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Critical Path Method

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

What is a critical path?

You need identify a critical path to be able to achieve your marketing goals. There’s no point in cutting both your timelines or your budget too short once you have goals. Make things realistic.

A Critical Path Analysis is a calendar from which to plan all activities in the development stages. It also takes you straight through to implementation. That allows you to understand the key timelines that are required for delivery of the project. If you don’t plan in this way, you may miss a few milestones which will be important for the campaign.

Take a car insurance example. Every single year, there’s a critical point in the year when more people renew their car insurance than others. A lot of the in time, insurance companies want to plan their key campaigns around that cycle. If you haven’t done the key path analysis correctly, you may miss that cycle, and as a consequence, your campaign will go out too late. Now, the problem with that is your competitors get an advantage and can steal your customers. Really, really important that you make sure that you have this planned out robustly.


There’s a couple of different stages to consider when thinking about the critical path of development or methodology.

Specify the individual activities

List out specific individual activities. You can also list the key stakeholders in the organization. What’s really important to do is not to miss out any key stakeholders that can then come back later down the line and actually cause you trouble or delays to the process.

Determine the sequence of those activities

What’s most important that needs to be done at what specific time? There may be a specific time when you need to get certain input from people like compliance or legal departments to ensure that you’re tone of voice or wording is actually spot on. It may be advantageous, however, to actually engage those departments further up the upstream process so it doesn’t get too late and you have to make dramatic changes to your entire campaign.

Draw a network diagram

This helps you to plot out where those key individuals sit within that timeline. It’s also important to understand some of their priorities.

It may be the case that they’re resourceful and unable to help you at a certain point in time within the planning process. You need to understand that at the outset so you can build in those robust time and time plan to be able to then make sure your campaign hits an effective timeline. Remember, it won’t be their issue that they want available, it’s yours to ensure that you plan in a holistic process.

Estimate the complete timeline for each activity

You need to leave a lot of lead time and room because things do happen which will disrupt your timeline. Make sure that you have adequate timeline built in, in case, to overcome some of those issues that may come your way later down the track.

Identify the critical path

This is the longest path through the network. If you don't define your critical path, you may miss out those steps that you need to be able to execute on that campaign.

Update the CPM document

The critical path method (CPM) document needs to be a living and breathing document. By committing to getting regular updates to stakeholders through the document, you can ensure that it’s constantly updated and also everybody knows where they are. Throughout the campaign planning and execution process, it’s absolutely critical that you communicate to all the key stakeholders within the organization.

Consider this example. HSBC were planning a current account campaign. It was absolutely critical that they developed a robust timeline because they had to hit a regulatory deadline to be able to execute the campaign. It was only by defining a key critical path solution that they were able to ensure that they hit the campaign and that it went out the door at the right time.

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Richie Mehta

Ritchie Mehta has had an eight-year corporate career with a number of leading organizations such as HSBC, RBS, and Direct Line Group. He then went on setting up a number of businesses.

Data protection regulations affect almost all aspects of digital marketing. Therefore, DMI has produced a short course on GDPR for all of our students. If you wish to learn more about GDPR, you can do so here:

DMI Short Course: GDPR

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