How do you figure out percent complete on a project? How is it you go about objectively assigning a reasonable and accurate measurement of how far along you are on an item of work? How many times have you asked, “Hey, where did that number come from?”
Most any manager, VP or director who has to oversee the work of his or her team of project managers has a big worry about this very thing. They know the temptation that exists for a project manager to leverage a little creative license with the numbers to make the project look a little rosier than it is in reality. Customers on the receiving side of a progress draw are equally aware of the tendency to big-up the progress numbers in order to fatten the invoice.
The 4castplus Rules of Credit system is an ideal remedy for managing the subjective nature of applying percent complete on project activities.
What Does “Rules of Credit” Mean?
I’ll admit, it’s not the most elegant or self-explanatory name, but Rules-of-Credit refers to a system by which activities can be progressed on a project. The ‘rules’ refers to the pre-established, agreed-to criteria to be met for determining incremental progress. The ‘credit’ refers to the amount of percent complete to be awarded to the activity once the rules are met. Think of it like, “I will Credit you X% of progress once you complete the work associated to these Rules.” You’ll also hear some people refer to it as “Earning Rules” as well.
The appeal to using this methodology, is that it takes away the subjective nature of awarding progress. Rather than just entering the percent complete, project managers can take any activity and break it down into its sub-activities, and let the progress of those sub-activities determine the percent complete of that parent activity. Each sub-activity is pre-configured with a weighting for how much progress the completion or advancement of that sub-activity will award to the parent. These sub-activities are typically far too granular to be workpackages on the WBS – they’re things like: welds completed, units installed, items delivered, drawings approved, dirt hauled, equipment mobilized, etc. And to alleviate the time-consuming challenges of setting-up those sub-activities in a spreadsheet, the project manager can define the rules of credit in 4castplus, and the system manages the rest.
Milestone or Weighted Steps
When you think about a set of “Rules”, where each rule has a percentage weighting, all the rule weightings together must add-up to 100%. The next thing to consider is how each rule is advanced – so as to increment the percent complete of the parent activity. In 4castplus, there are two methods for progressing rules of credit: Milestone and Weighted Steps. The Milestone rule is the all-or-nothing method where the whole percent of that rule is applied only when the work has been fully completed. Once the work is completed, the milestone can be checked-off as completed and the associated percent will be auto-applied to the parent activity. The Weighted Steps method on the other hand, allows you to gradually advance each rule so that the percent complete trickles forward as the rules themselves are progressed.
Consider the weighted steps rule set in figure 1 below:
Figure 1 – Weighted Steps Progressing
On the bottom third of the screen in figure 1 above, you’ll see 7 steps, starting with “Complete Module Bolt-ups” and finishing with “Install Valves”. You’ll also see the associated weighting in the rightmost column. In the middle columns, you’ll see a Unit Quantity and Rate Type. The quantity value is what is used to progress the rule gradually forward as those units are completed. A Milestone-based rule-set does not have the unit quantity or rate type; but it is otherwise the same.
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How are Rules-of-Credit Progressed?
Each activity in 4castplus can be assigned its own unique “Progressing Method”. There are multiple to choose from and project controllers can determine the best fit based on the type and requirements of the activity. 4castplus provides a number of Progress Methods that automate the advancement of progress on an activity (such as schedule-based, earned-as-planned, VOWD, etc.). Rules of credit progressing can be partially automated, however they typically require someone to mark the rule as complete (in the case of milestone), or advance the units, as in the case of weighted steps. But how and where is this done? The good news is, that 4castplus provides tools to distribute the effort of advancing rules of credit. For example, the Jobsite module in 4castplus has a “Progressing” sub-module that enables field staff to enter production quantities, that represent completed units. Entering production quantities can happen on a daily basis. Additionally, the Progress Measurement module in 4castplus also includes tools to advance both milestone and weighted steps rules. And finally, there is a specialized “Progress Timesheet” where anything can be progressed on a daily or weekly basis.
Rule-Sets – Rules of Credit Templates
Rather than having to create a unique set of rules for each activity, you can pre-configure “Rule-Sets” that can then be selected on the workpackage. This vastly streamlines the effort of applying rules of credit on the work breakdown structure. It also serves to standardize rules-of-credit progressing to a set of standard templates defined for your teams.
Looking back at Figure 1 above, you can see that the “Preconfigured Rules of Credit” option has been selected, which shows the configured rule-sets in the table just below that. In this case,
Submitting Progress Measurements
The “Progress Measurement” in 4castplus is designed to provide project controls professionals a mechanism to iteratively measure the health and progress of the project. It’s like taking a project snapshot on a regular basis, and the system will store vital project information about the project so that you can report on timeline trends from one progress measurement to the next. If you’ve setup your workpackages in 4castplus with progressing methods that automate the advancement of progress, then the effort of determining progress can be significantly reduced. Documents can be uploaded and attached to each rule-of-credit, both when they’re created and as they’re completed. The purpose of the documents is so that project managers can supply documented proof of each completed rules milestone. They can also enter remarks for each milestone.
As part of the progress measurement, the system will automatically calculate all the key EVM metrics to every level of the WBS; and provide a suite of overall metrics for the whole project. For example: Cost Variance, Estimate to Complete, CPI, SPI, Estimate at Complete, Variance at Complete, Planned Value, Earned Value and much more.
Achieving an accurate, objective measurement of percent complete on a project is one of the most critical tasks for project controls professionals. It is tremendously time-consuming if you don’t have a system in place to do the majority of the grunt work for you. At 4castplus, we get this challenge, and it’s core to the system’s functioning to provide the necessary tools to allow project managers and project controllers to get accurate, detailed analysis on all their projects and programs in single-click reports, charts and dashboards.