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ALAP constraint behavior question

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John Borton
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Hi there. Moderate Projects user over the years with a scheduling need I've never encountered and I'm hoping I'm just ignorant of an easy solution. I'm currently using a very old 2002 version.

Attached is an image with three figures (all different screen shots from a simple 'project' created just to illustrate my issue). This sample project has 3 floating activities and a 'project completion' milestone which has an artificial hard completion date. The behavior of Activity #2 is what I'm attempting to control (I want the float gone).

All relationships are simple 'FS' with zero lag. Activities 1 and 3 are constrained 'ASAP' in all three figures. 

In figure 1, Activity 2 is constrained 'ASAP' with the expected float reflecting the difference in duration between activities 1 and 2.

In figure 2, Activity 2 is constrained 'ALAP' which has taken the float out of Activity 2, but pushed Activity 3 down to the project end and the float is now reflected in the start of Activity 3.

Figure 3 is what I'm trying to achieve (without a hard constraint). I want the float gone between activities 2 and 3, but I can't have 3 pushed down to the end of the project. In other words, I want Activity 2 to be ALAP while Activity 3 is ASAP. This may sound like a directly conflicting requirement (and it may be as related to Projects' capabilities), but it's not conflicting if one thinks of activity 3 being ALAP relative to Activity 3 while Activity 3 is ASAP relative to the project as a whole.

Can this be done in Projects 2002? Any version of Projects? Any version of a CPM software?

Remember, it's the described principle I'm interested in -- it would be easy in this little snippet to just 'hard constrain' and get away with it, but I'm involved in a relatively large scheduling project and in such any hard constraints will really create issues as things are updated.

Thanks.
JB

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Replies

Abel Santos Silva
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Hi John,

Wouldn't it be possible, to simply run Activity 2 with a relation type FF to Activity 1? 

Tom Boyle
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Marco,

Thanks for the comment, though I would disagree with your characterization of MSP as a "poor and amateur application."  I would say it's a reasonable scheduling application with some pluses and minuses - primarily aimed at a "poor and amateur", but extremely large, user base.

Rgds, tom  

Marcus Possi
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Hello Tom and John,

These tips are really important, not only to be a workaround for MS limitations, but also to make visible that many schedules are condemned by MS, because since 1998 they ignore ALAP avtivities.why insisting in such a poor and amateur appliction, instead of P6, spider project , or even ASTA power project? Tks.
Tom Boyle
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I'm glad you got it worked out.

Sorry I didn't think to mention that macro, which I don't use much.  Maybe I would use it more if it were improved by combining it with a longest-path-type backward logic tracer.  As it is, I've become less reliant on ZFF constraints over the years - in both MSP and OPV - so it's not worth the time to improve the macro.

John Borton
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Much appreciated Tom.  Your idea was a great workaround and in many instances worked great in my schedule.  I had a few places where there were predecessors to the Activity 2 you helped me with and those predecessors had the same issue but without the same solution available.

I finally found this blog entry where a user wrote a MP VBA macro that whips through, finds all the instances where you want the ZFF (zero free float) behavior and replicates it programatically (using the ugly 'C' word).  I modified it slightly to meet my needs and it really works great, so until I can afford Primavera, this will have to do

http://www.boyleprojectconsulting.com/TomsBlog/2016/08/31/simple-macro-f...

Thanks again.

(LOL -- just realized that it was YOUR blog I just posted.  So DOUBLE thanks and best wishes during the upcoming hurricane headed your way - stay safe.)

JB

 

John Borton
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Thanks SO MUCH Tom.    I'll give that a try in my full schedule and report back.

JB

Tom Boyle
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Hi John,

The behavior you seek is that of a Zero-Free-Float constraint, which is not available in MSP.  When used in a forward-scheduled project, the ALAP constraint in MSP is in fact a Zero-Total-Float constraint, which serves no useful purpose as you have found.  Though my memory is a bit fuzzy on the earlier versions (and I skipped from Project '98 to Project 2003), I'm pretty sure MSP has never had a ZFF constraint.  The workaround, at least where Task 2 represents a just-in-time delivery, is to insert a readiness milestone between 1 and 3.  Then make that milestone an FF predecessor of 2.  This keeps the logic flow intact without using the C-word.

Zero-Free-Float constraints are certainly available in other scheduling software - P3 actually called it by that name.  P6 calls it ALAP, which of course causes much confusion for P6 user who stumbles into MSP.  I think Asta Power Project allows entire strings of activities to be similarly delayed within available free float - pretty flexible.      

I'm not sure if PP has fixed its image retention problem (uploads like yours were only retained for a couple hours).  If not, I'll move the image below (including the workaround) to an external host. Good luck, tom

(18Sep'18 - changed image link to external source.)