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WBS and Activity Names

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Brian Walkin
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In a schedule with a structured WBS what is the best practice for the activity names - example

WBS: Site1/Building5/Area3/Machine foundations/  

Activity Name: Pour Concrete

OR: Activity Name: Pour Machine foundation concrete at Site1, Building5, Area3 

Duplicated info but using layouts without the WBS structure, "Pour Concrete" isnt helpful. 

Is there an accepted best practice.

 

Thanks

 

Replies

Rafael Davila
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- "Still, a naming convention that requires reference to multiple higher-level WBS codes to describe the scope of one activity is deficient."

  • Agree. We use multiple WBS structures, therefore one activity might have different WBS codes. Some are incomplete as to exclude some activities, convenient for access control to some users.  Multiple WBS are good for organizing the schedule and performing EVM under different structures.  I would dare to say it is the ultimate organization scheme but in no way a substitute for activity ID and activity codes.

                                                                           ↑ click above for full screen view

Best Regards, Rafael
 

Rafael Davila
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All too often I receive schedules with repeated copy/paste fragnets (within the WBS) and NO activity coding.

  • This is my experience as well (x1000), P6 schedulers among the worst, usually I add/ask for the missing activity codes when I receive such schedules.  Filling the activity codes is easier than looking for all activity names to be "fixed" in the hope none is missed. 
  • So much emphasis on always incomplete naming might be to blame; just require the activity codes that fit the schedule needs, require there are no blanks. Let say one such activity code is "area" then for general conditions activities an acceptable value can be "GC", not difficult to figure it out.
Tom Boyle
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Rafael,

1. Activity names do not need to be overlong to be unique, and they don't have to include the contents of every relevant activity code to be clear.  There is a happy medium that competent planners have been navigating for decades - using all sorts of software.

2. Your combination of duplicate activity names with rigorous activity coding is efficient and effective for you and is well supported by your software.  But you are an exception.  All too often I receive schedules with repeated copy/paste fragnets (within the WBS) and NO activity coding.  No doubt these are quick and easy to produce.  Still, a naming convention that requires reference to multiple higher-level WBS codes to describe the scope of one activity is deficient.

3. The fundamental test for a naming convention is the one mentioned earlier by Zoltan - can the critical path (or any driving logic path, in my view) be clearly and compactly depicted using a waterfall (or time-scaled logic) graphic of labeled bars alone? 

Rafael Davila
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If clicking the Excel icon is a workaround then what is not?  So easy it does not make sense for the software developer to add such visibility under small dialog boxes.

Image-057

Unique activity ID is the ultimate activity identification used by the software.  Creating the Excel worsheet can be done at a single click of the mouse unless you are using outdated software.  Frequently the software locks the windows and does not allow you to see other windows from the same software instance.  The software I use allows me to run multiple instances of the same schedule but for such simple task it is better if using Excel.  Even better if using two monitors and keeping the Excel worksheet, the specifications, the drawings, the estimate, a PDF of current schedule Gantt ... on the second one.

Looking by name one by one in large schedules with thousands of activities is not a good idea.  My examples are short.  It is easier to look in the Excel worksheet using filters for one or many parameters and copy-phase the ID.

In case we have a 20 story building work on every floor is similar so we just create activities for a single floor, resource and cost load and then copy the activities as a group 19 times.  It is easier to adjust activity code values per phase than going one by one and adjusting all names.  It is easier to add links when filtering by activity codes, no matter what WBS structure you are using.  You can filter by codes without creating a filter, right-click colum names should allow yow to execute the filter by values under this column unless you are using software lacking this functionality.

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Names need not to be unique if the information is in other fields, is a no-brainer.  Perhaps those who wrote the references are not aware of activity codes.  A schedule with long names repeating under every name data such as for every 100 activity names making reference to same area and building is a nuisance to read. 

Creating too long activity names is a workaround only needed if your software lacks functionality.

Best Regards, Rafael

Tom Boyle
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Rafael,

To me, your example seems to confirm the recommended practice.  Having unique names to begin with avoids the need for the workaround.  What am I missing?

Rafael Davila
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Because many dialg boxes can only display a limited amount of activity fields I suggest exporting to excel the table containing the activity ID, Name, all activity codes and a few others such as assigned resources.  In this way at a click of the mouse you will have them all available for your view and to copy-paste target activity ID, easy to update after adding activities.

Image-057

For showcasing the idea in the following example I am naming all similar activities the same with no reference to the area in their names.  In this example I am adding activity links to Activity "Pour Elevated Slabs" (Code 1).  By looking at the Excel worksheet you get all missing information and more, even their assigned resources and quantity for all activities.  Copy-Paste long activity ID, Searching and filtering using Excel is easier than using a paper printout.

Image-056

Brian Walkin
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Really good information here. Thanks everyone.

Rafael Davila
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While Spider project activity ID and Name fields are unlimited in number of characters in our scheduling specifications such as the UFGS-01 32 01.00 10 the Activity ID's must not exceed 10 characters and Activity Names must have the most defining and detailed description within the first 30 characters. There is a practical limit as to how much information we can display in these two fields if we are to satisfy these requirements;  therefore we are used to complement the information using activity codes.  Even if you are not required to limit the number of characters too many can be problematic to display.

Activity ID can only be unique, activity names need not if you use activity codes.  Unfortunately many have not discovered yet how to use activity codes to keep under control the number of characters when assigning activity names.  When the activity names are equal it does not means activity are the same, some redundancy is not always bad, they just have to learn about communicating using activity ID, activity name and activity codes as well.  All scheduling software allows for activity names be redundant, to identify any particular activity just use activity ID where redundancy is impossible.

Filtering by activity ID does not helps much, filtering by activity name also falls short, it is by adding activity codes you get better control of your filters.  It is by requiring activity codes the reviewer can easily verify no information is missing, insane if depending on activity names on schedules with thousands of activities. Therefore activity codes are as important as the activity names and ID.

Tom Boyle
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Brian,

Your second alternative is correct.  Accepted best practice is to use unique activity names/descriptions that clearly describe the scope of work to be performed (for tasks) or the event/achievement to be realized (for milestones), independent of the activity's position in the WBS or other coding structure.  The preferred form for tasks is Verb (present tense, transitive; i.e. what action is being performed) + Object (noun, with system/location/modifiers; i.e. what is being acted on).  For milestones, the order is sometimes reversed (with past-tense verb) to clearly indicate a status.  In any case, a systematic approach with consistent use and ordering of modifiers is necessary.  Non-standard abbreviations should be avoided and if used should be explicitly defined in accompanying documents.  All this is needed for effective and efficient communication of the schedule (including filtered and grouped layouts and tabular reports) to project stakeholders.

This isn't just an opinion.  References:

  • AACE 10S-90 (Cost Engineering Terminology; Activity Description - p 5/114) 
  • AACE 78R-13 (Recommended Practice - Original Baseline Schedule Review-as Applied in Engineering, Procurement, and Construction; Duplicate activity descriptions - p 9/19)
  • GAO-16-89G (Schedule Assessment Guide - Best Practices for Project Schedules; Activity Names - p 22/224)
  • NDIA-IPMD-PASEG_v4 (Planning and Scheduling Excellence Guide, Version 4.0; Task Naming Convention - p 47/248).

In addition, names/descriptions should be as compact as practicable while preserving the clarity and uniqueness of the described scope.  Modern software generally has no practical limits on the length of the name/description, though some legacy limits (e.g. 30-characters, 48-characters, 255-characters) can be imposed on certain data interchanges.

Unfortunately, many of the current generation of "schedulers" using P6 and MSP don't conform to these practices unless forced, and that's a shame. 

 

  

Rafael Davila
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Unless your software is not capable of dealing with multiple WBS Structures an activity can belong to different WBS, one per WBS Structure.

Activity codes will tell you:

  1. Where by site location
  2. Where by floor level
  3. Where by …
  4. responsible manager
  5. Masterformat division (CSI)
  6. Type
  7. Floor
  8. Phase
  9. Stage
  10. WBS codes
  11. Any other you might require

Requiring all or too many activity codes under the activity name would be nuts, the same goes for activity ID.  Activity names must make sense but not always using a verb is necessary or a good idea.  Take for example Project Start and Project Finish, no verb and no location required.

In any case activity ID can tell you about Masterformat Division and location.

Software that ask you for activity name in any screen, in any table, in any dialog box, and cannot display the ID at the same time is rubbish.

Zoltan Palffy
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activity descritption must contain a verb a noun and a geographical location or descriptor

verb- Installation

noun- counduit

location- 4th floor Area A 

Installation of conduit 4th floor Area A

very simple yet descrete no question what the work enatils here

instead of conduit installation or conduit

or just wire

what are you doing with the wire could be

procuring it

shipping it

pulling it

Terminating it

Testing it

 were are you doing it at

in the plant

on the job site where on the job site 

is it on the truck shipping

using an activity name such as pour concrete does not tell you enough about it where is this happening at ?

many times the activity description its not displayed WITH the WBS ESPECAILLY WHEN DISPLAYING A CRITICAL PATH IN A WATERFALL GRAPHIC.

Rafael Davila
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  • We combine activity ID, Name & activity codes.

Within activity ID we can easily consolidate 4 activity codes (Site, Building, Area and CSI Master-format codes) plus ID is in itself an activity code.  Say S for Site, B for building, A for area, GC for General Conditions ... Then for the last four digits we can use the first two to identify CSI Masterformat Division.
Activity ID                 Name
S01B05A03-0300       Pour Machine foundation
GC-0023                   Temporary Facilities

My choice is usually to keep activity name and ID simple and use activity codes.

Image-044

Say you have to add another building similar to Building 1, organizing by activity codes will help copy a similar building and with minor adjustments it is done.  No need to edit cumbersome activity names.  If using multiple WBS structures it would be easier.

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Image-045

Best Regards, Rafael

Santosh Bhat
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Brian,

 

I would say your suggestion (of duplicating the info) would be good practice. Activity names should contain a verb and a noun, and additional info such as where the task is occurring surely helps. There will be situations where you cannot use the WBS hierarchy and having a list of common named activities will make it difficult to relate to each one, so your approach is well advised.