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Convention/Best Practice on Including Recurring Meetings in Project Schedule

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Brett Fennell
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I did a search before posting both on "best practices" and "recurring activities" to see if this question had already been answered but I didn't see that it had.

 

My question is this, is there any documentation (by any group, body, society, or agency) which provides the convention on whether or not it is appropriate to include Recurring Meetings in a schedule?  In the absence of any documented convention, my instinct and experience tells me that including recurring meetings is unwarranted.

 

Daily tag ups, standard weekly meetings with ones direct manager, routine meetings with the customer seem like items that are an understood part of working a contract.  They seem entirely out of place included in a Technical Schedule (with things like requirement derivation, development, and testing) where they must be laboriously tracked and statused.  But I haven't seen any documentation saying the same.

 

Is there a conventional thought on this?  Anyone been involved in a discusssion on whether or not to include recurring meetings in a technical schedule?

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Rafael Davila
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Brett,

PDF files are limited indeed, when we need for the audience to see all data we send the schedule native file, if they have the software they will be able to see everything and change data if privilege is granted within the file, if they have the free viewer they will be able to see everything as well but will not be able to change data. Nothing got to be hidden.

Just post on the network a single file to be available to all using either the software or the free viewer, only those with permission to make changes will be able to make them.

I am not sure but believe there are also free viewers for MSP.

What software to use shall be your company decision, not externals telling your company what to do. I believe MSP is the option for many, while for others it might be different.

I am glad you are exposing the details on your issue with multiple meetings on the same day because maybe someone else might help.  I am not sure how it works as I do not have MSP, but recall something like in MSP resource leveling interval could be changed, one of the subtleties of MSP.

http://www.techrepublic.com/article/deciding-when-to-use-resource-leveling-in-microsoft-project/

There are no perfect solutions, some are better but not perfect. Look at my example using variable quantities with 0 being minimum, it did not solved the problem when assignments are of 0 quantity, you still must deal with it manually as it is a management decision not a computer pre-programmed choice, it just makes it easier to analyze the alternatives. 

Best Regards,

Rafael

Brett Fennell
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Rafael I agree it's not a perfect solution, but it may be the best one available to me right now since it's somewhat simple to create a single recurring exception to work times.  It all works well until/unless you have a resource who is involved in numerous exceptions that occur at different intervals but coincide on the same day.  If John Doe has a daily, a weekly, and a monthly meeting (with each one being an hour long) and each meeting lands on the same day, Project 2010 apparently will only honor one of the exceptions at a time; in this example it would effectively tell the user that the resource has one hour unavailable due to meetings when in fact, on that day, there are 3 hours unavailable.   So I agree it's not a perfect solution, but unfortunately I'm working with limited resources myself; both in FTEs and dollars.  There won't be any additional scheduler planners hired and there won't be a change in the software being used; my hands are tied there.  Still if I can effectively reduce the volume of line items in my schedule it will make the prospect of timely updates slightly more plausible and still allow for some representation of a resource availability. Regarding the loss of transparency, I guess it all depends on what vehicle you use to communicate your schedule and who is examining the schedule.  If you're simply printing a PDF of your schedule, then perhaps some transparency is lost.  But if you have access to the native file, then the Resource Calendars are no more hidden than the resources are.  So again, here I think it depends on the audience and what they have access to. 
Rafael Davila
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The non-working time workaround might not do it every time, plus it will not be transparent with regard to work done during such imaginary vacations.  In addition to use artificial vacations are you going to use similar work around for other cases you want to fix/reserve a resource to an activity?

Variable quantity is not merely for such simple case, it shines on more complicated cases such as when an activity can be performed by different amount of resources and the availability of resources determines activity duration. Most software delay activity start until all meeting resources are available when in reality it might start earlier with fewer resources, at a slower pace but with much earlier finishing date. This is more complicated and fixed artificial vacations will not do it. 

Let's say the resource is needed on other activities, that while absent the work on other activities will continue but at a slower pace, and instead of a 15 minute meeting it is a meeting on a far away location that will consume the whole day. Are you to perform workaround on top of workaround?  In any case I would still be looking for better software if resource planning is a concern.
  • Good scheduling practice calls for transparency.
Brett Fennell
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Rafael and Gary

 

I'm using Project 2010 and while I've worked with it for awhile (and it's predecessors 2007 and 2003) I am unaware of any variable assignment capabilies.  Maybe they have it in 2013.  That would be a very handy feature to have.  

 

In lieu of that feature, I think I'll just try Gary's suggestion of creating a resource calendar with meetings inserted as non-working times.  That will eliminate need to carry the meetings as actual line item activities in the Technical Schedule.  I just have to hope/insist that assignments to particular meetings remain permanent.  The last thing I need is to have to create exceptions for the "exceptions".

 

Thanks for the input, much appreciated.

Rafael Davila
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If you need the software to resource level instead of manual then you can instruct the software to assign the resource only if available on specific activities.  With higher priority, if more granularity is desired then you can assign priorities to individual assignments.

Then making visible idle assignments you will be able to see assignments not performed and take action making sure the impact on other activities is considered.

But this was left on prior alternative because variable quantities is a functionality not available in most software. Look on next figure Resource A was assigned to Job 2 meetings but due to conflict it was not assigned to Job 1.

 photo 1-11-20147-01-12AM_zpse826faad.jpg

From following figure you will notice only resource E was assigned to Meeting 1.

 photo 1-11-20148-25-38AM_zps008d6ff3.jpg

If your software is not capable of dealing with variable quantity assignments you will have to go the manual way that can be very time consuming if many such assignments, this might be done with much effort if resource only impact Meetings but if availability of the resource impact other activities it might be impractical to perform manual resource leveling and you might have to resort to to other workarounds.

It is very simple if you assign a resource with variable quantity where minimum can be zero and there is only one available it will be assigned to higher priority as defined by user and on the remaining activities will be assigned 0 quantity of the resource and it is what we know as idle assignment. With a simple filter you can identify idle assignments, the issue is no longer about over allocations as with variable quantities they become erased.

Gary Whitehead
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Another option would be just to manage it with calendars. -If Resource A is never going to be available 10-12 on a Tuesday becuase of a regular meeting, just make that time non-working in his calendar. Nothing to update (unless the meetings change), and gives you the daily-level accuracy you're looknig for.

 

Tbh with technical staff I don't tend to get too fussed about over-allocations less than say 20%, because in my experience most of them will end up working more than their contracted daily/weekly hours if there's a need anyway -very hard to plan that in. I mainly use levelling to do just that -smooth out the peaks. If the meetings are regular, that won't have a major impact on peak demand, so I feel fairly comfortable about ignoring them.

 

There are always exceptions of course -In a recent job I decided to plan in all the regular planning reports the client had requested since the start of the job. That was really just to drive home how much of my time they were absorbing for little value though, as a negotiating tactic for driving some efficiency savings (it peaked at 44 reports a month on a single project...)

Rafael Davila
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To me a simple resource overloads report that filter conflicts among thousands of assignments shall do it.

 photo 1-10-20142-55-18PM_zps8898f433.jpg

Brett Fennell
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Rafael and Gary,

 

Yes, the actual rationale behind including the meetings was to illustrate resource availability, but down at a level of detail where, in my opinion, it makes effective management of the schedule unrealistic.  The ciurrent approach has these meetings defined down to the half hour, so I have several schedules with a slew of recurring activities (some daily, some weekly, some monthly, and some quarterly) that extend out a calendar year (for daily and weekly meetings you can see how this would add up very quickly).  And each line item has to have an assigned resource (or resources) in order to see when that resource is overallocated between meetings and actual technical work.  

 

There are simply too many line items to be able to address in a timely manner.  The only thing I can think of is to determine, on average, how many hours per week are dedicated to meetings, and then adjust the resources work hours day to reflect meeting commitments (i.e. if a Resource A works 40 hours a week, and on average spend 10 hours a week in meetings, then only 30 hours of actual technical work exist, and I adjust the resource's rate to 6 hours a day, instead of 8 hours a day).  But even that seems convoluted and doesn't show them on a day-to-day basis where the conflicts are.   

Gary Whitehead
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I'm not aware of any official guidance on this (to be honest, I wouldn't really expect there to be)

 

In most cases I see no value in including such meetings, just as there is no value in including repetetive tasks such as monthly invoicing or daily toolbox talks. or Weekly programme updates.

 

Exceptions to this would be:

1) as Rafael states if the repetetive meeting was using up critcal resource manhours, and you need them in there to correctly level (never happened to me)

2) If there was an output of the meeting which will drive other activities going forward. -eg Weekly client design approval meetings, monthly client investment approval meetings, 3-monthly local planning authority approval meetings, etc. This sort of thing happens quite a lot in my line of work (typically EPC process jobs and/or programmes). You need the meetings in the schedule because if you're a day late in submitting your budget costs for a project, you could be up to a month late in getting client approval to proceed.

 

Cheers,

 

G

Rafael Davila
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If meetings use critical resources and availability of such resource can have an impact on other activities you might consider crating such activity.

If the answer is yes then how to do it might be the issue as in most software hammock activities do not level resources. A trick can be defining the same resource several times each with different calendars.

To be honest I never had such need but some businesses such as design/engineering firms might have such need to allocate key personnel. 

If you do not need such allocation, then it adds no value, in such case avoid overcomplicating the schedule.