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Invitation to Learn More About the College of Scheduling

If you’d like to learn what’s happening at the College as we grow, please email our VP of Communications, Rick Moffat, at  mailto:rmoffat@moffatpartners.com, to be added to our email list and receive notices of upcoming events

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Volunteer to Serve

If you’d like to volunteer to serve the College as either a director or committee member, please contact our Director of Volunteers, Ronny Warren, at mailto:rwarren@pmccompany.com

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Tips and Tricks: Does Your Schedule Pass the Test?

How do you know whether your schedule is good or not? The following are a few tests to see if your CPM schedule is up to par. If you have additional tests that you like, please provide them in the comments. The idea is to collect rules of thumb for identifying good schedules and eliminating bad ones. Here are half a dozen tests to try out on your next schedule:

Test 1: Does the ‘Total Float’ sort or ‘Longest Path’ filter identify a reasonable critical path for the project?

With multiple calendars, the total float/early start sort may not identify the critical path. Some software offers a Longest Path filter to work around this problem. Make sure the longest path is reasonable. Then check the reasonableness of near critical paths. [If you’re using the Longest Path filter, you may have to make a copy of the schedule and start deleting logic ties so that near critical paths show up when the Longest Path filter is rerun]. If the critical path and near critical paths are reasonable, you’re off to a good start.

Test 2: Do any activities have too much float?

Run a total float sort and examine the activities with the most float. Activities with too much float may indicate missing logic ties or logic ties that have been overridden by reporting out-of-sequence progress when updating. Add logic ties, if necessary, to insure that float durations are reasonable and correctly model the current plan.

Test 3: Do any activities have planned durations greater than the update cycle?

Ideally, project activities should be planned at a level of detail so that activity durations are equal to or less than the update cycle [with certain project specific exceptions]. Thus, if a schedule is being updated monthly, planned durations should be 30 calendar days or less. This means that each activity will be in progress for no more than a single update cycle, unless it is behind schedule. By using shorter activities, remaining duration estimates are both easier to make and more accurate, resulting in better status reports for upper management and the project team.

Test 4: Are there any unnecessarily long gaps in workflow when grouping activities by Work Area and sorting by Early Start/Early Finish?

Take a look at an early start/early finish sort grouped by work area, department or phase to get a feel for workflow and resource requirements. Long gaps in an area or phase may indicate less than ideal workflow requiring adjustment of preferential logic ties to create a better plan. In most cases, once work begins in a particular area or on a particular phase of the project, the schedule should allow work to continue uninterrupted in that area or on that phase until it is complete.


Test 5: Are there activities with unnecessary user-assigned constraints?

Since user-assigned constraints override the network logic in calculating early/late dates and float, they should be used sparingly on a project, if at all. A better approach is to use activity durations and network logic to accurately model the project and eliminate constraints. Consider either (1) printing out a constraints listing or (2) running a filter selecting constrained activities. Once you’ve identified all the constraints in the network, you can begin removing them.

Test 6: Are remaining duration estimates accurate?

Too often on a project, remaining duration estimates are automatically generated by reporting activity percents complete at each update. First, make sure that any automatic software link between remaining duration and percent complete is turned off. Next, make sure that every time the schedule is updated, the people responsible for getting the work done provide the remaining durations for activities in progress. Without accurate remaining duration estimates, no downstream dates or contingency times (float) will be accurate, making the schedule a candidate for printing on softer paper.

Try these tests on your project and let us know what you find. And, add your own tips and tricks to the comments below. Good luck and happy scheduling!

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A Couple of Thoughts on Forensic Schedule Analysis

by Stuart Ockman

First, a little perspective. These thoughts are in response to articles and talks in the last several years suggesting that part of an expert’s role is to select the methodology that produces the best results for its client.

Here goes: While scheduling of live projects is an art, forensic scheduling is a science. If it were an art, it would not be accepted by Courts and Boards throughout North America and around the globe.

A properly performed forensic schedule analysis is both logical and repeatable. I know this to be true because a few times in my career the expert on each side of a claim reached the same conclusion. So what happened in the couple hundred other disputes? The opposing ‘expert’ either used the wrong methodology or used the right methodology but employed flawed logic.

While there may indeed be nine or more different scheduling methodologies that have been ‘accepted’ over the years as outlined in AACEi’s RP-29, that does not mean that all of these methods are reliable. It just means that the other side did not have an expert able to rebut these approaches by using a reliable methodology.

It is not an expert’s role to ‘methodology shop’ or pick the approach that gives the best result for the client, even if that result is wrong. That’s not just irresponsible but enters the realm of malpractice and risks running afoul of the False Claims Act or incurring other legal sanctions. Instead, an expert must use the best, most accurate methodology available and must use it consistently on all schedule-related claims. Any best methodology must chronologically compare a reasonable plan to what actually happened on the project and adjust the plan to reflect the impact of each controlling delay. Accepted methodologies that meet these criteria are Time Impact Analysis and Windows Analysis. If you’re currently using a different approach on any of your projects, take a look at the literature [one excellent source is Construction Scheduling: Preparation, Liability, and Claims by Wickwire, Driscoll, Hurlbut and Groff] or give me a call. I’d love to chat with you. And, please consider joining us at the College in spreading this and many other messages related to achieving excellence in scheduling throughout the industry and the world.

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