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Make Better Schedules with DCMA 14 Point Schedule Check

Table of Content for DCMA 14 Point Schedule Performance Check

  1. Introduction
  2. Why check project schedule health?
  3. Types of Project Schedule Checks
  4. DCMA 14-Point Schedule Performance Check
  5. Conclusion

Introduction

The project schedule is an important part of project management. It contains the project activities aligned sequentially along with their time duration and interdependencies. The project schedules can further be incorporated with the resources and their respective cost.

The project schedule is a powerful tool to control the time taken by a project. The sequence and inter-dependencies of the activities define the critical path for the project.

The Defence Contract Management Authority (DCMA), USA has set the guidelines for the performance assessment of project schedule. The DCMA 14-point schedule performance check guidelines were first published in 2005 for defence and aeronautical projects. The guidelines are being globally used for the development and maintenance of schedules.

Why check project schedule health?

A project schedule helps in decision making, cost control, resource planning, monitoring and tracking the progress. Thus, it is necessary to have a well-constructed and maintained schedule to accurately achieve the objectives.

The assessment of the project schedule ensures its’ precision and accuracy. The assessments are of two types qualitative and quantitative.

Types of Project Schedule Checks-

Types of Schedule Check
Types of Schedule Check

Qualitative Assessment-

The qualitative check of schedule is the determination of its’ ability to be executed. The schedule is assessed if it is realistic and executable. The qualitative assessment requires the team’s experience.

Quantitative Assessment-

The quantitative assessment of the schedule is done based on measurable parameters. DCMA 14-point schedule check guidelines are widely used for quantitative assessment of project schedules.

DCMA 14-Point Schedule Quality Check

DCMA 14 Point Schedule Quality Check
DCMA 14-Point Schedule Quality Check

1. Logic

The logic check ensures the schedule doesn’t have any incomplete activity that neither has the predecessor nor the successor. Such activities may affect the critical path and project duration. DCMA recommends such activities are to be lesser than 5%.

The activities that have no predecessor and no successor can be linked to either the project start milestone or the project finish milestone.

2. Leads

Lead is the negative lag. Lead signifies that the activity starts before the predecessor activity ends. DCMA recommends having zero lead. The leads can affect the critical path thus it is advisable not to have them.

3. Lags

The difference between the finish of activity and the start of its’ successor is called lag. DCMA recommends activities to not have more than a 5% lag. The activities with lag should be replaced with intermittent activity. For example, lag between foundation casting and machine installation to be replaced with curing period.  

4. Relationship Types

There are four relationship types used to interlink activities namely Finish to Start (FS), Start to Start (SS), Start to Finish (SF) and Finish to Finish (FF). DCMA recommends more than 90% of activities should be Finish to Start (FS) linked. However, SS and FF are also acceptable when it is the true link of activity but their use should be minimized. For example, the casting of beams cannot be completed before the casting of the slab, hence finish to finish relationship.

5. Hard Constraints

Must Start On, Must Finish On, Start No later Than and Finish no later Than are four hard constraints used in project schedules. Ideally, there should be no hard constraints but DCMA recommends limiting their use up to 5%. The hard constraints limit the logic-driven behaviour of the schedule.  

Hard constraints can create negative float.

6. High Float

The time by which an activity can slip without affecting the project completion is called total float. The total float of 44 days is considered a high float. DCMA recommends limiting such activities to 5%.

7. Negative Float

Negative Float represents the delay in completion. It is shown when a missed deadline is being reported. DCMA limit for negative float is zero. As stated earlier, hard constraints lead to negative float, as hard constraints hold the activities and indicate the upcoming deadline is likely to be missed.

8. High Duration

The project schedule is a sequential arrangement of activities having discrete-time duration. The work packages should be such broken that no activity should have a duration greater than 44 days. DCMA limits such activities to be lesser than 5%.

Activities with high duration are difficult to track, measure and estimate resources. The project and activity duration can be determined by any of the six methods listed here.

9. Invalid dates

The past dates in the forecast and future dates in completed activities are called invalid dates. The invalid date check is useful for the project execution stage. The DCMA threshold for this check is zero.

The activities not yet started are to be ahead of the status date. The in-progress and completed activities should be as per the actual dates.

10. Resources

The schedules loaded with resources are helpful in resource estimation. Ideally, all the activities should be resource loaded but the DCMA has not stated any fixed criteria for the resource loading. Thus, it is a flexible metric and it depends upon the organisation’s rules. However, if the resource loading is done in schedule, then every activity should have at least one resource allocated to it to avoid misbalance.

It is not necessary that every activity requires resource. For example, delivery lead time and approval from authorities etc.

11. Missed Tasks

The tasks having their baseline completion date before the status date are said to be missed tasks. The missed tasks should not be more than 5% of the total tasks. However, the tasks that are likely to be missed but have the baseline completion date after the status date are not considered in the threshold.

The missed tasks can affect the project completion. They are an indicator of poor planning, mismanagement and poor resource estimation and allocation.

12. Critical Path Test

The critical path is the longest path in an activity network. To perform the critical path test, identify any critical activity and increase its’ duration by x days and recalculate the project dates. If the project completion date also increases by x days then the schedule is said to have passed the test. The test ensures the fluid network with proper linkage among the activities.

The failed critical path test indicates the missing inter-dependencies among the activities. For such a case, the entire schedule needs to be reviewed and corrected.

13. Critical Path Length Index (CPLI)

The Critical Path Length Index (CPLI) is the sum of remaining working days on the critical path and total float divided by the total remaining days. CPLI indicates the efficiency required to complete the project on time. The target CPLI should be 1 but DCMA suggests acceptance up to 0.95.

For CPLI lesser than 1, the delay is likely to happen and efficiency must be increased to achieve the baseline completion. For CPLI greater than 1, the schedule has margin and completion is likely to be done before the baseline completion.

14. Baseline Execution Index (BEI)

The Baseline Execution Index (BEI) is the ratio of total tasks completed to the total tasks planned as per baseline till status date. The BEI indicates the efficiency of work done. The target BEI should be 1 but DCMA suggests acceptance up to 0.95.

The BEI lesser than 1 indicates missed tasks. Thus, more effort needs to be put to cover up the slippage.

The BEI greater than 1 indicates the schedule is ahead of target and likely to be completed before the baseline completion. This may be due to the availability of unnecessary float or underestimated resource efficiency.

Conclusion

The DCMA 14-point schedule performance check gives an objective method to evaluate the schedule. The regular check with these metrics ensures the schedule is in better health. The routine check also enables the manager to change their strategy as per the requirement.

Full compliance to all the 14 metrics doesn’t imply that the schedule is feasible and a non-compliant schedule isn’t necessarily a failure. The metrics are generally available on the popularly used software like MS Project and Primavera p6 etc.

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Happy Engineering!!

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