Project Scheduling

Linking Budget and Schedule – it’s a Challenging Task

One of the first principles of project controls is that the project budget has to be time-phased over the duration of the project. Here’s why: It’s not enough to simply know the total budget for a project – it’s critical to also know when that budget is planned to be spent. In other words, each quantity of material, labor hour or subcontractor service that’s planned for the project, is planned to occur at a particular time on the project. Some of these budget items happen over a time-span – like a service – and some happen at a point-in-time – like the delivery of some material. Together, all of these budget elements result in a budget timeline. That timeline is typically represented by a curve that plays-out over the life of the project. See the chart to the right. Click to Enlarge. S-Curve chart showing Budget over timeline along with Actuals, Earned Value and Estimate to Complete. There is more than one way to time-phase a budget of course.  Nevertheless, what project controllers most often do to put their budget on a timeline, is establish a healthy connection between the project budget and project schedule. In theory, this should be a fairly straightforward exercise since both budget and schedule have a work breakdown structure (WBS) in common.  As you’ve probably guessed however, theory is just theory and in reality it’s not that simple. Schedulers have a very distinct view of a project’s WBS as compared to estimators or cost engineers. Schedulers view the project from the perspective of activities, duration, milestones, dependencies and critical path. Their version of a WBS includes things like milestone tasks, progressing tasks and events. Things that

New Live-Link with Microsoft Project

  Get Real-Time Schedule and Cost Synchronization   Press Release To view the original press release, please click here: http://www.prweb.com/releases/4castplus-scheduling-2013/03/prweb10527903.htm   The new 4castplus real-time integration with Microsoft Project brings seamless, One-Touch connectivity between cost and schedule. With a fully cost-loaded schedule that includes budget, actual costs, work progress and earned value metrics, project managers achieve complete project control.   Time and Cost on any project are the two biggest factors influencing a successful outcome. The 4castplus Microsoft Project Live-Link brings this harmonious relationship to a whole new level.   Calgary, Alberta March 19, 2013 4castplus today announced the release of the highly anticipated Live-Link with Microsoft Project. With the new Project Live-Link, project managers can make time and cost changes on the fly, then synchronize budget and schedule in a single click. Many companies large and small depend on MS Project for critical project scheduling activities. They also depend on 4castplus for critical project cost management software solutions. These can now be combined together in a live synchronization to enable the best of both worlds.   There’s no single software solution on the market that can do an effective job of managing project schedule and project costs all in the same tool. With the new Microsoft Project Live-Link from 4castplus, both are now integrated in a highly-connected real-time environment. Organizations can finally eliminate the cluster of wasteful spreadsheets and the need to copy data from one place to the next. Both 4castplus and Microsoft Project can be open at the same time and changes are updated in real-time.   Even without MS Project, 4castplus merges budget with schedule to deliver planned value vs. actual cost vs. earned value on a real-time basis. 4castplus, however, can't

Practical Progress Reporting

  Here in the real world of Contract Employees it is very common to arrive on a project when it is part-way through.  For those with experience in Planning and Scheduling, you’ll identify with my statement that getting the best out of your software is part art, part science.  It sucks to pick up on someone else’s planning work and try to figure out their mental processes to fully understand how their schedule operates.  But that’s a blog for another time. For this blog – There I was, new on the project, still feeling my way around the schedules and the people, and one of our main contractors presented me with an MS Project schedule that was worth less than toilet paper.   I’d had no time to familiarise myself with the history of the project, no real chance to understand the personalities I was dealing with, but enough time to know that my predecessor had left a mess and it was now MY job to clean it up and make it work. There was just not enough time available for me to ease into the system, and the shutdown was fast approaching, so I had to wade into the team members with my steel-toe boots and hope for the best.  I called a meeting to lay out my expectations, needs and boundaries regarding the planning and scheduling for the rest of the project.  The people I brought into this meeting were: Our construction manager Our 2 lead superintendants The construction managers of our main contractors The planners of our main contractors Our Client’s construction manager Our Client’s project manager Our Client’s planner Before calling the meeting, I briefly discussed my intention with my construction manager

Got projects going over budget?

You're Not Alone. Project cost overruns are common. Statistics will tell you that over 85% of projects go over budget. But Why? What are the mechanics behind project cost overruns and project schedule delays? Plenty of talented and experienced professionals engage in dialog about this very topic every day, and try to arrive at conclusions about how to stop projects from going over budget. In this article I’d like to shed some light on the underlying workings as to the root causes of cost overruns and schedule delays. In order to tackle the problem of how to eliminate overruns, it’s important to understand the main reasons why they happen. Obviously, there’s no one-sentence answer to these questions since every project is unique and the influences that trigger overruns can vary tremendously. Luckily, however, there’s been quite a bit of research and experimentation around this exact problem - since it is a pervasive issue that so many businesses, large and small, struggle with. As a result, there have emerged some key factors we can point to that are the major contributors to projects going over budget and suffering schedule delays. A lot of project managers and business owners have their own theories; and after a good deal of listening and reading, many will have you believe that it all comes down to one thing: Project Changes. Technically speaking project changes are arguably the biggest contributor to projects going over budget and blowing schedule deadlines, but for the purposes of this discussion, let’s leave Change and Change Management out of it. I’m saying that because I don’t believe changes are truly the root cause of cost overruns. I believe that if you approach a project anticipating that

Mr. Doe Plans Everything in his Head

Mohamed El-Mehalawi, PhD, PMP Here is real story. A company that specializes in large project manufacturing has many planners and schedulers on staff. They plan and schedule engineering and procurement activities based on the information they get internally from engineering and procurement departments. They schedule manufacturing on the other hand, based on the information delivered from their vendors: since vendor information is as reliable as internal information. Both of these project types are estimated using gut feel rather than any estimating tool or empirical method, and for a long time this practice had worked fine. All of this, by the way, is based on project manufacturing which means that every product is unique.   One particularly happy customer that had received their product went on to ask for 100 more units exactly the same as the first one; and for those next 100 units to be delivered within one year. The situation then became quite different.  Does that look like they were moving into a mass production organization or what! Nevertheless, the planners and schedulers continued to follow the same estimating procedure and asked the vendor who manufactured the first unit if they were in fact able to manufacture the 100 units within one year; despite the fact that they had spent 7 months to produce the first one. The vendor of course without reluctance answered that they were capable of producing the 100 units within the required timeframe.   The project manager was smart enough to say, “That’s hard to believe. I need some facts and numbers to assure the organization that we will deliver on time.” He brought a scheduler with vendor relations and manufacturing engineering background to investigate the situation. Amazingly, the

Kids Define Management, Planning, and Scheduling

Ty is a successful project manager by profession and volunteers as a youth community leader for most of his off-work hours. He decided to make a youth get-together once a week for his kids and their friends. The ultimate goal was to have the boys socialize among a group of kids of similar ages and challenges. Ty told the kids that they needed to brainstorm what to do every week to keep the get-together attractive and enjoyable for everyone. They agreed that they would have a weekly topic to be suggested, and its discussion to be moderated by one of them. The person that suggested a topic was to be prepared by reading and researching about the topic, which was then to be used to challenge the rest of the group. Another activity they agreed upon was to have a weekly lunch together in different places - some of which might even be out of town, in a park, or on a boat to break-up any kind of monotony. They decided also that the cost of every meeting should not exceed fifteen dollars per person.   Everyone agreed to these two activities. Then, Ty asked them to create a timetable which was to be used to assign which two of the kids would be responsible for the activities for each of the weeks. One would prepare a topic and the other would arrange for the lunch. They grabbed a calendar and started to put names with responsibilities for every Sunday.   In this simple situation, where is management, planning, and scheduling?   Here, Ty directs different resources (the kids) and harmonizes their interactions with him and with each other to accomplish the goal of socializing