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Working with phases (summary tasks) n Spider

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Evgeny Z.
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Vladimir, Rafael,

I am looking now at phases and I have the following few questions:

Question 1

I could not find any function similar to “Indent” or “Outdent”, available in MSP or Asta. I only found “Convert to Phase”. Hence the only way  I found to Indent or Outdent is to cut Activity or Phase and then to Paste it (One Level Lower or to The Same Level). Is it correct?

Question 2

I never managed to create the following structure in Spider

Photobucket

In Spider Summary Activity always gets inserted to the bottom of the list. In another words in Spider only the following is possible:

Photobucket

Did I miss something or this is an expected behavior?

Regards.

Evgeny

Replies

Rafael Davila
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Evgeny,

The following links might help you understand why WBS and why you shall not mess with Data Date. I start my jobs with a free form WBS and then create activity codes to organize my reports by activity codes. I use other WBS for special requirements such as to control resource leveling prioritization and at times to exclude some activities. Spider WBS are even more powerful than the standard WBS as implemented in other software packages, still with the limitations in other software it is considered the best way to organize your job.

http://www.eazyplan.com/2012/09/27/primavera-p6-vs-microsoft-project-whats-the-difference/

Spider does not allows you to transfer data past the Data Date but you maybe will allow you to keep it on the Actual Data Input Table, my guess for new functionality to calculate from any date including a date after DD is that when you change default calculation from DD to "any date" the data on the Actual Data Input Table will be considered if you select to do so. This shall keep valid the strict requirements for what the industry consider good practice while will give you the view some users are asking for.

http://msproject2010primer.com/ms-project-actual-date-and-the-status-date/

Not sure how it is going to be implemented in Spider but it will be interesting.

Best regards,

Rafael

Evgeny,

activities do not belong to the WBS. Remember that Spider users work with multiple WBS and the same activity may belong to work packages that are at different hierarchical levels in different structures.

But from the other hand activity colors may depend on user defined parameter. It is not hard to create a user field that will contain numbers that define activity colors.

Transition to Spider is harder than you think because people resist to any changes and besides it means a transparancy that does not make everybody happy. If the schedule is just drawed it can include excessive reserves, moving data date without reschedulingg past tasks helps to hide existing problems, etc.

Spider implementation means creating and using corporate standards for work estimates, reserves are controlled and negative trends are immediately shown. Usually top management is most interested in this and if they do not understand, approve and support (and insist on) necessary changes the resistance is hard to overcome. Spider implementation means implementation of mature project management system and learning the software is a small part of the whole process. Of course Spider may be used as any other software but many potential advantages may be lost.

By the way, Spider already calculates the remaining schedule from any date but we will release this version in the middle of January.

Evgeny Z.
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Vladimir,

Sorry for coming back to this subject.

I just want to re-emphasize my point here. You see, an individual project manager (like myself) can take a decision to start using Spider because he can see all advantages of it and he can workaround difficulties (e.g. progress updates, discussed previously), however if the information, which he presents to his management will not have the same look and structure as currently used in organization software has (MSP in most of the cases), then the Spider is likely to be rejected by management, regardless of how good his resource leveling is (people are difficult to change).

In my view for relatively large organization the price of the Spider licenses is not that high in compare to the cost of the time people will need to spend to learn how to use it and to switch to it. You must have spent really a lot of development hours to make it possible to import to and from Microsoft Project. Why not spending a fraction of it to make user transition also easy?

The more I look at Spider, the more power I see in it. However I also often see, that it misses some things, which make it a bit difficult to use, however, and this is really good, they seem to be all very easy to implement.

Separate question:

You are using different colors to highlight the different levels of phases. Why don’t you spread this color also of the tasks, included in this phase? This could also resolve the potential issue of user not being able to identify which phase the task is related to. 

Regards.

Evgeny

Thank you Evgeny,

we will think about it though I personally don't like this way of work.

Regards,

Vladimir

Evgeny Z.
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I looked at the feature to create different WBS structure.

Quite cool!

So, this is effectively the possibility to group/present  the same schedule in a different structure, from different angle. This actually resolves discussion about based on which criteria to group activities: with Spider you can group it many ways in the same schedule.

Photobucket

 

Still, it is a pity that it is not possible to have a summary task and normal task, placed at the sequence of a user choice. One thing is that scheduler will adopt himself to the new tool, another thing is that he will have to convince everybody around, management (those, who review the schedule) to adopt themselves to a new way of presenting information. Since people by default got used to MSP way of presenting things, I think this will be a bit of a challenge in this case.

So, Vladimir, if you ever would plan to take more market share of MPS, may be a little tickbox  “allow flexible phase location” would probably help. 

Regards.

Evgeny

Evgeny,

in our practice rolling wave planning means that one high level activity will become a phase with several dozen activities and maybe subphases. And the picture will become much more complicated that the one you published. I don't see how the mess with WBS helps with rolling wave planning. Besides rolling wave is usually have certain sequence and creating detailed schedule in the middle of next period without detalization of previous activities is rare.

By the way if you want to show that some activity is on high outline level create a phase that contains this activity. Activity may be hidden if you don't want to have additional lines in your Gantt Chart and the phase will inherit all activity data like start, finish, duration and cost.

I respect all softwares including both MS Project and Asta. Each software supports certain approaches and requirements.

If Spider power is not needed and the schedule is used for visualization of manually created plans MS Project is a good choice.

Rafael Davila
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I use the word WBS Dictionary [a Primavera term] as a synonym of WBS Structure [a Spider Term], is easy to remind coming from being a previous Primavera P3, P3e and SureTrak user and perhaps good to communicate the idea to Primavera users that might be interested in our discussion in the same way I am interested on theirs.

Photobucket

Within Primavera products you are limited to a single WBS Structure while in Spider you can define as many as you want, in addition some can be Full and others Partial.

The WBS Structure is widely used in the Construction Industry to the point its use is frequently specified. What I do not understand is how something many agree is one of the best ways to organize a schedule is limited in most software to a single one.

Sometimes you are required by contract to use a WBS Structure following the whims of an Owner that requires you to use software that can only define a single WBS Structure. Why the Owner WBS only, why not the Owner and whatever you need?

By the same token you shall be able to transfer between schedules any WBS Structure/Dictionary you want as you can easily do with Spider Reference Books. I frequently transfer my favorites as a consultant plus the favorites of my clients [contractors] and the Owner, all from previous jobs.

Photobucket

Evgeny Z.
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Vladimir,

I agree, that in MSP it is possible sometimes to mess the schedule around with indent and outdent, but this is just downside of a freedom, freedom always requires more responsibility and self control, anywhere, isn’t  it?

From the other side Spider approach would not really allow the usage of “rolling wave planning”. In this planning you would 1st define activities on a high level and then would start breaking them down to details. In the below example, for instance, Action 4 has been broken down on more details (for whatever reason), whilst all other remain as a single action.

Photobucket

How would you do it in Spider, unless you would need to break all of the activities to the details?

In addition to this, the approach you suggested for still keeping phase at a desired place has one downside: it suggests, that Actions 1-3 and 5-7 are higher outline level, then summary task, “Action 4 expanded”, however this is not the case, they are all the same outline level, they are just have not been broken down.

Photobucket

By the way, as I mentioned, this is not only about MSP, also Powerproject (which, I think, Vladimir, you have a respect for) allows this (my 1st picture is from Powerproject).

 

Rafael,

I really admire you knowledge of all the scheduling tool, it is always nice to get access to you encyclopedic knowledge in this case. By the way, what do you call an “unlimited WBS dictionaries”?

Regards.

Evgeny

Evgeny,

we will not support bad habits.

An activity does not belong to WBS and cannot be on the same level by definition.

Maybe you noticed the field Level and possibility to set different colors for phases of different levels. In Spider Project you may not indent activities and phases at all and still understand the level of hierarchy for evey phase looking at this field and bar color. With 9 WBS levels you will not rely on indent for understanding WBS and it is hard to find the phase where an activity belongs if it can be placed anywhere.

I think that learning proper way to structure the project is good for MSP users. 

Rafael Davila
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As far as I remember Primavera P3 would allow you to organize by Activity Data Item [Activity Codes] and Work Breakdown while Primavera SureTrak would provide both plus Outline [Outline similar to MSP].

Under Work Breakdown Primavera P3 and Suretrak would group all individual activities at the same WBS level first and then by grouped by lower level WBS. Kind of similar to Spider but will allow to keep insert order within each group.

In all the other software if using WBS, if you want to order some individual activities, then some WBS, then other individual activities ... I guess you would have to control the grouping in the same way you figured out for Spider.

The grouping is common on all software under Organize by WBS only the difference is when inserting activities at the WBS level. Seems like the limitation is on how WBS structure shall be implemented in any software.

The real option would be to add Organize by Outline but I have the suspicion that in Spider is not that easy as WBS functionality is more capable than in other software and therefore is embedded in functionalities not available in other software. For a start in Spider you have unlimited WBS dictionaries while in the others you have only for a single WBS dictionary. You can create reports using any WBS dictionary and access them while in other dictionaries.

All software I know when organizing by WBS would group first individual activities and then the lower level WBS groups as shown in the following figure from a SureTrak display.

Photobucket

Evgeny Z.
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Vladimir,

Hmmmm…., don’t your users consider this to be a bit of a limitation?

I don’t know how it is in Primavera, but anybody migrating from MSP or Asta would have got used to the fact, that it is possible to have a task and a summary task to be on the same level and to be placed at the order of their choice.

Regards.

Evgeny.

Yes, Evgeny, this is correct.

Besides, Spider Project always creates the main summary task (project level).

Evgeny Z.
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Vladimir,

thank you for clarification.

Just checking, that I understood you correctly.

Is my understanding correct, that if in Spider I want to have activities, placed in the following structure:

Photobucket

I would have to create 2 extra summary tasks ("Actions 1- 3 summary task" & "Actions 5- 7 summary task"),  as shown here:

Photobucket

Regards.

Evgeny 

You are right - to move the phase to another place or change its level use cut and paste the same level or one level lower.

It is an expected behaviour. Each activity is shown under the phase where it belongs.

With many WBS levels (in our projects 7 - 9 levels are usual) it is not easy to understand the hierarchy by indents only.

If you want to keep activities at certain place create an additional phase.

Convert activity into phase is used when initial high level schedule is made more detailed. Usually it is done when additional information became available.