Network diagrams in project management — definition, types, and benefits

Woman using a network diagram to manage projects

In the world of project management, staying organized and effectively managing complex tasks can be a daunting challenge. This is where a network diagram can come to the rescue.

What is a network diagram in project management?

A network diagram serves as a visual representation of project tasks, their relationships, and the flow of activities. Network diagrams provide a visual roadmap, highlighting critical paths and allowing project teams to identify dependencies, analyze project timelines, and optimize resource allocation for successful project execution.

What is a project schedule network diagram in project management?

A project schedule network diagram, also known as a network diagram in project management, is a visual representation of the sequential and logical relationships between tasks within a project. It serves as a project network, presenting activities, their durations, and interdependencies in a graphical format.

By mapping out the relationships between tasks, a project schedule network diagram helps project teams identify critical paths, determine project timelines, and assess the impact of changes on the overall project plan. It provides a comprehensive overview of the project’s structure, facilitating effective communication and coordination among team members and stakeholders.

Types of network diagrams

There are two main types of network diagrams commonly used in project management — the Arrow Diagram Method (ADM) and the Precedence Diagram Method (PDM). We’ll also discuss the Blank Project Network Diagram.

The Arrow Diagram Method (ADM), also known as the Activity Network Diagram or Activity on Arrow, is a graphical technique that represents activities as arrows and nodes to depict their relationships and dependencies. In ADM, the arrows represent activities, and the nodes represent events or milestones. The length of the arrows indicates the duration of each activity, and the arrows’ connections show the logical sequence of activities.

ADM aims to visualize the critical path, identify project constraints, and facilitate project scheduling and resource allocation. It provides a straightforward representation of project activities and their interdependencies.

Arrow Diagram Method (ADM) illustration

The Precedence Diagram Method (PDM), also referred to as the Node Network or Activity on Node, is another type of network diagram used in project management. PDM represents activities as nodes and uses arrows to depict relationships and dependencies. The nodes in PDM represent activities, and the arrows represent dependencies between them.

Unlike ADM, PDM focuses on the relationships between activities rather than their durations. PDM allows for flexibility in managing complex projects with multiple dependencies, as it can handle different types of relationships such as finish-to-start, start-to-start, finish-to-finish, and start-to-finish. It helps in determining the critical path, optimizing project schedules, and identifying potential bottlenecks or areas of risk.

Precedence Diagram Method (PDM) illustration

Additionally, there is the Blank Project Network Diagram, which serves as a template for creating custom network diagrams specific to a particular project. It provides a blank canvas where project managers can visualize and organize the activities, milestones, and dependencies relevant to their projects.

This type of network diagram is typically used for unique or specialized projects that require a tailored approach to planning and scheduling. It allows project teams to create a customized graphical representation that aligns with the specific requirements and characteristics of the project at hand.

Blank Project Network Diagram Method (BPNDM) illustration

Benefits of a network diagram

A network diagram offers many benefits that may vary depending on the specific project and its requirements. The following list encompasses the most common advantages that a network diagram provides:

Use a project network diagram with the right software

Using a project network diagram with the right software can revolutionize the way your team plans, tracks, and organizes tasks within a project. A network diagram in project management provides a comprehensive visual representation of project dependencies and critical paths, enabling effective project management from start to finish.

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Additional reading

To keep improving your project management skills, learn how to use PERT in project management.