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Manually Edited Timephased Assignments in Spider Project

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Evgeny Z.
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Hi, it is me again.

In MS Project, there is a possibility to do a Manually Editing of Timephased Assignments. That means, that I can assign resource to a task and then go to task usage or resource usage and manually edit the amount of work the resource is scheduled to work. I can make intervals of assignments as small as 15 min.

See picture below:

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mpp_manual_res_assignment.jpg

May be I didn’t search well, but I couldn’t find this feature is Spider. I only found how to assign resource to task with permanent loading.

 Did I miss something?

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Rafael Davila
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The following is from a schedule prepared by other scheduler who blindly followed PMI recommendations. As you can see shaded activities are missing electrical rough-in. This happens for all Buildings not only for concrete works but also for masonry, dry-wall and reflected ceilings among a few others.

The schedule initially was not resource loaded, if you add resources and perform a resource leveling schedule run the mismatch might be even more, not to mention the updates were also mismatched. Also please be reminded that Hammocks will not level resources assigned to them. I recommend resource loading Hammocks only using resources not to be leveled. Also partial workload assignments will allow the rough-in crews to work on several activities the same day as it happens in practice.

You shall assign the rough-in crew to each activity to work the required hours per day, then you will be able to see if there are too many activities demanding the resources, the software will be able to properly resource level the activities to occur when the required resources are available, if this delays the job then you have to act and perhaps provide for more resources, work overtime or any other action.

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Beans means Beams, it was not my schedule although I like rice with beans.

Such issues I find in almost all schedules submitted to me and prepared by schedules that blindly stick to PMI recommendations for WBS.

 

Evgeny,

Rafael wrote about an activity that does not belong to a single cost account.

I can suggest more examples of this problem if try to follow PMI standards blindly.

Another example: in PMBOK Guide Risk Response Development follows Quantitative Risk Analysis. Do you agree to aplly exaustive Monte Carlo simulation and then change project scope? 

This discussion could be really interesting but deserves a place in Project Management Issues thread.

Regards,

Vladimir

Evgeny Z.
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Rafael, Vladimir,

You are having interesting discussion. Can you may be illustrate the schedules which do and do not follow PMI recommendations? And also what exactly is the problem in blindly following the PMI recommendations?

Rafael Davila
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I cannot accept the endorsements of methods that are erroneous just because many people use them. It would be like if the American Mediacal Association endorsed smoking because many people do it. I expect better of our institutions.

Rafael,

PMI policy - to include only those methods and approaches that are widely used.

By widely used they mean used in the USA. When I tried to participate in PMI standards development some of my proposals were rejected because most people (in the USA) don't use them. Some people even supposed that I insist on some proposals because Spider Project supports them. PMI standards do not intend to describe best practice, they are aimed to describe generally accepted practice. People who do not read the standards carefully may miss this.

Rafael Davila
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"...we both know that it is not always true"

But not everyone else knows it is not always true and the majority blindly follows the PMI recommendations that might induce schedulers into wrong models. This is one of the reasons I have issues with the PMI, they over do it, they pretend to have too much control over what a scheduler does as if the more restrictive the better their schedules will be.

Another is that I believe some of their members have vested interest with software vendors, if their protected software does not provide functionality to provide better models they will not mention it and will keep PMI recommendations only within what their protected software can do. This limits the options and slows the development of the scheduling arts/science.

Some PMI members do it worst and go as far as creating a software standard that will favor the software that meets their approval as if those who do not follow their standard are doing bad software. Just imagine if they convince government agencies to use this standard (an intention they have openly expressed) competition will be reduced in favor of their protected software. No way such standard will make different software 100% equal, not even similar. That government requiring such standard might reduce competition substantially is enough to look at it with bad eyes. Once again this limits the options and slows the development of the scheduling arts/science.

Rafael,

you are right, PMI and EVMS standard requires that work package shall belong to only one cost account but we both know that it is not always true. What is true: work package corresponds to some deliverable (result).

Rafael Davila
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Got it, it seems that here many interpret work packages as if contract packages, as if work by different subcontractors shall not belong to a common team working on a single activity.

I do not have copy of the PMI WBS guidelines, the one I had long ago I got rid of it as to my understanding was not clear and even misleading.

Rafael,

I think that you misunderstood the statement.

In any WBS an activity belongs to some work package and only one.

When the works shall be done simultaneously then resources doing these works shall belong to the same team and the works shall be described by one activity. Some resources may be assigned partially but still they shall belong to the same team.

Best Regards,

Vladimir

Rafael Davila
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Vladimir,

You said - an activity shall belong to one work package.

This is a requirement at times I have issues with. Typically electrical and mechanical rough-in that must be done at the same time as other activities such as formwork and reinforcing steel installation. If you assign a separate activity then the activities and resources might be scheduled to occur at different date/time range. I find it better to assign those resources to the same activity under partial assignment and at times under same activity but different teams no matter under what contract or work package the teams are working. All teams are equally responsible for the progress of the activity and must cooperate as a team under a team of teams. I use a Hammock to cost load Electrical and Plumbing packages.

I believed this requirement was a response by users of software that lack modeling for partial assignments as well as for teams.

Very frequently I am submitted schedules prepared by others where the above mentioned activities when resource leveled are scheduled to occur at different time. If not enough some updates show the activities not working at the same time.

Maybe I misunderstood the statement.

Cordially,

Rafael

We usually apply certain requirements to project activities:

- certain resource crews will be used on activity from the beginning to the end and with the same workload (if the number of required resources or required workload is changing then it means that the nature of work changed and new activity shall be created,

- unit costs are the same (again if changing create new activity)

- an activity shall belong to one work package

- activity duration shall be less that two periods of project analysis, preferably 1 period.

 

Variable resource assignments are practical when resources are shared by many activities and a software may suggest to move activity resources to another activity with higher priority. Defining an intervals for assigned quanities and workloads we give the software some freedom for resource usage optimization.

Setting resource requirements curves without considering competing activities does not represent true scheduled resource requirements. Usually these curves are used where people do not want to create a detailed schedules and prefer just to input their own considerations for obtaining high level reports.

Evgeny Z.
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Vladimir, Rafael,

Thanks for clarification.

RE: “planning stage”

Having thought of this I agree, that it would be probably almost impossible to make effective resource leveling algorithm if assignments with curved loading are allowed. Since Microsoft Project is not positioned as an effective resource leveling tool, they can afford having the curved loading assignments.

 

RE: “tracking stage”

I need to play around more with the way it is implemented in Spider. There are still unclear things for me there. I will post questions here if I have further questions.

Rafael Davila
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At the planning Stage

I would use several hammocks to distribute the variable workload distribution if predetermined instead of using a more efficient way, it depends on your needs. It might be you need to see idle time of the resource to be able to assign it as per your needs on other jobs. If on the same job I would use the functionality for variable workload on a single Hammock. The options are there but depending on your needs one will be a better choice over the other.

I understand Spider do not resource level using curves as this will diminish the efficiency of the algorithm. Other software do it at the expense of good resource leveling results, other go as far as not considering the curves without even warning you.

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At the tracking stage

Spider records the hours actually worked on the performance archive, it not only record the actual hours but also the actual volume of work produced. The software will keep total actual hours worked within the Actual Data Input Period as well as volume of work. You can create Actual Data Input on a daily basis but it would be impractical in most cases, it is easier to keep detailed timesheet data separate for the record as such granularity will not add to the scheduling function. Of course keep your detailed records as you might need them in case of a claim as a proof of your reporting.

Please be aware that Spider Project makes a clear and transparent distinction between effort (hour worked), work (measurable volume of work such as CM of Earth Fill) and productivity ( hourly production rate such as CM/hour). In order to track productivity, different to effort, you need to track volume of work and effort hours. Because IT people usually do not follow volume of work but effort as if effort equals volume of work some software developed mainly for IT have very poor functionality to deal with volume of work and productivity, with such software users must make awkward manipulation of the available metrics.

We also assign managers to hammock activity that lasts for the whole project. Please pay attention that this activity is of hammock type - when the project finish is delayed the duration of hammock will be increased and manager peak workloads will be moved, isn't it? Do you model this?

Manager is assigned to this hammock with variable workload. If usually he/she spend 20% of work time for management activity we set it as maximal workload and 0% as minimal workload (when the manager is busy performing other activities (like negotiations) he cannot spend time on management activity).

During project life cycle some activities require special participation of project manager - negotiations is one example. At these activities project manager is assigned directly with some workload (like 20% on one activity, 100% on another). When total workload of project manager exceeds 80% his workload on management activity drops and it become obvious that at these periods he just cannot spend enough time on management.

Once again - we model project manager workload, not just draw what we decided without the software help. When manager workload increases it means that some project activities require his additional attention, isn't it? We model this.

 

When tracking Spider users enter actual hours for the period without specifying their distribution and expected remaining hours. If you want to enter actual hours by days you shall select actual periods and enter data day by day. You may select to do it once in a week.

 

Best Regards,

Vladimir

Evgeny Z.
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Rafail,

Thanks for explanations and links.

I agree, that time phased entries are is not the most important feature, but I personally use it for the following:

Just wondering what functionality is available in Spider to achieve the same goal?

At the planning stage

Sometime for planning of a budget I assign resource to a long going task (e.g. I assign Project Manager to the task Manage The Project. This task goes from the beginning till the end of the project). I know from experience, that Project Manager would not be loaded equally through the whole period, but he will be loaded at lot at the beginning and at the end. So I would do manual adjustment assignment to reflect on this. Actually MS Project has built in possibility to do this adjustment for you (back loaded, front loaded, Double Peak, Early Peak, Late Peak, Bell, Turtle ) . E.g. see example of front loaded assignment.

 

From

 

At the tracking stage

When you track actual hours spent, it is also useful sometimes just for recording purposes to record actual hours spend with the precision down to a day or even less. (e.g. Mon - 8 h of work, Tue 10 h of work).

So far in Spider I  did not find possibility (and maybe I didn’t search well)  to enter actually spent hours for every single day of the last week (assuming you update schedule weekly, but still want to have actual hours recorded on with the precision of a day)  

Rafael Davila
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CPM (and PDM) is intended to be driven by precedence logic as well as resource availability without braking the rules.

If your needs are employee centered and each resource can work independently on each activity then what you might need is Employee Scheduling Software that do not attempt to link your assignments with activity logic.

http://www.bmscentral.com/products/schedule/overview.aspx

http://employee-scheduling-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

Do not try to use your CPM software for purposes for which CPM functionality was not designed. Doing so is misleading and can create many occurrences that break the rules of logic, it does not makes sense.

I have seen software that pretend to make these approaches as if compatible and display resource assignments while the activity is displayed to occur at different time, others as soon as you execute a schedule run will erase assignments incompatible with the activities timeframe leaving voids on your resource needs; these are incomplete and erroneous approaches. Such software are also labeled as "Quasi-CPM" software as they allow very easily for breaking the rules of logic.

I believe that when your job requires true CPM schedules for claim analysis purposes these "Quasi-CPM" software shall be banned. Software that allows so easily to break the rules of CPM logic cannot be trusted to display true cause and effect.

With Spider you can model your resource usage to the minute. With the use of teams to model shift work and a dummy resource with a calendar set to work on the specific hours of your choice you can make a model allocate resources within dates and hours allowing for further assignment if the activity is delayed. This will allow the software to assign the resource to other activities on partial assignments the dame dates. If you do not allow for further assignment and the activity is delayed the software will then warn you that resource leveling cannot be completed because the resource is not available any longer.  As far as I know this functionality for modeling of teams is unique in Spider Project.

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Use of such assignments would be my last resort, I would prefer to use something more predictable, like allocating a resource using specific day-time of the the week. For example say Resource A is a Job inspector that must visit his jobs 4 hours per week, he will be assigned Monday and Tuesdays to Jobs at the West half of the Island [tow jobs per day], on Wednesday and Thursdays to Jobs at the East half of the island and on and Fridays to the Main Office. This will make it easier to follow and coordinate his work with others when needed to work on teams of more than one member.

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Note you will be leveling the Inspector A resource while the dummy resources will not be leveled, they are just calendar markers.

On assignments at a single Job I would use variable workload functionality available in Spider Project, in this way resources will be assigned to work in a way that idle time will be minimized.

Spider does not permit this and I don't think that this function is useful. If resource workload is changing for no reason then the work changed and it is necessary to create new activity. But Spider models variable resource assignments when resource workload may change because it is used on parallel activities and requirements there are changing (for example some activity was finished and resource availability increased), Spider is a tool for project modelling, drawing schedules and playing with resources manually is not what we call scheduling.