Insuring program success: implementing advanced schedule management in your organization

James D. Quilliam, PhD
Project Manager, Tecolote Research Inc.

Abstract

In the quest to shape future project management concepts through innovative management capabilities this guided lecture/forum will discuss ways that the Advanced Schedule Management (ASM) methodology will provide a powerful framework for implementing advanced schedule management concepts into your organization. This approach will focus on the implementation of four primary tenets; schedule development, advanced schedule analysis, schedule management reviews, and a schedule management operations center (war room).

Introduction

This proven model will show you the steps you can take to infuse these integrated management processes to enhance organizational effectiveness. It will also help executive leadership and management teams identify strategic priorities for the future and to achieve a best practice Schedule Management infrastructure to insure the attainment of successful programs.

Advanced Schedule Management

Exhibit 1. Advanced Schedule Management

The Advanced Schedule Management (ASM) approach listed in Exhibit 1 is the culmination of support and intuitive consultation in schedule management over the past several years. The core aspect of the overall (ASM) methodology will first examine the importance and development of a master program plan. The second is the implementation of an advanced custom schedule analysis process. This process includes the evolution of a teaming/mentorship approach geared for custom schedule analysis. The third is the implementation of a formal schedule management review process. The focus of this review process is on the key program-to-program or program-to-stakeholder high impact interdependencies. The forth and final tenet is the establishment of a schedule management operations center or “war room”. This facilitates the visibility and formality for communicating the achievement of successful deliverables and products for programs.

As the ASM four phased approach is implemented it will encourage commitment to the primary tenets of schedule management and will help foster the implementation and integration of each of these phases into the organizations day-to-day business model. It will also foster the support from organizational leaders to help achieve program objectives. Phase I defines schedule development, Phase II defines advanced schedule analysis, Phase III defines the formal schedule management review process, and Phase IV defines the steps for a schedule management operation center. Let's now examine the details of each of these four phases.

Schedule Development

Comprehensive Master Plan

Identify Program Stakeholders

In this first phase the primary focus in on the development of a comprehensive program office master plan or integrated master schedule (IMS). The focus of this plan is from a high level program level perspective to parse out the major milestones and key decision points from respective project schedules. This plan is truly comprehensive in that it not only includes the various sub-contractor and contractor team's key activities, but also includes the respective known statkeholders and external agency high level activities. This allows the overall program office to develop a risk assessed plan that includes all the known key activities that will need to be accomplished on the program. This plan would represent all the known program segments so that each stakeholder, sub-contractor, supplier, external agency is represented and has their own unique set of key activities that area being tracked and reported. The comprehensiveness of this plan insures the awareness of the known interrelated key program activities (interdependencies) and key salient activities. It also allows the program to create a program plan that includes program contingency for known risk areas.

Current Realistic Program Dates

This comprehensive master plan should reflect the program office's realistic representation of approved program dates. It also should include the current work in progress dates and activities that are proactively captured from ongoing program status reviews, technical interchange meetings, working groups and Senior. leader direction.

Dedicated Schedule Integration Leads

One of the important aspects of the schedule development phase is the need for dedicated and capable schedule integration leads. These leads become the resident experts to gather data, analyze changes, and report impacts to the program leadership and overall program community. They also become the dedicated focal point for the program and project officers for the configuration control of the schedule management data. It also provides the continuity and objectivity to infuse schedule capability with a standard approach for templates, processes, and an understanding of the project management culture for an unbiased independent analysis. This data then can be directly linked to the schedule management review process.

Outcome metrics

In any schedule management function it becomes important to establish a set of metrics that measure the value of the schedule management support. For this metric data to be useful and meaningful it should show in quantifiable terms the savings and dollar impact this support has had in uncovering risk to the program. I have found that it is helpful to create an initial metric and then later as the project progresses a future metric that can be tracked. The premise behind this exercise is to show the value of the schedule function in quantifiable terms as much as possible. Here are some examples of an initial and future metric. Initial Proposed metric could be a fully integrated Master plan which includes 100% of known satellite segments key activities and risks. A future Proposed metric could be the dollars and/or time saved. This could be how the master plan was used to identify problems for cost avoidance, and mitigate impacts of schedule slips. Usually dollar savings can be calculated based on a monthly program burn rate.

Advanced Schedule Analysis

Incorporate Program Management Techniques

The first step in the advanced schedule management process is for the establishment of a formal team charter. This charter sets forth the responsibilities and expectations for the schedule team members and outlines the team member's expectations. It also identifies the process owner's expectations and the team norms that the team will use as their guiding principles. This includes the internal team operating procedures, rules of engagement, and team norms.

Custom Schedule Analysis and Hierarchy

Through the implementation of a schedule analysis process the dedicated schedule integrator is able to effectively conduct an independent analysis on the current project plan. The schedule analysis hierarchy is depicted in Exhibit 2. This hierarchy allows you to peel back the levels of data within the project plan. This is an effective way to provide a sound representation of the current plan data and to also identify the gaps that need to be reviewed. The custom schedule hierarchy is divided into these areas: high level summary, detail plan level, should have started and /or finished report of the data, finish variance report, and critical path report.

Schedule Analysis Hierarchy

Exhibit 2. Schedule Analysis Hierarchy

Project Officer (PO) Mentorship Approach

Now that a custom schedule analysis hierarchy has been established, the mentorship process allows for project officers to be trained/mentored on schedule management techniques and schedule analysis reports. This allows the project officers to better understand the respective contractor schedule details so that they can take action on the gaps in program performance.

The Project officer mentorship approach is depicted in Exhibit 3. The first step in the process is to identify the population of project officers (span of control for the program). Next is to assign a primary and secondary schedule integrator to each respective identified PO. This shared learning approach provides a comprehensive framework to mentor project leads and appropriate stakeholders on program schedule analysis techniques. The next step is to meet with each PO to determine which program areas are under their area of responsibility or influence. This is followed initially by a weekly training/mentorship meeting to verify their areas of responsibility and to mentor them on schedule analysis techniques. The following step is to provide each PO with customized schedule reports tailored to their areas of responsibility using the custom schedule analysis hierarchy process. Then POs are then supported in taking action on the data with their respective technical counterparts. This allows the project officers to take a team approach of working these identified areas in a timely manner to develop concurrent solutions, and effective program work-arounds to mitigate schedule impacts. This becomes a win-win situation for the entire organizations as it educates everyone on the benefits and value of program schedule analysis. In addition, it facilitates the focus into the schedule details in order to truly understand project status, identify “red flag” areas early, and to engage on issues proactively as a unified team to guarantee program success

Mentorship Approach

Exhibit 3. Mentorship Approach

Outcome Metrics

An initial proposed metric could be for 100% mentored and trained project officers that understand and apply the schedule analysis techniques to manage the program. A future proposed metric could be dollars and time saved through proactive work-arounds and innovative cost avoidance practices based on a program monthly burn rate.

Schedule Management Reviews

Identify High Impact Program Interdependencies

The primary reason for the schedule management review is to display the high impact program-to-program interdependencies that are impacting the overall enterprise. The schedule management review provides a forum where all parties are represented so they become aware of the known impacts to their respective programs. They are also aware of how their program may be impacting another program within the enterprise portfolio. The schedule management review is an outgrowth of the pre-work accomplished on identifying interrelationship gaps of program data. It provides a clear picture of the enterprise critical events and identifies the linkages across programs for an enterprise-wide assessment of disconnects for resolution. Typically you will focus on the 15-20 key program-to-program disconnects.

Pull Interdependencies from Project Plan Database (Giver/Receiver handoff report)

Typical the most user friendly approach is to have the key interdependency events parsed out form the project plan database into a distinct file that can represent the activities for a side-by-side analysis. This also allows for specific tracking of the key interdependencies to display the amount of degradation in days between activities each time the report or data is pulled from the database. This data can be color coded based on the severity of the delta time between the giver and receiver agreed to dates.

This analysis is crucial and is conducted to compare the current provide or giver date that is anticipated against the current receiver or need date that has been identified. This data can then be used for renegotiation with the respective parties to determine a viable delivery date against a bonified need date. The giver receiver handoff dates become the solid agreements between parties on how the program will be successfully executed. These handoff agreements form the basis for identifying contingency and also provide quick insight into the degradation of the project plan activities so that a constructive approach can be taken for risk mitigation. It also provides accountability for action item responsibility and closure.

Implement a Risk Management System

The giver /receiver handoff report discussed previously forms the basis for a formal risk management system. The team will identify and prioritize the high impact enterprise interdependencies from the current giver/receiver data available. These become the enterprise risks that arise from inter-program or external agency requirements, deliverables, or interactions. The enterprise risks identified will be prioritized based on time criticality of the event as well as the overall potential impact to the enterprise. This prioritization will be vetted with the program leadership team in conjunction with the resident technical experts. For each of these high priority risks, a risk burn down plan schedule, and associated status reporting requirements will be established to effectively reach risk closure

Proposed metric

An initial proposed metric could be a fully operational schedule management review process in place and being used to manage program risks. A future proposed metric could be the number of times that the proactive use of schedule management review data was used to mitigate cost/schedule impacts or number of completed SMR action items.

Schedule Management Operations Center

Centralized Repository of ASM Deliverables

Once the comprehensive master plan has been established, the schedule analysis conducted and a formal schedule management review is in place, it is time to create the schedule management operations center. The schedule management operations center becomes a repository of all the data and deliverables generated to insure the successful management of the program. It also becomes a dedicated area for working groups and strategy sessions for schedule management functions. The operations center documents become the by-product of the integrated master plan, custom schedule analysis, and schedule management review data. An example of how this could be depicted is that the first wall could display the full program master plan for review and discussion. The second wall could display the list of custom reports generated through the custom schedule analysis hierarchy deliverables (See Exhibit 2.). The third wall could display the schedule management review data to include the giver/receiver report and listing of enterprise key interdependencies. Wall number four could provide the “what if” analysis and a weekly real time assessment of key milestones for program execution.

Summary

Review of ASM methodology

The Advanced Schedule Management (ASM) methodology provides a powerful framework for implementing advanced schedule management concepts into your organization. Exhibit 4. Depicts this proven model and the impact the implementation of the four primary tenets of; schedule development, advanced schedule analysis, schedule management reviews, and a schedule management operations center can have on enhancing organizational effectiveness. The synergy across each of the advanced schedule management areas helps to foster a proactive awareness and understanding of the key attributes of schedule management and analysis. If these four areas receive the proper attention and focus it will help insure the successful and timely identification of program gaps. It also provides a clear understanding of programs' critical events for a proactive enterprise-wide assessment of disconnects for resolution

The intangible benefit this methodology offers is the level of awareness and understanding that the organization can grasp on the drivers of program success. It also becomes a learning process for the organization to utilize these tools to free energies and resources for new and productive initiatives. This model can drive dramatic improvements in mission performance and allow organizations to direct their focus on the truly important aspects of schedule management and program success.

Integration of Advanced Schedule Management

Exhibit 4. Integration of Advanced Schedule Management

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2006 James D. Quilliam
Published as part of 2006 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Santiago, Chile

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