Is Work Represented in the Schedule?

“If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer.”

- Yogi Berra

When we look at schedules and try to assess them for quality, we can only examine what we can see. But what if the problem isn’t visible? Sometimes you have project work that is present in the cost-tracking software that isn’t present in the schedule, and vice-versa. One of the measures of schedule quality is completeness, and that’s what DCMA is checking with this metric.

This DCMA metric gives us a good excuse to introduce three earned value terms for how to classify work in the cost tool, so we’ll explore that here as well. We’ll look at the work as it is broken down in the cost tool and make sure that the schedule contains all of the work. The metric also looks for work in the schedule that isn’t represented in the cost tool. Specifically, it looks at discrete and incomplete WPPP, and SLPP. These are contained within the performance measurement baseline (PMB).

What are these acronyms?

Let’s start with a quick primer. The work in a project is broken down into a hierarchical tree called a work breakdown structure (WBS). At an appropriate level in the WBS, you have control accounts (CA). Control accounts represent day-to-day management of the work in a project. The control account serves as the intersection of the budget, assignments, schedule, etc. for that section of the tree. A Control Account Manager (CAM) oversees that part of the WBS and is responsible for its timely completion and performance against the budget.

When you have far-term work that can’t yet be assigned down to the control account level, you may choose to leave it in a summary level planning package, or SLPP. As soon as you know which control account the work belongs to, you’ll want to move it into a planning package (PP).

When you are not ready to describe future work in greater detail, but you know which control account it belongs to, you may choose to include it in a planning package. Planning packages contain a budget over time, but the work is specified only at a broad level. At some point, the work in planning packages will be broken down into greater detail and become part of work packages (WPs).

When you’re ready to describe the work in greater detail, you’ll move the work into a work package (WP). A work package, which is part of a control account, is work that is planned, estimated, and budgeted in greater detail. Activities in a WP should be short-term and unique to that package. There should be start and finish dates and a budget. 

What does DCMA mean when they refer to “discrete” work?

They mean “real” or actual work that takes time and resources to complete.

Why do they only look at incomplete discrete work?

If the work is already complete, there is no point in making schedule adjustments to it since you would be changing a plan that has already happened.

What’s the 06A101A metric about?

DCMA counts two types of activities in this metric. First, they look in the schedule for incomplete discrete WPs, PPs, and SLPPs that do not exist in the cost tool. Typically, you would find the WP, PP, and SLPP identifiers in custom columns in the scheduling tool. Second, they count the number of incomplete discrete WPs, PPs, and SLPPs in the cost tool that do not exist in the schedule.

The metric only passes if both counts are zero. However, DCMA defines the metric as a percentage, with a denominator equal to the total count of all incomplete discrete WPs, PPs, and SLPPs in the cost tool data.

Food for thought

Summary level planning packages represent work that isn’t fully fleshed out. Adding it to the schedule will help pass this metric, but care must be taken to ensure that it doesn’t hinder the correct calculation to the critical path.

Next steps

Where there are references to WPs, PPs, and SLPPs in the IMS that do not exist in the cost tool, and vice versa, the source of the discrepancies should be investigated.

14 Point Analyzer

(This check was not in the 14 Point Assessment and is not supported in the Steelray Project Analyzer.)