Software & Apps

What Is a Network Diagram

Network Diagram Overlay On Woman Holding A Tablet

A project comprises many general and umbrella activities that need to be completed during specific project phases. While most of these activities are rather short-natured and easy to implement, it can be arduous to keep track of them without proper visualization.

Quick Answer

A network diagram is a visual representation of the activities in a certain project. It enables easier management and aids the managing party in understanding their plan better. Furthermore, it also shows each activity’s interaction with others.

A network diagram is much more than a simple sketch or a doodle. Instead, it is a systematic approach that’s mainly used to understand the project on a more general level thoroughly.

In this guide, I will be showing you the network diagram’s generic uses and implementations in a large-scale environment, along with its common types and their definitions. 

Network Diagrams: Common Types

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A network diagram is much more than a one-dimensional concept. Therefore, it can have many use cases, each with its version of this methodology’s implementation. 

That being said, the generic network diagram can be split into two types – both of which are mentioned right below:

Type #1: Logical Network Diagrams

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As the name might suggest, the logical network diagrams focus more on the overall linkages between the project modules. It determines how a system is supposed to work under normal conditions. 

While it does not go into extreme details, it still does a great job of blueprinting the entire project. The most common use case for this type of network diagram is within client-server architectures e.g, the Open Systems Interconnection model. 

Type #2: Physical Network Diagrams

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Compared to the logical network diagrams, this type focuses more on the physical modules by mapping out how the arrangement is supposed to pan out. This type of network diagram focuses more on the intricacies of the project. 

For example, you could expect even the most menial wires to be mapped out when looking at a physical network diagram. Luckily, they’re not that hard to make but can still aid in providing a top-down view of the entire project. 

Creating Network Diagrams

The only requirement for making network diagrams is the availability of the entire data set for the project. In essence, you would need the basic knowledge of how everything is supposed to pan out. That being said, there are two basic ways of representing a network diagram: 

Model #1: Arrow Diagramming Method

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As the name suggests, an arrow diagramming approach is simply a way of determining the optimal sequence of events and any possible interconnectivity with the help of arrows and circles. It’s essentially used to determine the critical path of an activity diagram.

This critical path determines the possible points where any delay can affect the entire project. Consequently, any addition of resources in such tasks can boost the project. You would need to have the relevant data to sketch everything out. 

Model #2: Precedence Diagramming Method

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The precedence diagramming method uses nodes and boxes to visualize tasks in a project. It’s generally used following the arrow diagramming method, eventually creating nested “finish-start” relationships between nodes

This means that an activity’s starting and ending times can depend on the previous activity. By formulating this finish-start relationship, you can essentially map out the entire flow of every activity. 

To sum it up, you can represent the following relationships in a PDM:

  • Start – Start: A starting point of an activity is linked with the starting point of another activity.
  • Finish – Finish: The ending of activity has a relationship with the ending point of another activity. 
  • Start – Finish: The starting point of the predecessor activity is directly linked with the ending point of the current one. 
  • Finish – Start: An activity cannot be initiated unless the previous one is complete. 
Note

The Finish – Start is the most commonly used relationship in day-to-day network diagrams. For example, the boiler will not start unless the loading process is finished. Therefore, such links lie under the jurisdiction of the Finish – Start relation.

General Uses of Network Diagrams

Now that you’ve gotten yourself familiar with the concept of Network Diagrams, it’s time we look at their real-life uses. That being said, some of the most prominent ones are mentioned right below:

  • Tracking: To keep note of every component of an ongoing project or task. 
  • Documentation: Helps summarize an entire mechanism in one concise picture. 
  • Troubleshooting: Having a blueprint accounts for easier diagnosis and access to the root problem. 
  • Communication: Can be sent to relevant stakeholders and vendors to give a summarized overview.
  • Introducing Changes: Aids heavily during presentations of large-scale infrastructure changes and vice versa. 
  • Coordination: A concise visual is extremely useful in professional coordination between firms and organizations.

That being said, a network diagram isn’t limited to professional use cases. Rather, it can also be used in day-to-day tasks. For example, it can aid in making an efficient timetable for your daily chores. 

Conclusion

All in all, a network diagram is a method of visualizing all the tasks in a given project. It’s generally used to find a project’s critical path, which leads to effective management. Furthermore, the network diagram is readily used in professional capacities. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do you read a Network Diagram?

The boxes in a network diagram represent tasks, whereas the arrows or the linkages indicate dependencies between the mentioned tasks. The easiest method of reading a network diagram is by focusing on the nodes and their dependencies. 

Are Network Diagrams limited to two types?

No, there are many types available when it comes to network diagrams. However, most of them are specialized for certain use cases. Therefore, the most generalized forms can be counted on a single hand.

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