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NUMBER OF ACTIVITIES

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Edgar Ariete
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Are P3 developers not reasonable enough to create a program that can hold a 100,000 activities or even more???


have a good time everyone.....
Jihad Daniel
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Hi everyone,

I totally agree with you Gary,the number of activities is not a sufficient indication of a good detailed and structured schedule...
Recently, I got to review a schedule of more than 5 thousand activities for a tower building...I found out that it was built up with a copy & paste of 1 typical floor, repeated in all 30 floors of the building...It was a catastrophic schedule and I prefered having 50 well done activities instead of these 5,000...
Also, I find ridiculous to see in offer advertisement for Planning jobs, to seek for Planners who can manage more than "x" thousands of activities and level "y" of schedules...These numbers of activities and levels should not be considered as a unit of measuring proffesionalism and competency of Planners...The situation gets more funny when Planners are competing with each others in finding out who did the longer schedule or to which extent the WBS was broken down; may be we’ll put the winner in Guiness Book...If Software gives you the opportunity to have thousands of activties, this does not mean that it enforces you to increase your number of activities...
Usually, Contractors submit a preliminary schedule after a short period from the start of the Project...This schedule will be reviewed and get the consent from the Engineer/the Client...It is only after getting enough information (i.e. E/M), new inputs, different conditions, new strategy, etc. that the Contractor is asked to develop and detail more the consented schedule, therefore increasing number of activities...It is up to Engineer/Client to specify the areas or disciplines to be more elaborated as it is not always to the benefit of the Contractor to detail more and add his activities...

Regards,
J.S. Daniel
Gary France
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Vladimir,

I agree with most of what you say.

My company has been working with some very experienced clients over the last 10 – 15 years – mainly property developers who do often answer the sort of questions you suggest. They often do want to know what will happen if another crane is utilised, or more labour. However, I do agree that in most circumstances they don’t try to answer these types of questions themselves. They ask them of the project manager, the construction manager, or the main contractor and even sometimes the sub-contractors.

I would also agree with you that the clients schedule is usually used for contract administration and project financing management. However, client schedules are often used for much more – for overall control of and progress reporting for a number of related projects for example. Some clients are very capable of programming!

Sometimes, we also have to think beyond the normal client / contractor relationship – for some aspects of the construction industry in the UK (where most of my experience is) those traditional relationships are long gone and much more integrated contractual relationships are in use. I wouldn’t say this is commonplace, but it does reflect the general trend in UK construction to meet the desire by all involved to work much more as an integrated team.

This inevitably leads to a different type of planning – one where hugely detailed programmes are not required. Many of the postings in PP are about clients approving programmes, claims, who owns the float, etc. These are appropriate for the more traditional ways of working, but are simply irrelevant for the more recent ways of working. This is why I feel it is sometimes necessary to comments on postings that are so forthright, such as Charlie’s “Planning need detailed activities to get hold of the overall situation”. Whilst it might be correct given a particular set of circumstances, it is clearly wrong given other arrangements.

For me, a programme of 50 activities might be absolutely the correct level of detail. Similarly, 40,000 activities might also the correct. There is no right and wrong, but there are nearly always different circumstances.

I totally accept your point that the repetitive use of strings of activities makes the production of programmes not too time consuming. It is a way of working that most planners have probably used many times, me included!

Regards.

Gary.
Gary France
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Charlie,

There you go making presumptions in your posting that are ill-informed and wrong.

You say that I have not done this kind of planning detail because of the nature of my work. What qualifies you to say this? You simply don’t know what I type of planning I have done.

Please do not cast doubts on anybodies planning experience, including mine, unless you are very sure of your facts.

For the record, I have produced programmes of 40,000 activities. Despite the fact that you obviously believe I have not worked for a contractor, I have.

There are many different ways of planning – each is dependant upon the particular circumstances. A programme of 50 activities can be just as valid as one with 40,000.

Regards,

Gary.
Gary, you wrote that "The quantity of activities in a programme is not the only judge of its quality". I agree - it is not enough. Let’s do the next step and define what is the schedule quality (maybe in other thread).
I think that the good schedule shall help to answer any what if question ... And thus it shall contain as many activities as necessary for project performance simulation. As Charlie noted in his post these questions are different for the client and for the contractor and this defines the requirements to the model.
The client will not ask questions like what if I will buy additional 100 m2 of frames or add the worker to some construction crew, or will use one crane instead of another. And besides contractor schedule is used for setting each shift tasks.
Client schedule is ussually used for contract administration and project financing management. It will have less details but will help to answer the questions like what money are needed at any moment and how to organize project works in accordance with the financial limitations.
From my own practice - approximately 5000 activities schedule describes the construction of one 12 floors building for the contractor. And creating this schedule is not too complicated and time consuming if to use the library of the typical project fragnets, project databases and predefined crews for resource assignments. A lot of activities in this schedule are repetitive.
Regards,
Vladimir
Charleston-Joseph...
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Hi Gary,

Please consider the basis of my opinion, the project description.

You have not done this kind of planning details because of the nature of your work.

But I did because I work in the contractor side.

If you were not there, then, you don’t know.

Ask Vladimir, he did more than 40,000 activities with matching simulations.

Cheers,

Charlie
Edgar Ariete
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To whom it may concern:

I understand that the subject being tackled here is the total NUMBER OF ACTIVITIES. I just want to know if there is any ideal quantity that applies to certain projects (i.e. Buildings, Oil & Gas, Heavy Civils, Railways, Power Plants, Design & Procurement, etc.)?

If the answer will depend on each individual Contract, would that mean Contract Deliverables? What I’m trying to find out (if you’ll allow me) is the most accurate number of activities to be used in your planning considering quality & simplicity of its output.

In Planning, will you consider Quantity as parallel to Quality? As you go through the smallest possible detail, would that mean you’ll get the most accurate output?

And what is the ideal time needed for the preparation of an ideal Plan? And what are the ideal resources needed to prepare it as well?

Well, sometimes in reality, I believe that all you need to do is Planning through the speed of human thought.

just an honest and humble opinion (HAHO), HO, HO, HO...

i’m looking for Santa Claus as well, I would like to nominate him as one of the Planning Immortals...if anybody sees him, you already knew what to do....

cheers,...(ahh..just to eliminate hang-overs)
Gary France
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Charlie,

I am truly staggered by your comments in post #69…

“Planning need detailed activities to get hold of the overall situation”.

And

“For 50 activities, it will be a planning catastrophe. Planning with below 5,000 activities is playing or horsing around. Planning with more than 20,000 activities is reasonable”.

Whilst I fully accept that some situations need to have an enormous number of activities on their schedules / programmes, it must be wrong to say that planning with less than 5000 activities is playing or horsing around. Consider the person who develops the overall first schedule/programme on a project. They are trying to establish the overall timeframe and constraints for the project and often this needs to be done very quickly. Under these circumstances, which some might consider to be the most important or influential stage in developing a programme, it would be near impossible to develop 5,000 activities. In fact, this amount would render the purpose of the programme to be lost – that is, to rapidly communicate the overall timescale and stages of a project.

Often planners do produce 50 activity programmes. They do so deliberately and carefully, for that is exactly what is required.

Please try to be a little more considered in your postings! The quantity of activities in a programme is not the only judge of its quality.

Gary.
Rolyn Jalea
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edgar,

Sorry bro for the misinterpretation, yup that’s what I mean you can only show 3 bars, 1 for current & 2 for targets
Alex Wong
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Multi target

In P3e you can display unto 1 current and 3 baseline schedule and attach 50 different baseline for comparison

Cheers

Alex
Edgar Ariete
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Thank You.
We recommend to set at least four targets:
1) Project Team Target - very tight, optimistic.
2) Project Management Team Target that includes calculated contingency reserve.
3) Management Target that includes both contingency and management reserves.
4. Contract Target that includes profit or any other additional reserves.
Spider Projet can show at the same lines of the Gantt Chart:
1) critial schedule - backward schedule from the Project Management Team target dates,
2) current schedule and
3) any other schedule that is chosen to compare with. One option - baseline schedule, but you can also compare with the project schedule that existed in any time in the past (week ago, month ago, etc.) or any other target schedule.
So at any time you can see at the same lines only three schedules and not more.
You can also see trends of any project parameters like cost, finish date, success probabilities for all targets you defined, etc. at the diagrams below the Gantt Chart.
Regards,
Vladimir
Edgar Ariete
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Rolyn, You can create as many targets as you like, but you can only compare two (2) plans at the same time. I don’t know if Spider can do more...?
To Clive Randall:
Excuse me for the late reply, I was abroad where had limited access to the Internet.
You are absolutely right. In most long projects it does not make sense to plan in details what will be done on the coming years. And yes, pipeline construction projects usually have necessary documentation before construction phase is started.
In the long projects we use rolling wave approach and not only because we don’t have enough information about future works but also for making the model less complex. Even if it is easy to simulate future works it is not practical. For an example in the construction of high buildings we simulated the influence of schedule deviations in the current floor to the schedules of higher floors construction. Usually after 4 or 5 floors the influence of these deviations becomes vary low. So we plan in details the construction of the nearest 5 floors and other floors exist in the model as corresponding activities linked with the detailed schedule. The size of the model is growing with time but the number of activities that are planned in details remains near the same. To the end of the project you will have the largest model.
In pipeline construction you need to plan which resources will be needed at any time because these resources are heavy and expensive and shall be moved to the construction site. It makes sense to simulate the whole construction in details as soon as the necessary information is available.
Regards,
Vladimir
Rolyn Jalea
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hi,

Why try to complicate things??? you can only have two targets... don’t mix recovery plan with your current update it will be a mess
Edgar Ariete
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Hi Raja & Bill,

Is it possible to show four (4) bars in a row in your 15K-activity plan?

1st bar - current (updated)

2nd bar - target (updated)

3rd bar - plain target

4th bar - recovery schedule

in any planning tool please??? (not drafting tool)

p.s. I have to ask this in the other section but it was locked by another bar....
Raja Izat Raja Ib...
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Hi guys,

do less, work smart....do more, much more smart er.
Clive Randall
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Bill
I am suprised you didnt make any comments about my assumtions regarding shutdown work
Same question to you Vladimir was that correct about pipelines or not.
David Ramsay
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Dead right Bill - K.I.S.S.


REGARDS

DAR
Bill Guthrie
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And agree withPhilip.

BUT WITH THE FOLLOWING CAVATS

If a planner had only one thing to do, planning, then fine. he can work up to 35000 activities, but the confort zone is 15k activities.
PROVIDED, he does not have to waste time attending meetings, answerng quires, making what if schedules, working out cost reports, etc etc etc.

Cheers bill
Clive Randall
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From what you say I can see all the worst of planning coming out.
Producing a monster which nobody reads nobody can update based on 10 activities replicated a 1000 times so you can say look out how big my one is complete and total nonsense
next time you get excited about producing a big one try using line of balance it will do what you want.
As for horsing about giddy up dobbin
Charleston-Joseph...
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Planning need detailed activities to get hold of the overall situation.

In building works, the plan can have a simple fragnet of ten activities per floor.

This fragnet can easily generate thousand of activities the moment it will be distributed into zone-by-zone, area-by-area, level-by-level approach in work breakdown structure.

You can imagine this if you will start planning for more than 15 numbers of mopre than 15-storey high towers clustered in an 8 level basement, with bored piling foundation including dewatering, hybrid or composite structures of steel and concrete, with first class architectural interior finishes and exterior finishes (interior: marble tiles, capentry works, etc. and exterior: stone cladding and aluminium cladding).

For 50 activities, it will be a planning catastrophe. Planning with below 5,000 activities is playing or horsing around. Planning with more than 20,00 activities is reasonable.

Regards,

Clive Randall
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Having just picked up on this thread it seems to have a huge number of topics contained in it.
How a project is viewed and by whom.
How many activities need to be included.
How we drive the schedule resources or durations etc etc.
It is also pretty clear but not explicitly expressed that a major factor on the number of resources is the type of Project.
It would appear and I have no knowledge of this that a shutdown is a reasonably well known environment. There appears to be a facility in existence and that it will be closed. The upgrade drawings and the like are fully detailed before work commences and when the button is pushed a well oiled megolith springs into life. This also appears to be the case in the pipeline world.
Not generally for Building or Civil Engineering. Here the detail is never available for the systems for example when the programme is cast at the begining of the Project. For a three year project detailing anything more than the first 6 to 9 months in activites of less than one week is either falsifying the available data or requiring a crystal ball. Yes you must identify in broad terms the functions but any more is pointless.
When a client asks you to do this ie programme a 3 year building project in activities of no more than week ask him to provide all the drawings, appoint the specilist contractors, predict the weather and provide the crystal ball and an undertaking that he will freeze the design and not issue any variations.
My feeling is that at the highest level, the guys who make the decisions base them on what they see on the 50 activities at the level 1 programme they review and the trends that come out of the programme, where does the S say we should be and where are we. What have we been payed and what should be have been paid.
My experience is mainly in Civils and Building and here due to the moveable feast only at the end of the Project will you have a 3000 to 4000 activity programme if you have this at the begining you will never manage it.
The comment about the milestones in my opinion is extremly important. Set them so they can be remembered. Make them easy to identify. And tell people whether they will or wont be achived. Let the manager do the managing and give them the info they need in whatever form they can understand, I am sure that is on a chart with no more than 50 activities with a pop up that says well done or Oh F**k they will get a pretty clear message on the status of the Project.
Hi Stephen!
Glad to meet you here.
I agree with all you wrote, thank you for support.
I think that it may be of interest to discuss in details (not in this thread) schedule optimization criteria. You mentioned the cost of the delay. Usually we implement this approach - schedule is optimized taking into account cost of the day of finish delay.
Vladimir
Stephen Devaux
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A comment re number of activities:

I am surprised that no one (Vladimir?) mentioned nuclear power plant refueling outages. In the U.S., a typical outage will take between 25 and 40 days. And the schedule will typically include 15,000 - 25,000 activities. Needless to say, "one week duration limits" do not apply -- their durations are estimated in units of quarter hours, i.e., a two hour activity will be entered as 8 quarter hours. And every eight-hour shift is a reporting period.

New automobile projects (5 years) will be planned with over 30,000 activities, and new military aircraft with over 100,000 activities. But the quality of scheduling in the U.S., is nowhere better than in the nuclear power industry, probably due to the fact that every day offline costs the plant between $500,000 and $1,500,000. This is quite an incentive to have the best possible schedule.

Interestingly, on pharmaceutical projects, despite the cost of lost patent protection being estimated at over $1,000,000 per day, project planning is very immature. There will be perhaps only 5,000 activities in a five-year project, often with no resource loading.

In large software implementations (e.g., ERP systems) at corporate, government, or university sites, one might have as few as 400 activities for a two-year, $10,000,000 implementation. (Indeed, it is possible that nothing gets planned at all!)

In general, in the above discussion, I agree completely with the comments of Vladimir (Hi, Vladimir!) and Sigfredo -- the number of activities a project needs to allow for maximization of the project investment is the number it needs; no more, no less. I would only like to add to Sigfredo’s four basic questions:

5. Has the schedule’s detail been sufficient to allow optimization of project value through intelligent schedule compression techniques?

6. When a variance occurs, is there sufficient detail to allow quick recognition, measurement, and ability to see, measure and understand potential mitigation measures?
Daniel Limson
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Vladimir,

Sorry for the late response, as i dont have time to read the forum everyday, especially if you are managing 40,000 activities in your hands. (just kidding Vladimir) Leveling is essential when you are working with a contractor. This is a necessary exercise both for the commercial side and the practical side of construction, of course nobody wants big bumps and sudden drops. An ideal schedule should be smooth and efficient. Efficient use of resources should be a must excercise in planning.

Regards,
Daniel
Allan Morrison
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Thank you for the link, I will follow it up. I am interested in what you have to say on performance simulation, but agree a new thread is now appropriate.

Cheers,

Allan
Spider Project is Russian software. You can try its Demo downloading from http://www.spiderproject.ru/enter.php?ver=prof&lang=eng
I can describe some additional features of Open Plan and Spider Project useful for true project performance simulation but I don’t think that it is proper in this thread.
Regards,
Vladimir
Allan Morrison
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Thanks Vladimir,

I havent used Spider Project or Open Plan, so I would not argue with your conclusions on this. I have never even heard of Spider Project...who is the developer?

Cheers,
Allan
Thank you, Philip.
I’ll try.
Vladimir
Philip Jonker
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HI VLAD<
KEEP YOUR COOOL

Allan,
I agree that resource levelling is not wide spread. It is much easier to create high level schedules and suggest site managers to make it real. Resource loaded schedules are in use in the companies where top management knows what to demand from the project planners and project management software.
I don’t agree with your statement that P3 is the only credible software for dealing with resources. Open Plan has more capabilities and our Spider Project is much more powerful and functional. But P3e and MS Project are not reliable and sometimes produce funny results (especially MS Project).
I think that real project management (and any kind of management) is resource management. And project management software is properly used when it simulates project performance and is able to answer any of what if question. Besides it shall try to optimize resource usage. And what I don’t like in P3, Open Plan and other PM software that is used by most project planners in this forum - these packages don’t even try to optimize resource constrained schedules. They chose easy solution - to suggest their users to choose any levelling criteria and that’s all. Spider Project tries to use computer power to calculate better schedules and usually its resource constrained schedules are much shorter than produced by other planning software. Another problem that is ignored by P3 - taking into consideration financial and supply constraints (cost and material levelling is not supported).

In few words - resource constrained schedules are rare and usually they show the maturity of the project management in the organization especially when it used on the portfolio level.

You are right that this discussion may belong to a separate thread.

Vladimir
Allan Morrison
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Sigfredo,

I currently work as a consultant, mostly in claims and disputes. I have worked in both client and contractor sides of the fence, and agree with what you say about level of detail.

Vladimir,

I also level resources, but not on every project. It depends on a few things. Firstly on the software. I think P3 is the only credible software for dealing with resources, and I am happy to use it for levelling. I have tried the same with Powerproject/ Teamplan and find it to have some horrendous glitches, and will not use it to level resources. It does have other great strengths and is superior to P3 graphically.

For highly time critical projects like process plant turnaround, I will go to great detail with resources, and level accordingly. For smaller projects that are not too complex (where it is appropriate) I will often not apply resources.

Through working in project management and disputes I have witnessed many companies (large and small) approach to planning. Although several of us on this forum use resource functions, I have very rarely seen other planners use this technique. Do you think this is representative in your experience?

What are your experiences of different types of software for working with resources?

I realise that this is now drifting away from the thread title of ’Number of Activities’. I’m not sure if this should now become a new thread....or is it just accepted as an evolution of the existing one?
Sigfred and Philip,
I think that leveling is a key to this discussion. You cannot decide what number of activities is needed if it is necessary to simulate resource work. If your goal is to create project schedule that takes into account resource, financing and supply restrictions then the number of schedule activities is dictated by technologies you need to simulate and it is not a subject for discussions.
Vladimir
Philip Jonker
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Hi Vladimir/Sigfredo,

It is dependant on the project, but wherever possible I prefer resource levelling. The one problem is that when you do resource levelling you must only use true logic, and this is not always possible when you work with higher level schedules ie level 3-1. My personal preference always is to work at level 4, but this is not always possible, like in the instance where you are the managing contractor and have to rely on level 4 schedules by the contractors and sub-contrractors, in which case I always insist on resource levelling on their part.

Regards,

Philip
Se de Leon
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Vladimir,

Yes I do level. Some of the reasons are:

1. To finalize the execution program.
2. I used the resource leveling report to use it as basis to prepare the manpower schedule, equipment and procurement schedule.
3. To make resource "what if" scenarios.

I think this is one thing that differentiate scheduling/strategic planners with scheduling/strategic/resource planners.

Some people tend to think that resource planning is microplanning. I don’t think so. This is where the added value comes in for planners.
"Of course a good schedule should be resource loaded."

This is what makes schedules large.
If you need to advise what resources are necessary at any point in time, what can be achieved with the limited resources you have, your schedule will not be small.
I repeat - the number of activities in your schedule do not depend on your wishes, it depends on the project complexity and the tasks you need to solve.

One question to discussion participants - do you level resources in your schedules?
Daniel Limson
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As a guideline, a good program/schedule should include the following:

> The programme should reflect the full scope of work.
> Contractual Milestones, Key Dates and interfaces with other contracts
> Statutory permits and licensing.
> Submissions and approval process (Shop Drwgs, Materials, Etc.)
> Procurement, manufacture and delivery of Materials, especially long lead items.(including owner supplied materials)
> Any special items of complexity
> Test and adjust

Of course a good schedule should be resource loaded. These should include your basis and assumptions and as a minimum it should include quantities and production rates for major commodities and the resources required to achieved those rates.

Now going back to the number of activities issue, as long as you have covered the above as a minimum, then you have a good program. In project management, different levels of people focus on different levels of goals or sub-goals. As a Planner or should I say a good Planner should focus on major goals and give a chance and let others worry about the sub-goals. It’s simply impossible to be succesful if you try and apply micro-managing and micro-scheduling in your project. Let everyone do their share, be creative and innovative and keep them focus on the major goals.

Cheers,
Daniel




Se de Leon
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Hi Allan,

Are you working for client/owner or for a construction company? Certainly I would agree with you that clients prefer a not so detailed plans but if you’re working for a contractor, there’s really a huge difference on how I prepare a programme. As what I’ve stated in my earlier posts, planning depends on what you expect will be the questions to you. The number of activities is not really an issue but it depends on the capability of the planner to make huge amount of data simpler to be understood.

Cheers,
Sigfred
Allan Morrison
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Phillip,

My comment on data input technicians was not scathing. That is unfair. I was merely commenting that vast programmes need someone dedicated to track them full time. That person probably cannot also attend all meetings, interface with the team individuals, and attend site as well. That is not to say that a planning technician to do such data input does not have a place.

I think we can reasonably agree to disagree. I did state that in my original post that there is an element of judgement call in selecting the number of activities.

Tot siens,

Allan
Philip Jonker
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Hi Allan,

I think you are missing the point, and find your scathing remark about engineers and technicians not funny at all.

What I am talking about is lets say for example you have three drawings out of the 6000, that is for one type of electrical sub-station, building works, and there is fifteen of this type of substation, how would you track these with a couple of activities? It is not about the number of drawings, but about the amount of physical work, the amount of resources required, etc. that is required to effect the work represented on the drawings.

I understand the difference between the so-called planning technicians you are talking about, ie the organised and capable planners, and obviously their opposites. Think for yourself.

Regards

Philip
Allan Morrison
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In response to Phillip, I understand we have diferent aproaches to planning. Your approach is clearly that with 6000 drawings there needs to be a corresponding amount of tasks. In fact I have found even in complex fabrications that QA/QC Dept, and CAD unit manage all the drawings. As a planner I manage at a higher level. Issued for Construction Phase 1, may have over 1000 drawngs, but this will only account for perhaps 10 milestones that are linked to follow on construction activities.

I dont understand why distilling many complex drawings into their respective tasks is simplistic. It is just making sense of a huge amount of information into a workable format. Many of my clients would not be happy to pay a planning engineer good money to slavishly list such unnecessary detail.

I see there are perhaps two levels of planning in discussion here. Planning Engineers who interface with key project staff and keep a real world view, and Planning Technicians whose sole job is to input data.
David Ramsay
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VLADIMIR


I did not rule your philosophy out - I gave you the gap by saying "somewhere in between" which when the time comes and is needed then by all means do what is needed but be careful with the exercise by not making a meal out of it
It seems to me that there are different approaches to project scheduling.

We create project schedule to simulate project performance and that is why we simulate resource work. The schedules we create shall help to answer numerous “what if” questions. In particular the schedule is used for optimizing resource quantities. In particular we advise what numbers of excavators and other machines are needed to finish pipeline construction on time. To be able to answer these questions it is necessary to simulate resource work and technological dependencies that is impossible if the project model is not detailed. In Caspian pipeline construction project we simulated the work of 1145 resource types. It is not easy and cheap to move heavy machines and people to the construction site that is far away. Project performance simulation helps to save money – it is cheaper and easier to create the detailed schedule and to produce reliable estimates than to make real life errors.

I think that making it simple means that resource work is not simulated. And this is another approach that has other purposes.
Se de Leon
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Hi guys,

I think the latest posts on this issue is now becoming philsophical. KISS is such a subjective statement meaning a 10,000 activities may be too complex for some but simple for others because they know how to make things simple using this number of activities.

In practice as long as I can answer basic questions below I don’t care if it will come out to be 1000 activities or 40,000 activities.

1. Can I maintain it during the span of the project meaning logic must be correctly made. At any time of the project, can I make a projection of the project completion date, section completion date, floor completion date etc. etc.
2. Can I prove from the program cause and effect scenarios for claims purposes?
3. In resource management, can I answer my PM if he asked me upto when can we consume 1 truckload of cement? Can I give a realistic projections of materials to the procurement department? Can I generate cashflow using the program?
4. How many keydates/access dates were achieved and were not achieved and when?

There are many more questions, but my point is as long as the programme is responsive to the needs of the project I don’t care if the programme will have 40,000 activities.
David Ramsay
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Philip

One has to be pragmatic about things - of course, there must be somewhere in between but in general the modus operandi of K.I.S.S. should be adopted purely for expediency and ease of handling with regard to updating & reporting.

Believe me, that in general we do not have an engineering fraternity that wants to wade through reams of planning reports just to show them how their inputs are affecting projects as a whole - something very simple is all that is required and in any case the planner is the "eyes and crystal ball gazer" who is in constant dialogue with the project team at all levels and who speaks very loudly when anything is seen to be going off the rails.

We are not all working on a job that has 6000 drawings - I take it that they are all different drawings and not compounded by various other views of the same subject that can reduce the number you speak of significantly - other panning engineers may be working on many projects that have 50 to 100 drawings but even then, I still adopt the K.I.S.S approach until it is absolutely necessary to break planning down into greater detail - however, I endeavour to maintain an approach that is always manageable and not an Albatross round the neck



Philip Jonker
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Hi David/Allan,

Maybe one of you guys can explain something. I totally agree with KISS, but how do you plan a job that has 6000 drawings with a 1000 activity schedule? I am an engineer, who does planning, and this simplistic approach that you preach, simply does not always work.

Regards

Philip
David Ramsay
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At last sense prevails - I totally agree with what Allan & Gary have said & their statements are in line with what I wrote on the subject at an earlier date

WHY MAKE MOUNTAINS OUT OF MOLEHILLS ?

K.I.S.S
Allan Morrison
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Hello all.

I support the spirit of what Gary France is saying.

Planning should be a tool to guide a project, not to slavishly list every last nut and bolt ’activity’. Clearly there is an element of preference here, and it is a judgement call. However I find that in a project of any complexity, anything over 1000 tasks will quickly lose its benefits in what I would call a ’diseconomy of scale’.

There seems to be a certain machismo to stating that you can ’handle’ a project of many thousands of activities. The problem with this is that of becoming a slave to serving an impossibly complex number of tasks, links, changes, and variations. I am an engineer, not a keyboard jockey, and so I think that focus needs to be balanced on the real world. Planning is to control the time and resources on real world events.

An eye has to be kept on what is happening on-site/ off-shore, and in meetings. In aviation airline pilots are meant to be ’ahead of the aircraft’. This means thinking ahead, and keeping a broad situational awareness of all issues. I think planners should have a similar philosophy. Plans can become so vast through mismanagement thay they can in a very fundamental way lose their meaning, and swamp planners, engineers and project managers in unnecessary detail. This is case of being (in project management speak) ’task focussed rather than goal focussed’.

I like the old acronym ’KISS’-Keep It Simple Stupid! Planning can be a most complex exercise, especially once you start to engage in delay analysis, and such techniques. However, utility is the word. Planning isnt just for planners it’s for a team, and should be made as accessible as possible and no more complex than is appropriate.
Daniel Limson
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The key to managing mega projects with many contracts/packages is to have a common coding structure incorporated in your contract and a common scheduling software like P3. This way, each contractor can update their respective programs and merge the files seamlessly into one to get the whole picture. There maybe some manipulation required with interfaces, again the key is to identify those interface and set-up link points or milestones to make the whole process easy.

Regards,
Daniel
Philip Jonker
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Hi Vladimir,

You are quite right. The trick is to sit down and think out the code structures and id structures before you start working on the schedule. Also ensure that you have the right reporting structures in place. To update even 300 activities per week is not a major task, if you have the right progress gathering tools.

Regards,

Philip
Several words about creating large schedules.
1) Schedules are large just because they include many activities. Activity is a portion of work that may be done by some resource team, use certain materials, has reasonable duration that corresponds with the period of schedule analysis. So the number of activities depends on resource usage in your schedule and not on your wishes.
2) Usually large schedules include many similar work packages. We call them typical fragnets or fragments. Schedule development usually starts with the development of the project typical fragnets if they are not ready for use. If your organization performs similar projects then most project fragnets shall be already developed and stored in the corporate fragnet library. Fragnets are usually thoroughly developed (with resource team, material and cost assignments) for some typical work volume (1 km, 100 m3 or something like that). Creating WBS you stop decomposition at the fragnet’s level. Inserting fragnets you adjust fragnet volumes and create project model.
Fragnet library is usually supported by project reference-books or databases like resource productivity on typical assignments, material consumption per volume unit on typical works, unit costs, etc.
So having developed fragnet library you will not spend much time and effort creating one more schedule – only those works that have no prototypes in fragnet library need to be modeled.
Example – any pipeline consists of linear parts, road and river crossings, roads construction, etc. If you got the description of the line research results then creating very large schedules is easy – you just add corresponding fragnets (800m of the line part, then 40m road crossing, then another 1400m, then …). 10000 tasks schedule is created in two days (real life experience!).
3) Actual data usually are entered by those who are responsible for their accuracy. If these data are entered by project planners then there is a need to enter actual data for 100 – 300 activities in a week. It is not easy but it is not impossible.
Peter Hibberd
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Hi All

I use a system of four M’s viz Measureable, Meaningful ,Manageable and Modify(able). As an example - if your are building a pipeline, does your detail activity refer to the whole length of the pipe, the individual spools of the pipe, the individual welds/bolt-ups, or the individual bolts/inches of weld. For different receivers of the information, the degree of detail should change, however they should be broken down to the lowest level where all four M’s can still be satisfied. This is further enhanced by the feedback lop for updating, I have yet to find a supervisor who is willing to update schedules down to a very detailled level as this would take up all his time. The overiding M here should be Manageable, what can you do if the actual is not meeting the plan ?
I have worked on projects where the size of the plan is up to 5000 activities and found it to be no more than a checklist of work to be done, and was really not manageable. If that level is required it is usually handled better on a spreadsheet with weighted values to give a summarized result. Planning software should be used to determine the interaction of activities, not to check that they have been completed.

Regards
Peter Hibberd
Daniel Limson
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Having worked with Owner/Project Managers and Contractors, I would like to share my views with you on the subject. I believed there are no parameters on the number of activities on a project. This will vary from project to project depending on the contract and the people who are managing the project. The numbers will also depend if you are with the Owner/Project Manager or the Contractor side. The important thing is identifying the major activities from engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning and setting-up and establishing the control mechanisms of the project. In other words having a good plan and control in place. Generally the more detail the better, however, you need to be practical as possible to make it manageable. Detailing or further breakdown can come later as the project progresses. The important thing is you have identified those activites earlier and made allowance for them in your program.

Regards,
Daniel
Jaco Stadler
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I would suggest that we have a look at Qaulity of these schedules as well.

I know if I had to do a scedule with 40 000 activity’s (to an acceptable standard) this would take me a couple of years. I am realy intereseted in finding out how much logic (links) was in these schedule’s.

Assuming that it takes you 1 minute to create / resource load and to do the logic it wil take you 83 days. or 4 months to complete the schedule ???.

At my spead I would estimate one activity to take you 7 minutes. (Allowance for reviews included) this means the schedule would have taken me 21 months to complete.

As we all know normally their is a deadline. But next time my first activity in the schedule will be a 21 month period for schedule development.

So maybe whe should ad the duration it took to develop the schedule as well.
Bernard Ertl
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Vladimir, to the extent that different software packages may potentially have different reporting limitations on the ability to disseminate large volumes of information appropriately, I would disagree with you. However, in a general sense I do agree that this discussion should be moved to the more general Planning & Scheduling forum to get a broader perspective. Moving it now...

Bernard Ertl
ATC Professional Shutdown / Turnaround Management System
I think that this discussion does not depend on the software that is used for project scheduling. It is interesting to learn the practices of those who use other packages too.
Dragan Ilic
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Here in UAE (booming Dubai) we have up to 2000 activites for every project, so it is better to have no of activites per planner then to show how much total you operate on multi projects with your big companies.

We have average 500 to 1000 activites per project and weekly update around 50 activites. This is for one planner and one day operation. Project duration is 1 or 2 years. First 3-4 months are revisions from 0 to 3 or 4 so planners are full time on projects sites.

So please post your valuable data from this view.
Thanks and regards to all!

Dragan Ilic
besix.com
kamran hazini
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Dear Gary,

I do agree with your illustration for dealing with 1081 activities per month, however; maybe this was not a good example that I have made since actually this is not a single project. This is a multi-project consisting of 5 projects having their own physical battery limits that are also executing in 10 separate task forces with their own planners. (as I said 5 for detail engineer/on-shore supply and 5 for licenser-basic designer/off-shore supplier) therefore for each party we have almost 140 activities per month (or 32 per week) needs to be observed/updated that in my opinion seems not very unreasonable.

As you have stated there are many activities that are done by sub-contractors or manufacturers. What we are doing is just to monitor the major milestones into our schedule boundary and putting the actual progress for just 1 defined activity for those out sourced activities. The details are provided into sub-contractors report, as you stated and I completely agree.

Details for this huge number of activities (40,000) are not presented to the managers or directors. Instead, they will just receive a rolled up summary reports using higher level of hammocks (as Philip explains)and in case there is an area got critical and needs to be elaborated, it is very easy to prepare a more detailed schedule.(which happened many times)

Updating is also not very time consuming. Each discipline will report his own activities (something around 10-20 activities in each period) and planners will just check for the out of sequences, delay analysis, performance indices and etc. The interfaces between these sub-projects is done by another planner to detect and remove/coordinate inter-plant out of sequences/delay effects.

Cheers
Kamran
Philip Jonker
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Hi Bernard and Vladimir,

I agree with both of you. The point being that the schedule is there to drive the job, hence detail to assist the supervision and roll ups for management.

Regards,

Philip
Bernard Ertl
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Gary France wrote:
What surprises me here is not that us planners are able to work at this level of detail, but I worry about the people who receive these plans – the managers, supervisors and the like who then use them. I simply find it difficult to see how anybody can take in that level of detail and use it effectively.As I mentioned, this is a practical consideration that must be considered. For our part in managing petrochem turnarounds, the detail is disseminated to the field supervisors every shift with tailored (updated) shift schedules. Ie. each supervisor receives a bar chart containing all the scheduled tasks that have been assigned to his responsibility within the next few shifts. Generally, this is no more than a few sheets of 8.5x11 paper and easily manageable.

Management does not look at all the detail. They look at higher level reports and only dig deeper when circumstances dictate the necessity.

Bernard Ertl
ATC Professional Shutdown / Turnaround Management System
Philip,
I think that the difference in dimensions has an obvious explanation. If you want to simulate resource work you will need to have precise project model and a lot of activities.
I don’t support schedule level approach but it is like going from level 3 to level 4.
Do you agree?
Philip Jonker
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Hi Gary,

Thought you could explain the simplistic approach, answer accepted.

Regards

Philip
Industry - construction of buildings
Typical project - 13 store building $8 mln - 2500 activities

Industry - pipeline construction
Project - 750 km pipeline - # of activities = 9000, # of resources - 1145

Industry - ship building
Project Phase - 1st year plan - # of activities = 18000

Industry - telecommunications
Project: construction of telecommunication network - year plan 18000 activities

Industry - software development - 600 - 1000 activities in middle sized project

Industry - Metallurgy - construction of the new plant - 40000 activities

For portfolio management the dimensions are much higher.
Gary France
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Phil,

I thought I had answered that earlier question in my post below, where I talk about the detailed plans being done by the various specialist trades. They create the plans with the resources they require for their specialism.

Best wishes

Gary
Philip Jonker
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Industry: Industrial, Mining, Petrochem, Sports Facilities, etc

Value: $ 200 000 to $B 2

average no of activities: 7000 level 4
1000 level 3

Time span average: 9 Months

Hi Gary,

Still waiting for an answer on an earlier question.

Regards

Philip
Gary France
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Industry - The construction of buildings
Typical value $100 - $500m
Average number of activities 500 – 1000

Gary France
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Dear all,

This thread teaches us a number of things. Most importantly, it shows us that there are many ways of achieving the same goal – how to plan a project. It is clear that many of us undertake or planning and scheduling in different ways and at different levels of detail. None are the right way and none are the wrong way. It is just that we do it differently, be that by our own preference, or as Daniel says, the level of detail (no activity longer than one week duration) is sometimes dictated by the contract.

I am fascinated by the level of detail that some people create their plans in – for example, Kamran was involved in a 27 month project and had created a plan with over 40,000 activities. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Assuming an even spread of activities, that’s 1481 activities per month, or 344 per week. Whilst I know this calculation may not be correct because of the duration of activities, I just use it as an illustration. What surprises me here is not that us planners are able to work at this level of detail, but I worry about the people who receive these plans – the managers, supervisors and the like who then use them. I simply find it difficult to see how anybody can take in that level of detail and use it effectively. Bernard gives a good illustration of the problem when he quotes a project with a 6000 task schedule which took 7 hours to update, which they did every day. These poor people – both the schedulers and the recipients of the plan – they would have been on information overload, where simply managing the information took most of their time – how on earth can anybody be effective in this environment?

The differences in the level of detail also appears to be related to the type of project. I get the impression that those 40,000 activity projects are in the petrochem industry. Would I be correct in assuming that it is the norm for the work in this industry to be scheduled out in considerable detail? I had previously stated that the plans I produce are in the range of 500 – 1000 activities. I type of work I most often plan is the construction of buildings where there is a culture that the overall constructor produces an overall plan, and the sub-contractors for each specialist trade then produce their own detailed plans to fit within the constraints of my overall plan. In this way, I then only need to monitor and update 500 – 1000 activities. Perhaps this is the reason for the dramatic differences between the different views expressed in this thread.

Can I suggest something…? As contributors to the Planning Planet forums we don’t often make our views known in the context of the industry we individually work within. Yes, I know the forum show this against our names. How about some very short postings saying what number of activities we typically use, and what industry we work in and a typical project value. I will start it off.

Best wishes.



Gary France
Chairman
Planning Engineers Organisation
Philip Jonker
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Hi Alexandre,

Where I come from it means "Keep it simple Stupid" :-)

Not meant in a bad way, but to prevent stupid ideas from evolving further.

Regards

Philip

Philip Jonker
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Hi Alexandre,

Where I come from it means "Keep it simple Stupid" :-)

Not meant in a bad way, but to prevent stupid ideas from evolving further.

Regards

Philip

Philip,
I always insist that activity durations shall be restricted to be compatible with the period between project team meetings with one exception - if activity progress can be measured in physical units. You suggested an example of such activity. We usually use activity volumes (physical quantities) in planning and monitoring progress. For some activities work volume cannot be defined and in this case activity duration shall be short enough. Percent complete is not reliable measure of activity performance.
Other considerations for defining activities:
- One set of resources will perform an activity from the beginning to the end,
- Rates are the same for the work that shall be done,
- It belongs to only one work package.
Philip Jonker
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Hi Daniel,

A specific example is a boiler, lets say the platen elements, where you may have four hundred butt welds, and lets say all of them in one smallish area, and with ten welders on the job. It is simple to progress, as each weld is worth ,25 %. What is the point in splitting the activity up, to create a multiple of shorter duration activities? I agree with having enough detail, but simply trying to stick to limited durations, for the sake of it, does not make sense to me.

Regards


Philip
Daniel Limson
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Hi Philip,

With regards to your first question, you can do it on a number of ways, you can break your activity into Grid Lines, Areas, Zones, Segments or Parts. Again, i will only do it if the situation calls for it.

I will let Gary answer your second question.

Regards,
Daniel
Philip Jonker
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Hi Daniel,

You make a good point, about limiting durations to a specific time, ie 1 week. I have had this problem before. If you have a specific activity, which use a single resource, that will last one month, how do you split it? However, how do you lump activities together with different resources, to minimise the number of activies? Maybe Gary can answer the latter question.

Regards

Philip
Daniel Limson
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Very Good Subject! Some contracts are very un-reasonable in that they require you to breakdown your activities to not more than one week duration. However, you can worked around with this type of contracts (afterall we are Planners), for example. for repetitious works, you can create one detailed program and submit this separately as an attachment to your program. And for major commodities, as long as you can define your production rates and resources required to achieved those rates, I believeed a reasonable manager would accept a resonable level of detail. The formula i always apply is KISS. (Keep it simple S?????)

Cheers,
Daniel
Se de Leon
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Hi Gary,

With regards to your earlier post, how do you prepare your detailed resource programme if you will limit the number of activities?

As a Planner/scheduler, I don’t see the point of doing your resource analysis using summary/hammock activities. If you’re referring only to scheduling of activities I may agree but to some extent only.

I am now working on my second airport project, the first one, we handled the construction and airport development and if you combine the total number of activities used, it is around 15,000 activities. Now I’m only handling Airport IT systems, we’ve got around 3500 activities excluding some roll waved plans for training and testing.

If you’re just coordinating with client representatives, executives, managers etc, its best to stick to high level programme. But if I will be dealing with the above I mentioned plus supervisors, engineers, cost engineers, procurement people, design coordinators, consultants, practically most of the key people of project management team, I would certainly will have a hard time managing and maintaining a not so detailed plan.

Cheers,

Se



kamran hazini
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sorry, it seems I uploaded my reply twice!!!!
kamran hazini
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Hi there,
I am involved in a 800M€ petrochemical EP project (27 months duration) with over 40,000 activities in which 300 resources are assigned to, in P3 environment. Since the project is consisting of 5 separate sub-projects, are handling with 2 distinct parties for basic and detail design and procurement, we are dealing with 10 sub-nets. (5 sub-projects defined for each party’s activities)
I don’t want to say this is very easy for updating especially in this occasion that planners are located in different task forces far from each other, but we are doing it in our side as detail designer with 1 planner for each sub-project (5 planners in total) and one senior planner for supervision/coordination, that is updating twice a month.
Again, it is not detailed to each bits and piece such as bolts & nuts. We have over 2100 itemized equipment and for each item we have fabrication and delivery activity because we are invoicing for each individual equipment and this is important to be able for planning our cash-flow with respect to the delivery time of each equipment (payment milestone) depending to the value of that item.
I suppose more important than qualification of the planner would be our real requirement and what we are expecting from our time schedule that of course depends very much to the type of contract. Whether Owner is going to pay us by progress or by milestones, for instance.
Anyhow, I agree with other guys that are saying limited activities with long durations will make it very difficult to calculate (not estimate) the real actual progress unless a well-organized performance measurement system is established if a repetitive kind of activity is taking place in all projects. (for example plant modeling)
kamran
Bernard Ertl
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We regularly see schedules for industrial plant turnaround maintenance projects average around 5,000 tasks per major unit. There are some significant differences in managing turnaround projects versus EPC projects and a high level of detail is required to maintain visibility, objectivity and control.

The level of detail to be used should be a balance between planning and estimating projects to as detailed a level as possible to help minimize guesswork in estimating, allow greater flexibility/accuracy in critical path scheduling, and improve the accuracy in progress reporting versus practical considerations for updating progress, analyzing updates and disseminating information in a useable format.

One large project that I was involved in covered over 750,000 manhours over a span of 6 months for the execution phase. We had a team of 8 planners managing over 49,000 resource loaded tasks (not in P3, however). We updated the schedule twice a day every day for the duration of the project (execution ran around the clock). Because of the high level of detail, management was able to stay on top of the project. It finished on time and within 3% of budget.

During that project, one of the contract engineers on site commented about a similar 600,000 manhour turnaround that he had been involved in. They had used a 6,000 task schedule with one planner. Updates took them 7 hours to perform (they only did one per day). They did not have the fresh, objective information necessary to drive or manage the project effectively.

Bernard Ertl
ATC Professional Shutdown / Turnaround Management System
Philip Jonker
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Hi Guys,

I agree with Vladimir, that the number of activities should be dictated by the size and complexity of the project, and not by the capabilities of the planner. I have handled up to 35000 fully resourced activities, with the assistance of two junior planners, and normally most projects I have been involved in exceed 3500 activities, with the average around 5000. As a matter of interest in the 35000 activity programme, one activity for instance was the brickwork for ninety house and had a duration of three months, so it definitely was not down to nuts and bolts. I think it is a question of being properly organised. However, my answer to the original question is, it is dependent on the capabilities of the planner, but an average planner should be able to handle 5000 resourced activities in a project with a duration of one year.
David,
in large projects we insist of establishing a position of project planner who works with the information and helps project manager with scheduling and analyzing. Without such person project manager has too much work and of course the dimension of the project model shall be lower.
But I am sure that every project manager will be happy to have a precise project model that can give answers to any what if questions and additional project planner in his team who is responsible for this model creating and updating.
Vladimir
David Ramsay
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I agree with Gary’s philosophy as to the number of activities that should be applied to any project - what is the point of increasing the number of activities unnecessarily provided that what has been displayed acurately covers the work that is intended to be done?

An experienced planner will have the knowledge to update the schedule taking into consideration all aspects of what has yet to be concluded within the activity & be able to report on any criticalities that have manifested themselves - there is absolutely no need to break a schedule up into a nuts and bolts scenario unless the work is related to shutdowns that require to have additional detail purely to ensure that work outages are minmised and that resources can be deployed super efficiently

Imagine if I was planning a mining project whose capital value was 500 million USD and I had 20,000 construction activities (my normal number would be around 1500 maximum)let alone a whole host of commissioning activities to boost that number significantly - that would be total overkill especially when durations per activity may be at a minimum of a week and the project had to be concluded in 24 months - the additional time having to be spent on creating & updating schedules would hinder and completely stiffle all other functions that I have to perform such as chairing meetings, writing & issuing minutes, regular site visits and liasons with contractors & suppliers

The only time when I can truly say that I have had up to 40,000 activities has been in power station construction where perhaps infrastructure and 6 x 360 meg units have been at various stages of construction and commissioning - belive me, there is no time to rest when being the only site planner for the client in such circumstances.

I suppose if finance was no object to the contractor or client, then additional planners could be employed to manage projects that have a multitude of activities listed in teh programme but from what I have been through in the last 40 years,these luxuries are not the norm and additional planners on projects has just not materialised to any great extent and one needs to become super smart to manage large projects on ones own hence the least number of activities created but yet still capable of holding the project together as far as all parameters of resource and cost are concerned would be my ultimate answer

Gary, you have my backing in what you have stated
Gary,
we have meetings each week estimating project performance, analyzing problems, risks, forecasting future results, changes in resource and material requirements, discussing corrective actions, etc.
It makes sense only if we can state that some activities were finished between our meetings.
Remember Murphy’s law: 90% of activity takes 90% of time, the rest 10% - another 90% of time. That is why it is necessary to be able to state that activities were done, not just performed.
We consider project models as tools for decision making. If we cannot answer the question what if we will add some resource to the crew or will change one machine by another then our model does not work. It does not mean that we do not set target dates for major project milestones. It does not mean that we cannot suggest project overview - if will show the project schedule only for 4th level of WBS then the number of project phases is exactly what you suggested - around 500, and only near 100 on the 3rd level. A part of Caspian Pipeline construction project that we planned costed close to $700 mln, Ship building project - $1.4 bln, telecommunication project I mentioned - near $300 mln. I don’t think that there is direct correlation between the cost and project complexity.
And of course we utilise the skills of the other people we are working with. They participate in creating their subnets and we include in our project schedule these subnets. They are specialists and we work with them to create proper schedules of their work. Our task - to help them to plan their work better and to coordinate their efforts with the efforts of other project participants.
We use project presentations that help to see the whole schedule on the one page. This presentation we call Linear diagram.
And don’t overestimate the problem of monitoring project performance - there are between 20 and 30 activities that are performed each day even in complex schedules. It will take not more than an hour - to input performance results, to recalculate the schedule (resource levelling) and to prepare all necessary reports. Of course much more time may be spent for communications, discussing corrective actions, etc.

Gary France
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Oh good. Some healthy debate.

Of course, the project plan should reflect the relevant detail of the work to be undertaken. However, I after 31 years of planning construction projects, I firmly believe that a project plan should be exactly that – a plan. Not a detailed list of every single activity to be undertaken, with activities of say a week each – that doesn’t allow an overview to be taken, neither does it properly utilise the skills of the other people you are working with. Call them subcontractors or specialists – they are exactly that – specialists and they should be able to plan their own work far better than a generalist planner can.

Ronald, I respect what you say about small projects vs. large projects. I would be interested to hear from you what you consider each to be. For me, a large project would be £500m ($850m) and that would generally be the construction of a building. For my overall project plan, I would rarely exceed 500 activities because of what I said earlier. I believe communicating the overall plan is vital and having a plan with, as Vladimir suggests, with 9000, 18000 or even 93000 activities is simply bewildering. I cannot understand how this would help – a planner should be able to give his or her professional opinion about how a project should be undertaken, not just being a software junkie. Controlling a project with that many activities means that a planner, or even a team of planners, more time is going to be spent inputting data, administering the network and the like. This would leave no time for what planners are really good at – creative and logical thinking.

Vladimir, do you think that having 104 activities on the critical path actually helps? I am not sure that this would help, for how can the user of the plan ever hope to understand all of that? Don’t you think it is better to have (say) 4 targets a year that everybody can aim at. For my part I do. In the construction of the buildings I plan, I would typically set out a date for foundations completion, structural frame completion, cladding start, watertight, start of plant installation, etc. These are the only key dates I want everybody to remember, so I make them very easy to remember – 1st of the month, Easter, Christmas etc. This helps the entire project team focus on simple key dates and to pull together to achieve them. I simply do not believe that can happen with a project plan with 9000, 18000 or 93000 activities.

What do others think – detailed and precise, or strategic and simple?

Gary France
Mace Limited


Gary,
our usual construction projects consist of 3000 to 4000 thousands activities and loaded with a lot of resources. These projects are of the middle size. Construction part of Caspian Pipeline construction project inside Russian borders consisted of 9000 activities and used 1145 resource types. Large telecommunication project managed by three planners consist of 18000 activities. Large ship building project consist of 93000 activities.
All these examples were managed on a daily or weekly basis though sometimes by more than one planner.
When you create project schedule you should check that usual activity duration does not exceed 1 week. If the project lasts for two years you will need at least 104 activities on the critical path. Many of them will last less than 1 week, so you may double this estimate. But in construction many activities are performed in parallel or with start-to-start dependencies. So you may multiply this number by 10 at least. Now you have the minimal estimate of the construction schedule dimension.
I will add that our schedules are used for setting shift tasks to construction workers and thus activity durations are even smaller and the number of activities is larger.
Project schedule is not a picture, it shall be used for the process simulation and decision making. This may be achieved if the schedule simulates the real process and is loaded by resources that perform schedule tasks. Resource work is what is simulated - so the schedules that are not loaded with resources may be used for performance measurement but not for decision making.
We use other software but I think that what I wrote about does not depend on the software at all.
Ronald Winter
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Gary,

This is just your opinion. While many of my small projects use 500 activities, most large projects spanning multiple years will easily require more that 1000 activities to describe properly. It is not the Scheduler’s decision. If no activity may be longer than 20 days and may only cover the work of one sub or work group, then the number of activities required is parentally a numerical function.

Gary France
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Whilst I have not personally used Primavera for a long time, I cannot help but respond to this posting. Paul, are you serious that you often plan with between 4000 and 6000 activities? And, you sometimes go to 10,000? Are you mad? How on earth can you expect to properly plan a project with that many activities? More to the point, how on earth can the recipients of your plans ever expect to understand them? This to me seems like planning for the sake of planning.

I would stick to no more than 500-1000, at most. Anything greater than that is unmanageable, likely to contain many errors that cannot be recognised and likely to cast aside without being read by the very people the plan was created for.

Stick to a reasonable number and do it well.

Quality, not quantity!

Gary France
Mace Limited
Paul Harris
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I generally feel that it depend a lot on the capability of the scheduler and the type of schedule and if the schedule is resourced and also is the schedule integrated with a accounting or job costing systems and finally are we doing EVPM.

Some of my previous examples are

I am quite happy with 4,000 to 6,000 unresourced activities in P3 and I go there often.

I found when I got to 10,000 fully resource with 12 resources and a weekly update for an 6 month schedule it got difficult.

When I was doing full EVPM with a weekly schedule importing and checking the actual hours from a timesheet system and cost for an accounting system with manual input and checking ETC in hours, cost and time for each task and the % Complete for hours, cost, time and deliverables, then about 200 was fine but in another schedule with 400-500 activities only worked only because we had good systems and disciplined people.

I have not had the pleasure of working with Primavera Enterprise in a large integrated system, I am looking forward to the experience!

Paul E Harris
Eastwood Harris Pty Ltd, Melbourne, Australia
Planning and Scheduling Book Publishers, Training & Consulting
www.eh.com.au