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Exam technique advice

Network Analysis and Meeting a Key Deadline (Worked Answer to AQA Q3, Paper 3 2018)

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA

Here is a suggested response to the 16-mark question on network analysis in AQA A-Level Business Paper 3 (2018).

The deadline for Jack’s new range is being able to launch, display and sell the range at Crepe City in 25 weeks’ time.

According to the network analysis data in Appendix B, I calculate that the project duration based on the original estimates is 24 weeks, leaving Jack one week spare, with activities ACDEGH on the critical path (i.e. no float). In Jack’s original estimates, neither Activity B nor F were on the critical path, so could be delayed without increasing the 24-week duration.

However, the revised duration for Activity F do change the estimated duration, since Activity F now becomes critical whereas DEG are no longer critical. The effect is to make the estimated duration 25 weeks, meaning that Jack will be cutting it fine to make it to Crepe City!

Of course, Jack needs to remember that these activity durations are estimates and could easily change; after all, Jack is still quite inexperienced in his role as an entrepreneur! For example, if manufacturing (Activity D) were to be delayed by 2 or more weeks, then this would mean that the Crepe City deadline would be missed, assuming other activities were completed as expected. On the other hand, if Jack were able to persuade the manufacturers to speed-up their production (perhaps producing just an initial, smaller quantity to enable the products to be displayed at Crepe City) then this would reduce the project duration and give Jack more chance of meeting the deadline.

Jack wants the full range to be launched at Crepe City and wants everything ready in time for launch. The activity data suggests that he might be more likely to meet the deadline if he scales back some aspects of his plan. For example, a less ambitious website re-design might reduce the duration well below 12 weeks (just for the purposes of Crepe City launch) and it might be that the duration of Activity E could also be reduced by doing a more limited photoshoot for the initial social media activity. Both these two actions would mean it is more likely that Jack will meet the deadline.

As the data stands, things are going to be tight for Jack. Just a small delay in activities on the critical path mean that Jack is less likely to meet the deadline. It might be argued that Crepe City is so important to Hopps for the next year’s performance, that it is likely Jack will take whatever steps are required on activity durations to ensure the deadline is definitely met!

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