Frequently Asked Question (FAQ)
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General questions about the HCP Method
What is the HCP method?
The HCP (Hidden Critical Paths) method (registered patent) was developed by Tal Levanon in the early 2000s. Using this method, the task network is mapped by its paths and analyzed according to the paths (and not tasks).
Each path has its path duration: the path duration will be the total workdays required for the path. Note: when counting the path workdays – a workday is counted only if it has at least one defined task.
The HCP critical path is the longest path in the network.
Every shorter path receives a path Duration Slack (DS) definition or HCP slack, which is the difference between the HCP critical path duration (the longest one) and the duration of this path. For instance, critical paths according to HCP will have DS=0, whereas each Hidden Critical Path will have DS>0.
In every project, the HCP critical paths and the hidden critical paths are composed of mostly dozens or hundreds of tasks that do not necessarily appear in the traditional critical path of the CPM method, making them hard to identify.
What is a Hidden Critical Path?
A hidden critical path is a sequence of tasks in the schedule that is only slightly shorter in duration than the longest path in the project.
The definition hidden critical path’s duration slack (DS) is the difference between the HCP critical path duration (the longest one) and the duration of this path. For instance, HCP critical paths will have DS=0, whereas each Hidden Critical Path will have DS>0.
To prevent risks in the project schedule, these paths must comply with the planned target dates, budget and their content.
What is the difference between HCP and CPM?
CPM calculates task slack (or float) – according to its predecessors and successors.
HCP maps the project network by its paths and calculates each path duration slack.
What is HCP Analysis used for?
- Identifying schedule faults – every error in a schedule happens for a reason. It can happen due to a human error (nobody is perfect and with a schedule of hundreds or thousands of tasks, it is impossible not to forget something…). However, it is more likely, that we had some ‘difficulties’ while creating the schedule which resulted in the error. For every item raised in the HCP report, you need to ask yourself ‘why did this happen?’. The answer that you’ll get – whether by you or from someone else – would either satisfy you and you could explain that the finding is logical and based in reality, or it would give some insight about the Gantt chart and the project, and especially into things that should be changed or handled.
- Opportunities to shorten the schedule – Indeed! When that happens, it is joyful! Surely for us, but even more so for the project manager!
- Hidden schedule risks – the toughest problem in risk management is locating the risks. HCP maps the schedule – so it makes it easy to know which tasks conceal risks: all the tasks in the critical paths (HCP’s and you will add the CPM’s) and hidden critical paths! These tasks bear the largest risks in the project! Now you need to figure, per each task, what is its inherent risk – is it in the content? in the Budget? in its Duration? or maybe in a Special Resource? Now, you need to manage the risk…
- Tasks that require special attention – tasks in the HCP critical path and in the hidden critical paths – it goes without saying.
But beyond that – parallel tasks on the critical paths – require special attention, and also long duration tasks – that are very tough to monitor and control – require special attention!
- Understanding the project structure – as implied by the schedule. The interesting question is: Do the project managers understand the project in the same way it is written in the schedule? The HCP provides a histogram that describes the paths duration distribution. It tells the full story about the project – and it is very easy to understand! Click here for an explanation about the histogram.
Project managers have a certain concept about the project – what its structure should be, what’s more important and what’s less important in the project.
Are these two narrations – the one obtained from schedule by the HCP analysis and the project manager’s concept – identical? If they are – excellent. If they aren’t… Then someone has a mistake! Either the project managers need to understand that the project will be materialized in a different way from what they anticipated, or the schedule should be amended!
- Project success Expectation – the HCP analysis provides a map with a general estimate of the level of project success according to the expectation of meeting the schedule, the scpoe (content) and the budget. All of this – just by mapping the paths in the schedule! For additional details, click here.
Who is HCP Analysis meant for?
- Planning managers
- Project managers
- Property owners/investors/developers
- Stakeholders involved in lawsuits pertaining to schedule issues
Can I use the HCP method in my project?
Yes! When you have an HCP Go license, you can independently run HCP analyses in your MS Project and receive the HCP analysis report about your project within moments.
In case you do not have an HCP Go license, you can run a free HCP analysis that would give you some of the data included in the full report, for one month.
Additionally, you can implement the HCP analysis results in your MS Project Gantt using HCP Go, and see all of the critical and hidden critical paths on your schedule file.
What is HCP Go? | How much does a license cost?
General questions about the HCP report
What is the HCP report?
The HCP report is the direct output of running an HCP Go analysis on your project in MS Project.
The report contains information to better understand your project schedule, and consists of three parts:
- Executive summary:
Contains a map for evaluating project success that displays the expectation of completing the project on time, on spec and on budget (i.e. within time frame, including all work content and within the budget). Additionally, it contains an overall data summary of the Schedule Integrity analysis and HCP Critical Path analysis.
- Schedule Integrity analysis:
Displays and details schedule errors and problems.
- Critical path analysis using HCP:
Details the HCP critical and hidden critical paths, paths histogram and the important path tasks.
What project management software do you support?
The HCP Go addon was made specifically for MS Project.
If you are using another type of project management system, contact us and we will examine whether or not we can analyze the information using the same format.
What is the cost of HCP Analysis?
We do not charge payment for running a single HCP analysis, but rather for a license period during which the user can run unlimited HCP analyses according to his or her needs using the HCP Go addon. New users also get a one month trial period to use HCP Go – allowing them free HCP analyses that provide some of the data included in the full report.
How can I protect the confidentiality of my project schedule once I upload it?
The files sent to HCP analysis reach Amazon’s secured servers and are protected by their strict safety standards, and earased after 7 days of running the analysis.
In case you are unable to send a file to analysis in light of project information sensitivity, there is a solution:
You can completely erase the names of all tasks from your schedule file prior to running the HCP analysis or, alternatively, change their names – so only you could understand!
The analysis will run smoothly without task names or with special task names that only you can understand. Omitting task names will make it difficult for you to understand the report as it would have no names/descriptions. However, each task in the report has an identifier and WBS, allowing you to know what task it is without requiring a name.
- If you receive the following message after “Run Analysis”:
So there’s a problem with invisible characters in your MS Project file. To solve it, work according to these stages:
- Locating the source of the error in your .xml file:
In the message above, next to Details – it specifies the location of the problematic character in the .xml file. For instance, in this example:
hexadecimal value x0B is an invalid character. Line 411669, position 90.
Clicking Ok will open two instances – the first instance is this message window and the other instance is your browser with the saved .xml file.
Open a freeware text editor, e.g., Notepad++ (https://notepad-plus-plus.org/) and open the .xml file with it:
Now, scroll down to line 411669, position 90 – the location specified in the app message. To go to this line quickly, click Ctrl + G and type the desired line number (the browser will get you there. In our example: 411669).
- Finding the error location in .Project
XML lines refer to the Project field. In this example, you can see that it concerns the Notes field and the invalid character is in position 90. To understand which Project line it is, scroll up until you reach a line that has its identifier and name underneath it:
- Repairing the error in MS Project:
Now all you need to do is go to MS Project – open the notes in the task whose identifier is 650 in our example and repair the invalid character. In our example, it is an invalid XML Ctrl + Enter marking that needs to be replaced with just Enter. And again, Run Analysis in HCP Go.
Generally, when the HCP Go app notifies you of an error when saving to .xml, we know of three methods to try and solve the problem:
- “Simple cleaning” of a Project file:
- Close your Project file.
- Open it – and do nothing but: Save As… and save to a new name.
- Close the file.
- Compare your files sizes – the new file will be much smaller than the original one.
- Testing the .xml file: searching for invisible characters or for the source of the error. The process described above in this section.
- Saving the file as a sub-project – the entire process should be done in detail. It is important to know that all designs and special fields in the project – will be erased…
If these solutions are difficult or complex – contact us and we will be happy to help! firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I save the report as PDF?
Open the flat report in your browser (e.g., Chrome, Edge, Explorer) and send to print, normally by clicking Ctrl + P to select your PDF printer.
If the colors disappeared in the expectation map, histogram and/or there are headers in each page in the PDF – see the next question.
The colors disappeared in my expectation map and/or I have redundant headers at the top and bottom in the PDF, what can I do?
- Click on Tools > Print > Preview
- Click this button (Turn headers and footers on or off (Alt+E)) to cancel headers.
- Open the Page Setup (Alt + U) menu and tick “Print Background Colors and Images”. Click OK.
- Mouse Right-click and select Print, or click Ctrl + P.
- The menu has “More Settings”, open it by clicking the down arrow.
- In Options:
- Cancel Headers and footers
- Select Background graphics
- Mouse Right-click and select Print.
- Scroll down the menu, tick off Inactive under Top and Bottom Headers.
- There is no solution for the issue of lost colors. Maybe you could try a different browser?
How do I implement the HCP results in a Project file?
- To implement the HCP analysis results in your schedule, you need first to “Run Analysis” in your HCP Go addon.
Then, select the “Go” menu in the “Task” toolbar and select “Load HCP Data”. The following instance will open:
Let’s look at these fields:
- Field selection for HCP Task can be found in “Flag” and HCP Slack can be found in “Text”. It is recommended to select the same number for both fields to make it easier, e.g., Flag20 and Text20.
- You can change the names of fields.
- Click OK.
- After clicking OK, the analysis data are updated in the selected fields and the graphic Gantt chart display will include a graphic addition for each hidden critical task (HCP – tiny purple asterisks!)
Now all you need to do is just “manage” the project!