One of the foundations for successful project management is to start with the right schedule. The devil is not in the detail.... it is in the schedule!! Always check the schedule. The subjective view of someone in the project team which in itself is open to inconsistency is often based on their personal assessment of what the ‘right’ schedule looks like and whether a particular schedule is good enough, there are better options:
The PMI Practice Standard for Scheduling includes a conformance scoring system that allows schedules to be rated for conformance with accepted good practice. This version of the Standards allows assessors to assess whether a schedule uses (ie contains) a component correctly, not the way it is utilised (ie, its usefulness). To purchase a copy of the PMI Practice Standard for Scheduling go to our books page.
The DCMA 14 Point schedule assessment: see WP1088 (required by the USA government). More comprehensive guidance on creating and maintaining a schedule is included in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Schedule Assessment Guide which supports the scheduling concepts introduced in the Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide.
Effective analytical tools are available to automate the checking process. These tools reverse engineer schedules created in a range of software tools and check for errors and inconsistencies. Some of the better options include:
- Acumen Fuse: A powerful analytical tool that integrates with most of the major scheduling tools: http://www.deltek.com/products/ppm/schedule/acumen-fuse Acumen is a comprehensive analysis and correction tool that includes:
- Schedule Quality Assurance: Set your own metrics and thresholds to use as a benchmark against future plans or status updates.
- Performance Evaluation & Schedule Acceleration: Identify potential problems while there is still time for recovery and automatically generate scenarios to get your project back on track, or even ahead of schedule!
- Schedule Comparison & Forensic Analysis: Fuse can compare an unlimited number of schedule updates and identify not only the differences but the impact of those changes.
- Customization: Evaluate schedule, cost, risk, earned value and performance using a combination of Acumen-specific and industry-standard metrics, all customizable to meet your project’s specific needs.
- Project Reporting: Quickly generate reports on quality, performance, or status of the project from Fuse. Even use the API to automatically publish these reports to 3rd party applications, the web, or Microsoft Sharepoint.
- Acumen Cloud™ is a web-based schedule benchmarking utility built directly into Fuse that gives you the power to compare your Fuse diagnostics results to other similar projects in terms of size and/or nature.
- Acumen 360 gives you the ability to create schedule scenarios that accelerate time frames and recover delays.
- Schedule Analyzer: For Primavera P3 or P6, detailed analysis and expert recommendations with a wide range of capabilities and reports for schedule maintenance add the eForensic package for forensic analysis - http://scheduleanalyzer.com
- Schedule Inspector: Barbecana’s Schedule Inspector does 30 different tests on your schedule, including all 14 points in the Defense Contract Management Agency's (DCMA's) assessment guide for Microsoft Project 2007 or later schedules, plus many others including: redundant relationships, out-of-sequence progress, connectivity index (ratio of relationships to tasks), and resources or relationships on summary tasks - www.barbecana.com
- SCRAM - Schedule Compliance Risk Assessment Methodology: SCRAM is an approach for identifying risks to compliance with program schedule, i.e. SCRAM can be used for the assessment and improvement of schedule risk compliance. Unlike the options above, SCRAM uses an assessment team to review all aspects of the schedule's development (people and process as well as technical conformance) - http://www.scramsite.org
Assessing the 'usefulness' of a schedule is more complex, a good starting point is for managers to ask the right questions, our article: Testing Schedule Quality: Why do so many organisations and clients accept bad schedules? suggests five key questions to ask.
The APM Planning SIG’s scheduling maturity model can also help to providing an objective, consistent method for firstly establishing what attributes the ‘right’ schedule should have and then for assessing an individual schedule against this standard. Available from: https://www.apm.org.uk/books