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What makes a good schedule and are there objective criteria for it?
In this article, I present the DCMA 14 Item Schedule Check, developed by the U.S. Department of Defense specifically for this purpose.
Even for small projects, the schedule can quickly cover several pages. Often it is flown over by most recipients. It is often difficult to grasp the connections, especially if the schedule contains many links that link tasks and milestones on different pages of the plan.
Typically, when customers and project participants review a schedule, they are asked these and other questions:
Background: DCMA - 14 Points Check
In 2005, the so-called "14-Point Assessment Check" was developed by the DCMA (Defense Contract Management Agency) to improve and standardize the quality of time schedules.
For all pros and cons, the 14-point check provides very helpful information that should be taken into account when creating and checking schedules.
The metrics of the 14-point Assessment Check have now been integrated into various project management tools, such as Deltek Acumen Fuse or Oracle Primavera P6 EPPM. However, this does not mean that these are generally valid standards.
But what exactly is checked with the 14 point check?
Essentially, it is about judging whether a schedule is well established - whether it adheres to a set of best practices that are important to the success and manageability of a project. These principles have been divided into a list of 14 points.
Most of the DCMA checks are easy to perform and the results can be implemented immediately.
Exceptions are the last 3 checks, which are more cumbersome to use and controversial.
1) Missing Logic
<< 5 % der Vorgänge
> 90 % Ende-Anfang Verknüpfungen
5) Hard constraints
<< 5 % der Constraints
6) High float values
< 5 % der Vorgänge
7) Negative float
0 % of activities
8) Long durations
< 5 % of activities
9) Invalid dates
0 % of activities
10) Resources and cost
11) Creeping delays
< 5 % of activities
12) Critical path integrety
13) Critical Path Length (CPLI)
CPLI > 0,95
14) Baseline Execution Index (BEI)
BEI > 0,95
Is the schedule completely logically networked?
The schedule is a network of activities and milestones. If the network is incomplete, a complete critical path cannot be calculated.
The DCMA specification speaks of less than 5% missing links.
My recommendation: All processes are linked in such a way that they have at least one meaningful predecessor and at least one successor. The only exceptions are the start and end milestones. The Scheduling Report makes it easy to check whether and which processes are not linked.
Negative lead times stand for a predecessor - successor relationship of the type "end - beginning minus XX days". Links of this type should be avoided, as they lead to problems when the schedule is updated later.
The DCMA is somewhat more forgiving when it comes to positive lead times of the type "start - start plus XX days" or "end - end plus XX days", but the goal is to minimize their use in the schedule.
The goal is not to have more than 5% of the relationships a positive follow-up time.
4) Activity relationships
Primavera and other software such as MS-Project support 4 types of activity relationships, but this does not mean that all types of relationships are equally recommended. Start to Finish relationships are not recommended while DCMA requires the schedule to use at least 90% Finish to Start shortcuts.
5) Hard constraints
Hard constraints can influence the logic of the schedule and can result in the schedule and the float times no longer being plausible.
My recommendation: Do without hard constraints completely. The only exceptions are the start milestone and possibly external dates such as official requirements or similar.
DCMA specifies that no hard restrictions should be used for more than 5% of all restricted activities.
6) Control float times
44 days is all DCMA allows you. Activities with large float times may not be properly linked and may have a negative impact on the critical path.
This DCMA checkpoint searches for activities with total float over 44 days. Again, the goal is that less than 5% of the activities exceed this limit.
7) Avoid negative float
If you considered all the points mentioned so far, you should have no problem with negative float times. If negative float times do occur in the course of the project, then these should be well documented and a plan should be developed by the project team to avoid or limit those delays (so-called mitigation plan).
8) Break down long durations
When is an activity too long?
If it is longer than 2 months, the colleagues from DCMA say.
Long duration activities should not account for more than 5% of all activities. Very long activities can often be divided into a number of shorter activities. This makes the schedule easier to understand and facilitates progress monitoring.
9) Eliminate invalid dates
Actual - dates in the future?
Planned - dates in the past?
Degree of completion without ACTUAL - Start date?
Invalid data of this kind are to be avoided completely. Primavera does not allow some of these errors. However, other scheduling systems may be more tolerant.
10) Resource and cost assignments
The DCMA Check specifies that schedules are complete with resource and cost loaded.
11) Please no (creeping) delays!
Check point 11 deals with compliance with the planned deadlines for the implementation of the project. This check considers how many activities were completed late compared to the baseline. It is a good check to see if the project is implemented on time or not.
The DCMA target is a maximum of 5% of the activities that were completed late.
12) Integrity of the critical path
The purpose of this check is to verify the integrity of the critical path. It examines whether the introduction of an artificial delay (extension of an activity by 600 days) will cause the project's deadline to be delayed as well.
13) Critical Path Length Index (CPLI)
Diese Überprüfung ist etwas theoretisch und schwierig zu erklären. Ron Winter hat die Einzelheiten in diesem Papier genauer erläutert und bewertet. Hier nur eine kurze, frei übersetzte Zusammenfassung:
"Der Critical Path Length Index (CPLI) ist einChecks, die den Realismus der termingerechten Fertigstellung des Projekts messen soll. Die meisten Terminplaner werden diesen Test als etwas bizarr empfinden. Es wird das Verhältnis der Länge des kritischen Pfades zuzüglich des Gesamtpuffers zur Länge des kritischen Pfadesberechnet. Die LLänge des kritischen Pfades ist die Zeit in Arbeitstagen vom aktuellen Statusdatum bis zum Projektende. Die Zielwert ist 1,0 mit einem Mindestwert von mindestens 0,95."
Danke an Ron Winter.
This review is somewhat theoretical and difficult to explain. Ron Winter has explained and evaluated the details in more detail in this paper. Here is Ron's short summary:
"Most construction schedulers will find this test a little bizarre. We are to measure the ratio of the project critical path length plus the project total float to the project critical path length. The critical path length is the time in work days from the current status date to the “end of the program.” The target number is 1.0 with a value of less than 95% as a failure."
Thanks to Ron Winter.
14) Baseline Execution Index (BEI)
This point is also quite theoretical and controversial.
The Baseline Execution Index (BEI) should help to understand how well the project performs in relation to the baseline of the project. The BEI summarizes how many activities are ahead of or behind the baseline.
A BEI of 1.0 means that the project is on the right track. DCMA specifies that the ERI should be at least 0.95.
Die meisten hier vorgestellten Kriterien liefern eine äußerst hilfreiche Orientierung bei der Erstellung und Prüfung von Terminplänen. Sie werden erfahrenen Terminplanern bekannt sein und finden sich in vielen Terminplanungstutorials in der einen oder anderen Form.
Die Verbindung mit quantitativen Richtwerten macht sie darüber hinaus sehr praktikabel. Die Beurteilung der Terminplanqualität wird objektiver und Standardisierung wird erleichtert.
Der DCMA Check hat inzwischen Eingang in verschiedene Softwaretool gefunden. Darunter Oracle Primavera P6 EPPM und Deltek Acumen Fuse. Trotzdem heißt das nicht, dass die DCMA Checks den Charakter eines allgemein verbindlichen Regelwerkes haben. Im Einzelfall eines jeden Projektes kann es mitunter durchaus sinnvoll sein, von den Richtwerten der DCMA 14 Punkte Checkliste abzuweichen.
Hast Du Erfahrung mit dem 14 Punkte Check, Fragen oder Hinweise? Dann teile sie als Kommentar!
Most of the criteria presented here provide an extremely helpful orientation when creating and checking schedules. They will be familiar to experienced schedulers and can be found in many scheduling tutorials in one form or another.
The combination with quantitative benchmarks also makes them very practical. The assessment of schedule quality becomes more objective and standardization is facilitated.
The DCMA Check has now found its way into various software tools. These include Oracle Primavera P6 EPPM and Deltek Acumen Fuse. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the DCMA checks have the character of a generally binding set of rules. In the individual case of each project, it can sometimes make sense to deviate from the guideline values of the DCMA 14 points checklist.
Do you have experience with the 14 point check, questions or hints? Then share it as a comment!