CPM Baselines: Where Did Your CPM Baseline Go?

is sans-baseline becoming de riguer? - a rhetorical question.

CPM baselines are snarky by nature. Many project teams regard them as ends in themselves: issued preliminarily, and then discarded, as opposed to “that to which all that follows shall be compared” (my definition).  I expect stakeholders who don’t realize the absence of a baseline bar in their schedules would like to see them, if the contractor was willing to accommodate. Despite endless permutations of schedule specifications, I rarely come across ones that require baseline comparisons.

That’s the way contractors would like it – especially if they feel they run the risk of some exposure by evidence of the baseline bar in their updates; such as free or total float up for grabs.  Or at the opposite end – undeveloped sequences subject to slip. Quite often, activities with unnaturally high total-float values clue you in to what sequences are undeveloped. They may turn up on the critical path.

CMs jump up and down when they aren't sent the xer. (operable backup) file. We send them every month, yet we have no idea what they do with them, because we seldom receive constructive correspondence back. If they can't comprehend P6, higher level programs will remain inaccessible to them.

Once stakeholders see the yellow baseline bars inches to the left of the actual and critical bars in the GANTT, a sort of visual-cognitive ‘aha!’ moment happens, and they are suddenly enlightened – at least on a basic level - as to the nature of the critical-path. Contractors appreciate this nuance, and prefer to keep things dodgy, or sans-baseline.

The project baseline is simply that to which all that follows shall be compared.

Project baselines are misunderstood from both practical and technical standpoints by less experienced schedulers. The Primavera 6 baselining process takes some getting used to, which is one of the encumbrances. It isn’t enough just to read the manual, or watch a few videos. You need to work with them over a few years, or versions of Primavera 6.

Because project schedules invariably get updated with change orders, RFI, and other sequencing, it can be challenging to tie together each update to the project baseline. Fortunately, Primavera 6 has unlimited baseline capacities. That’s good, because as you add new sequences to the schedule, those sequences and activities will have their own baseline to compare to, as they were not extant in the project baseline.

Tracked GANTTS are a cut-to-the-chase-way of graphically illustrating targets to actual date comparisons. Not all contractors necessarily want to show that.

The next biggest encumbrance to mainstream implementation of baselining methods, after adequate training, is the ubiquitous circumstance of logic fragmentation and deprecation, caused by out of sequence works, multiple change orders, resequencing, and even rebaselining. I prefer not to use Primavera 6 when I have more than two or three baselines. I render them in Acumen Fuse, which has a more user friendly and comprehensive interface for comparisons, although Oracle, in v. 16.1, finally flushed dog-eared ClaimDigger with non-API Schedule Comparison. Frankly, those Fuse modules make Primavera 6 seem front-end by comparison.

Consider the ability to drill down milestone total float in Fuse’s Forensic Reports - values and percentage changes are tracked along four updates:

Certified data - to the nickel. This is the sort of back up you want to maintain in preparation for a claim. ClaimDigger, is not. In this next slide, the target early dates compared to the actual or planned days –  along the course of 15 updates.

I can't say I've conducted oversight on a project that had even close to this quality level of reporting. And guess what: Fuse is easy to use. The above chart was generated with one simple operation. So long as your inputs and metric are set, you are ready to generate high-level data that any claims manager should salivate over. 

Despite overachieving in its implementation, many project teams simply don't know what to do with Fuse data, such as those examples above, which means they assume they don't need it, or wish they would have had it, at mediation - for example. I believe many projects are underserved because the contractors neither baseline, nor conduct forensics and analytics

A ‘good’ scheduler – one, who has nothing to be ashamed of either in his proficiency or integrity, has no qualms about showing the ‘full Monty.’ But then he is seldom the one to making that call. If for nothing else than to gain invaluable insight toward mitigation, recovery, or claim schedules, it behooves a contractor to have his scheduler render the baseline/update bar charts. He need not share it with stakeholders; that’s his call. But it’s kind of nice to have, and the right thing to do.

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