we will learn how to map dependencies and look for strategies to avoid bottlenecks.


The Significance of Dependencies in Project Management

Dependencies in project management talk about how one entity impacts the other. That entity can be a task, resource, or project constraint. Dependencies in project management help you identify how these factors can impact the progress of the project.

For example, a project has five tasks: A, B, C, D, and E. The beginning of task B is dependent on the completion of task A. This is task dependency. However, task C can be started before the completion of task A.

In this case, suppose the resource allocated to task A is the only one that can perform task C. Thus, despite task C not being dependent on task B and task A, it cannot be started till the completion of task A because of resource dependency.

Similarly, you can understand the project constraint dependency by assuming that the equipment required to complete the task is available only for a limited time. This is a project constraint. Thus, you need to start and complete task C in the timeframe for which equipment is available.

Knowing these dependencies helps you plan your project better according to the constraints to complete it within time and budget.


How to map dependencies and avoid bottlenecks?

There are a few simple steps that you need to follow to map the dependencies in a project. Have a look at them:


Identifying Project Dependencies

The first step is to identify the project dependencies. The best way to do this is to break a project into tasks, add the start date and end date of each task, and assign an owner to each task.

The process is done systematically using the work breakdown structure (WBS). It involves breaking a project into phases and then further breaking down a phase into tasks where each task is further broken down into activities.

This will give you a clear idea of what you need to do and how much time it will take to do each activity. This will help you identify the key dependencies.


Documenting Dependencies

To document dependencies, you need to visualize them on dependency mapping tools. There are various dependency mapping tools that you can use to create project dependencies maps such as network diagrams, Gantt charts, and dependency diagrams.

Irrespective of the tool you use, key elements of the dependency map will remain the same. However, each tool offers additional elements to make it distinctive from others.

Key elements of a dependency map include:

  • Nodes: Nodes represent the tasks in a project.
  • Arrows: Arrows represent the dependencies. The direction of the arrow indicates the direction of the dependency.
  • Timeline: A timeline depicts the information of the sequence of the tasks.
  • Label: Labels include the information related to the tasks such as task owner, dependency information, or any relevant information.

This will help you visualize and document dependencies for your project.

Project management tools like ProofHub can be a great asset to manage them effectively.

The tool offers Gantt charts, which are a popular dependency mapping tool. You can easily create tasks, set dependencies between them, and visualize the overall project flow.


Monitoring Dependencies

Monitoring dependencies is all about making sure that project dependencies are followed as per the plan and that there are no discrepancies. It includes comparing the actual progress of the tasks to the planned progress.

If there are any discrepancies between the two, you need to evaluate how it impacts the project schedule and measures to take to get the project back on track.

Depending on the criticality of the dependency, failure of one project dependency can lead to overstretching the project budget and deadline and sometimes project failure.


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Strategies to Avoid Bottlenecks: Proactive Project Management

Dependency mapping provides you with the knowledge of how each dependency will affect the overall project. But bottlenecks can still occur and you have to avoid them.

Here are strategies in project management that can help you avoid bottlenecks:


1. Risk Planning and Management   

Document each dependency, create a risk register, categorize risks, and design a mitigation plan for each risk using document management software. This will help you better prepare to deal with project risks by having all risk information centralized and easily accessible in the software.


2. Actively Track the Baseline

The baseline is the snapshot of the original project plan on a dependency map. Track the actual project progress to find out the deviation from the planned progress. Take swift measures to get the project on track.


3. Create Milestones

Set milestones for a project and allocate the budget and time for the project according to the milestones. This will help you ensure that you are not spending too much time and money on one particular phase of the project.


I hope by following these steps, you can effectively map dependencies and avoid bottlenecks in your project, ensuring a smoother and more efficient execution of the project plan.