Machines cannot programme themselves. If that was the truth, humans would be the endangered species. We plan, control, correct and repeat the process. It’s called planning. Basic (very basic) philosophy behind the planning process is to be able to answer the following questions:
- What we construct (project, product, scope)?
- How (sequence, methods)?
- How long will it take (durations)?
- How much will it cost (money)?
There will certainly be some other factors and questions to answer (e.g. risk, quality, safety, project team and client satisfaction etc.) but I will leave them for another time, another discussion.
Extrapolating from the basic philosophy, the recipe for a schedule would look like this:
- Define the scope and express it as a list of tasks (activities).
- Sequence the tasks and test different scenarios to optimise the schedule (programme).
- Assess task durations using first principle, expert judgment or calculate from a quantified work divided by a production rate.
- Assign unit prices to resources or direct cost to task.
- Schedule and calculate.
- Save the baseline.
- Monitor and control.
- Report variances.
- Repeat process if necessary (re-schedule).
To perform the above actions faster and more efficiently we create a ‘symbiotic union’ between a (machine computer), computer-aided planning software (CAP? Could we consider CAP as the new category like CAD was for design?) and the operator (human).
When you read it from the manual or books – it is a clear and easy process.
When you describe it – it is not rocket science.
When you apply the theory in practice – well… that is another story.
Machines are easy to cope with. They have their limitations and specifications, they are usually very predictable. When you remove the CPU unit from a laptop, the laptop becomes a decoration artefact.
Software is similar to any machine - plus they have a defined ‘user interface’; certain functions, tools, capabilities. They are predictable but they sometimes ‘behave’ in a peculiar way.
Humans are the worst element in this ‘union’. They are unpredictable, stubborn, and nervous – they have moods. But they can also be creative, smart, and appreciative. Either way - they are needed to operate both the machine and the software.
Synchro Software as a Planning Solution
Having an amplifier and an electric guitar does not mean that I will become another Eric Clapton by default. I need to appreciate the instruments, learn ‘the ways’, practice and master the process to become a virtuoso. My favourite word in the previous sentence is ‘appreciate’…
I understand that software will not solve all the problems in the project and it’s not even on the top of the most important elements of the project management process but I dedicated this blog to software.
As a planner I learnt different solutions – some better, some weaker. Nevertheless I always felt that everything I’ve done was somehow ‘forced’:
- the same routines and procedures – effecting very little, not efficient, misleading,
- the same tools and functions but not unlocking new possibilities,
- Predictable results but no further reflection on those.
If I put 4D modelling / 4D planning aside (at least for this week) and ignore the fact that I am associated with Synchro (through my job) I can still find about 15 different things that Synchro PRO does for the planning process and the planner more efficiently than other planning platforms (without naming them). I might be biased in my assessment (I know this) but I also wish this blog to be an open discussion. I encourage everyone to share what you love about and must have in your traditional planning system, it is likely to exist in Synchro PRO, ask me the tough questions that you expect your software provider to answer, and ask for clarification. Not challenge but encourage.
Let me list a few highlights (a full list with detailed description will be published as a white paper at the end of series along with the other chapters as promised).IT Architecture / Installation
Synchro Software installation and configuration is easy and user-friendly. All components are included in the installer and the application is ready to use after the activation.
The application is written in C++ programming language; application executable is lightweight and does not require advanced server / database (DB) configuration, DB maintenance, or DB administration.
Software development cycle is short (2 releases annually) and new releases not only introduce improvements, new tools and functionality that are driven by the end-users and customers, but the development team also fixes performance issues and bugs.
Full Control over the Summary Tasks
Summary tasks can be created and managed freely:
- summary task can be a part of relationship network or not – users can decide,
- assign and monitor resources to the summary task the same ways as per regular tasks,
- ability to add data / parameters to summary tasks (also calculated data fields).
Physical Quantity (calculated duration Q/PR=D)
Synchro has the capability to calculate duration of task based on principal quantity Q/PR=D (that is completely independent from assigned resources). Alternatively – if duration is fixed – Synchro calculates required production rate to complete tasks within planned duration PR=Q/D.
Users can also monitor progress based on Physical Quantity (or use a complicated as you want calculated field using the full inventory of user defined fields).Progress Reporting / ‘In-Progress’ Monitoring
During progress monitoring users can add reports using the context menu. Additionally, a report will be automatically generated if there is a change to the Remaining Duration or % Complete of task (resulting in an Advance or Delay to a task).Categorising / Colour Coding
Flexible and efficient tools allow the user to categorise, code and colour the content based on many different criteria. Resources can be independently managed using Statuses functionality.
Introduction of Location Resource
Synchro introduces a fourth type of resource – location. Location is a limited resource that very often costs money and should not be omitted nor ignored.
Location resource can be managed the same way as other types – equipment, human (labour) and material – can be measured, quantified, cost loaded and monitored over time.
Filtering is very important for large data sets. Some filtering capabilities available in Synchro don’t exist in other software (for instance all dynamic reference time and spatial oriented filters cannot exist in other systems).
Removing Float / Schedule Optimisation / ‘Pull-Push’ Technique
Very powerful tool yet forgotten or not used very often by planners – a mechanism that allows users to optimise schedule by using free float available in the logic network.
This technique is one of the lean planning practices that consider time, float and resource utilisation.
Speed and Interoperability with Scheduling Software and ‘Some’ Extra Tools
Synchro PRO supports import, export and synchronisation to-and-from industry standard planning / scheduling software such as:
- Oracle Primavera P6 (IAPI and P6 XML)
- Asta PowerProject (API)
- Microsoft Project (MSP XML)
- Microsoft Excel (Export, Cut/Paste)
In Synchro PRO any object parameter or User Defined Field (UDF) can be imported from external sources, entered manually, or calculated from a Formula creating a truly amazing data rich; smart object environment for the constructor and project manager.
Baselining and Schedule ‘Optioneering’ (scenarios, what-ifs)
Saving baseline or alternative scenario (e.g. different sequence option, ‘what-if’ test) in Synchro probably couldn’t be easier:
- Select tasks (all or group of tasks)
- Right click – ‘Baseline Selected Tasks’
- Type a Name for the Baseline / Scenario
That’s it. No nonsense, no fuss, no hunting for hidden and cascade commands - and in 4D you’re seeing the project not different sets of bars on a chart which is the biggest advantage from using baseline functionality in Synchro PRO comes from its integration with 3D data (WEEK 3: Synchro and 4D Information Modelling).
Risk Planning and Management
Synchro allows to ‘plan’ the risks and opportunities. Other software offers risk analysis capabilities but no other software offers the real-time mechanism for including risks in the relationship network.
‘Compare Schedules’ is simple yet powerful tool that allows the user to compare the main components / parameters of two different schedules or actual (current) schedule with its baseline. The result is presented in a form of an ‘automated’ report.
Planning Methodologies and Form of Contracts
Synchro is compatible / compliant with all major planning methodologies, guidelines and form of contracts.
- Critical Path Method (CPM)
- Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM)
Guidelines by PM Professional Bodies and Organisations:
- The PMI / PMBOK (USA)
- API (UK)
- IPMA (International)
- ‘Compendium and Reference’ by Guild of Project Controls (Planning Planet)
Form of Contracts (I can only refer to British ones):
- NEC 3
- JCT Contracts
- CIOB Time and Cost Management Contract 2015
- FIDIC (also internationally)
- RIBA Building Contract Guides
- Other contracts (CIOB Mini Form, CIOB Complex Projects – before 2015, ACA, RICS, etc.)
Traditional Planning Software
BIM has proven value and will soon be standard if not by choice by client requirements. Synchro Scheduler (PRO without the 4D capabilities) is a traditional project planning software with the same advanced CPM engine and UI as Synchro PRO. It is clear that adjusting to 4D takes an organised effort and a thoughtful commitment, therefore the first step, free from software costs, will accelerate the organisation’s ability to migrate to Synchro PRO by shifting the costs for traditional software to the new invests in 4D. When a company is able to stop spending thousands of pounds sterling (£ GBP) / per seat / per planner / per year and shift these funds to reinvesting in 4D real change can happen, and fast.
Next week: Week 3: Synchro and 4D Information Modelling
Thanks for reading,