The importance of schedule analysis and a schedule risk assessment in formulating a joint confidence level assessment
In the quest to ensure the successful implementation of a comprehensive Joint Confidence Level (JCL) system, this paper discusses schedule analysis, schedule risk assessment (SRA), and their critical relationship to the JCL. The elements of this approach will focus on the importance of a comprehensive schedule analysis prior to the SRA; SRA best practice techniques and processes; and the inclusion of earned value, risk management, and cost estimating in an overall JCL process.
Documenting the SRA process demonstrates the full potential of a formal SRA and its importance to the JCL system results. This helps establish a unified approach from the inception of a program, with the focus on continued enhancement of organizational capabilities. The outcome of this approach can offer new tools and processes to yield superior consultation and support to program office teams.
Elements of the Overall JCL Process
Important Aspects of the JCL.
Exhibit 1 depicts the overall JCL approach. In looking at the overall JCL system, it is important to understand the factors that influence the SRA and how the SRA will impact the results of the JCL. In Figure 1 it is evident that schedule analysis, earned value, and cost estimates are significant inputs to the SRA analysis. Once these inputs are included in the SRA, the SRA is ready to be used to conduct the JCL.
One of the first steps is to examine the current project plans. The project plan represents the scope of work that will be accomplished throughout the program. Once the project plans have been established, it is important to review the overall “goodness” and quality of the project plans through a formal schedule analysis.
Typically, the focus of the schedule analysis is to evaluate the goodness of the project plans to allow an assessment of the viability of the baseline plan. In addition it is important during this analysis to assess the performance of the activities through the use of a customized late task analysis report. This late task analysis provides an assessment of how the activities in the plan are progressing. It also provides the specific number of work days that the plan may be behind schedule for each activity in the plan. This allows the project leads to determine first-hand if the current forecast dates are realistic and achievable. It also provides concrete justification on the need to reforecast projected dates that cannot be achieved.
Exhibit 1. The Overall Joint Confidence Level Process
Importance of a Formal Schedule Analysis Prior to the SRA
For the JCL assessment our focus is on the viability and fidelity of the network logic within the plan. The maturity of the network logic will have a direct impact on the results obtained during the schedule risk assessment. Therefore, prior to conducting the SRA, the schedule analysis should be focused on the network logic criteria, some examples of which, along with their respective rationales, are listed in Exhibit 2.
Once the schedule analysis has been accomplished, the results should be shared with the schedule management and program team. This will ensure they are aware of any concerns in the results of the analysis in relationship to the fidelity of the network logic. Each one of the criteria will need to be reviewed to determine what changes or refinements should be made to the activities. A deficiency in criteria does not necessarily indicate a severe impact to the program. An activity that does not meet the thresholds of the criteria prompts the program leads to take action on the data within the file. In most cases, a mitigation plan can be implemented to refine the data within each plan to reflect confidence in the way the plan is structured and sequenced for success.
Exhibit 2. Examples of Network Logic Criteria and Rationales
SRA Best Practice Techniques and Processes
Once the schedule analysis has been accomplished, it is important to determine at what level of detail the SRA will be calculated. Exhibit 3 illustrates the three levels where the SRA can be conducted: program, project, or JCL. These levels correspond to the work breakdown structure (WBS) levels within the project plan. The following methodologies draw on experiences in conducting SRAs over the past several years. From first-hand experience in supporting SRAs, it is evident that the selection of the methodology for the SRA can have an impact on the SRA results. The SRA can be conducted independently by the contractor team, independently by the Government team, or by a joint contractor and government team. The important factor to keep in mind is that the team that has overall responsibility for the SRA. This will have a direct impact on the results that are achieved from the SRA.
Exhibit 3. Levels and Methods for Conducting the SRA
SRA Approach Critical Uncertainties and Risks.
In conducting the SRA it is important to identify both the known critical uncertainties and risks that have the greatest impact on the program (e.g., would drive a completion date past its current baseline date).
These critical uncertainties are typically identified and determined from members of an SRA engineering assessment team that has a breadth and depth of knowledge of the program and/or elements of the program. One of the methods used in performing the engineering assessment is to create assessment sub-teams based on the key segments of a program. These technical experts in their respective sub-team areas then assess the known critical uncertainties found in the project plan data. They develop probabilistic data on these critical uncertainties by providing the minimum, most likely, and maximum probability schedule durations. The duration assessment is based on their expertise and any sound historical data that has been accumulated. Monte Carlo analysis is then performed on data derived from the engineering assessments. These three point estimates (triangular distribution inputs) become the basis to drive the selected output on the SRA. The rationale for the engineering assessment also becomes the justification and rationale for supporting the results of the SRA, including assessment criteria and assumptions as the results are presented to the senior leadership teams.
In addition to the critical uncertainties that are assessed by the engineering team, there are also unrealized risks. These are risk areas in a program that are not planned for as part of the scope of the program (not included in the current program/project plan). These risk areas have a certain likelihood of occurrence and could become critical if they are realized. They would need to be accounted for and added to the scope of the program. These risks also need to be included as part of the SRA. The engineering assessment team will determine a quantifiable schedule impact for each of these risks. These risk inputs will be included with the critical uncertainties as the results of the SRA are formulated.
Exhibit 4 represents the levels of granularity for tracking uncertainties in the project plan. Note that in order to minimize any double counting of uncertainties it is best to track at the detailed task level. This allows you to track each uncertainty and its respective risk formula.
Exhibit 4: Methodology for Tracking Uncertainties
Summary of Critical Uncertainties and Risks.
Including both the critical uncertainties and risks provides both an understanding of the program and accountability of the cumulative risks on the total program. These critical uncertainties and risks become the significant inputs to the SRA results. It is important to take the time and effort to set up a comprehensive approach to understand and identify the key risk areas. This allows for a more robust assessment of the true variability to the program. It is also important to determine at what level you will conduct your SRA. In most cases, well-justified and thought-out uncertainties will be a small subset of the overall activities in the plan. This also allows for an understanding of the magnitude of the uncertainty and the appropriate risk strategies to apply. This also ensures that project resources are allocated to the right tasks at the right time and provides reasonable, realistic, and defensible forecasts for project schedule and cost parameters. This will also allow the team to develop and execute the appropriate risk response plans.
Overall Joint Confidence Level Model
In addition to schedule analysis, schedule risk assessments, and risks, there are two other areas that should be factored into the JCL model: earned value and cost estimate inputs. This will ensure that the JCL results represent the inclusion of all known inputs.
Exhibit 5 depicts the integration of these primary areas: the synergy across each of the areas and the SRA/JCL approach helps to foster a proactive awareness and understanding of the core aspects inherent in the organization. If these areas receive the proper attention and focus, it will ensure increased confidence in the SRA and the overall JCL assessment for the enterprise. This model can drive dramatic improvements in mission performance and allow organizations to direct their focus on the important core aspects of schedule management, earned value, cost estimating, and risks to program success.
Exhibit 5 Overall Joint Confidence Level Model
Steelray (2007) Steelray Project Analyzer software (SPA), Steelray Corporation