Tips on using this forum..

(1) Explain your problem, don't simply post "This isn't working". What were you doing when you faced the problem? What have you tried to resolve - did you look for a solution using "Search" ? Has it happened just once or several times?

(2) It's also good to get feedback when a solution is found, return to the original post to explain how it was resolved so that more people can also use the results.

Duration of resource work is longer than task duration

11 replies [Last post]
Evgeny Z.
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 6 days ago. Offline
Joined: 13 Jan 2008
Posts: 405
Groups: None

Hi,

I just noticed, that Spider allows, when providing actuals, to have Activity duration to be independent of resource work duration.

In the example below the activity has finished earlier, than resource has stopped working on it.

Is is something which has been missed in the software or this is done on purpose?

I seem not to be able to think of real life situation, which would be modeled by such behavior of the software.

In the example below it also creates a problem, because Activity 2 has 2 days lag after Activity 1, which is not being obeyed in this case (assuming Actuvty 1 duration in reality shall be equal to duration of resource work on this activity)

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1FBt_G3gCVqTW5MRzVQNElyeVE/edit 

Replies

Evgeny,

we discuss actual data. And in my example with meeting I don't know what time will take the travel for all meeting participants (and I did not mean meeting with the customers).

Spider Project is used for management of all consruction projects (about 300) for preparation of 2014 Winter Olympic Games. We helped with the management of this portfolio. In one of reports it was written that some bridge is 90% ready and the photo was attached with cars moving on this bridge in both ways. When I asked why this bridge is only 90% ready when it is functioning, the answer was that everything is ready except getting the formal permission to build this bridge.

It is not right but it happens. We do not plan this way but permit people to enter actual data the way it really happens. It could not be calculated. If activity is actually finished and following activity can be performed, remaining work on finished activity may be entered as resource assignment duration.

Evgeny Z.
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 6 days ago. Offline
Joined: 13 Jan 2008
Posts: 405
Groups: None

Vladimir,

I agree, that people shall be able to report the actual duration and actual start and finish dates of activities. My only comment is that if people have already started working on Activity, doesn't it simply mean, that activity started and if they work, after activity has finished, doesn't it mean, that activity has not finished yet in reality? 

This is interesting concept, which you put in Spider, but  I just wonder, how it works on practice. In case of Spider somebody needs to take an arbitrary decision, to mark the task as finished, whilst the people are still working on it.

  • Who takes decision, for instance, to mark the construction of the bridge finished, whilst somebody is still working on it?
  • Who takes decision to mark software development as finished, whilst software engineer is still working on it in reality? 
  • Doesn't it give a big opportunity to show progress better, than it is in reality?

I agree, that if activity is finished to the limit, that it's successors can start, most probably it can be marked finished (this is what also the document from Rafael suggests), however a new activity shall be created for remainder. This activity (e.g. Finish Remaining Items of the Bridge) should have it's own predecessors, successors, resources etc., in another words it shall be treated as any other activity (this is at least how I do it in my schedules).

I think this is also better for historical records.  In most of the cases, if somebody started working before activity start or continued working after it's finish, this means, that there was a problem in initial planning. In this case it is better either to extend activity or create a separate one with explicit explanation of what this new activity is all about. In this case if somebody will analyze the historical records with the goal to create a schedule for similar project, he will notice, that in reality it took 5 review-updates cycles to finish document, not just 1st time right.

By allowing some work on activity after it has finished, I think you make such historical analysis difficult as it hides the actual picture. 

In case of travel to meeting, the initial "Meeting with the customer" event is better to have initial duration, which takes into account travel. Otherwise Spider may schedule somebody to be in the office in Chicago next day after one day meeting in Moscow, whilst in reality it will take one day to travel back. 

Regards.

Evgeny

P.S.  I know you probably have plenty of improvement requests from real customers, but my be it could be a good idea to implement a switchable option "Allow actual activity duration to be independentl actual of assignments durations"

Rafael Davila
User offline. Last seen 15 min 4 sec ago. Offline
Joined: 1 Mar 2004
Posts: 4762

Vladimir,

What you say it makes sense to me, just look at the following reference.

http://www.nflaace.org/index_files/john_orr_cost_loaded_schedule_updating_pdf.pdf

Spider allows for The Great Divorce. 

I believe we shall look for ways to keep the historic records in practical ways that in case of a claim after an analysis can tell us what really happened but without unneeded granularity nobody is to follow.

Entering on the CPM database resource hours at the individual resource level can be too much, it is enough to report man-hours per activity, but man-hours for every named resource is too much. Also it might be better to report actual hours per update period but not the per-hour detail, leave it to the payroll records. Even if using a time card software it shall condense the data to manageable scale at the activity level. 

On a Condominium Building we usually have a cement plaster activity per floor, say 20 floors 20 activities, but we want to track cost for a single cost account, same as hours, if for 20 individual activities is too much, just imagine tracking hours per named resource on each activity, even per trade is too much. At times your plan is for 10 masons, 10 mason helpers, 4 laborers but in actual execution the composition of the crew varies every day.  Keeping such level of detail on a CPM just because the database can handle it is nuts. Weekly total man-hours for labor resources per activity shall be enough while for future work planning we still need the detailed crew composition. 

We usually update our schedules at end of the month but at the cutoff date we do not have resource hours until the following week payroll period ends, the same goes for other costs, many entered on the system weeks after, when invoice is received.  Most of us do not implement job costing at the PO but at the Invoice, very frequently they do not match and making adjusting entries on the system would be too much.  We should be able to update schedule for status and time projections purposes but latter to add some costs and resource hours after schedule update.  The data entry screen for each purpose shall be simplified, a single table with hundreds of columns drives me crazy. 

Always keep it simple enough, otherwise no one will implement it.  Needless to say this posting represents a change of mind from my prior postings, to me a search for constant improvement that will never end. 

Best Regards,

Rafael

Evgeny,

we do not want to ban an opportunity to report that somebody started to work on activity before its start and worked even after it was finished. This can be inputed only manually and will be seen.

Imagine that an activity is a meeting and somebody added time for travel to and from the meeting. What is wrong with this? A person was really busy before and afer activity dates and I don't think that it makes sense to add special activities for each person travel.

By default Spider does not do it but it permits to enter such data manually. This is about actual data, so just check it.

Best Regards,

Vladimir

Evgeny Z.
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 6 days ago. Offline
Joined: 13 Jan 2008
Posts: 405
Groups: None

Vladimir,

thanks for explanation:

RE:

<<

There is certain sequence for entering actual information: from the left to the right and from the assignments to activity

>>

So, when it comes to duration of activities, the following behavior is observed in Spider (it also follows your logic of sequence for entering actual information, mentioned above):

  • if you change the actual duration of Activity - it will also change duration of assignments
  • If you change actual duration of assignment - it will not change the actual duration of activity and may create an illogical situation as shown in my 1st post in this thread.

But I think common sense says, that it shall be opposite:

  • The activity duration starts from the Start of the earliest assignment and finishes with the Finish of the latest assignment
  • The work of individual resource within Activity does not have to be equal to the duration of the Activity. (This is irrespective on whether it was one or more than one Team, since the actual work may have been different from the plan)

But I can see, that at the moment Spider does not reinforce this logic

Or am I missing something?

 photo ActivityDuration_zps2af5b7d9.png

Regards.

Evgeny

Yes, there is a freedom for our users to enter actual information that differs from planned.

By default activity and resource duration are the same but in fact resources may spend more or less hours than planned and work on the task after the result was submitted or finish the work but submit the resullts later. Entering actual resource information is advanced function. Usually people enter activity actual data and resource data are automatically adjusted. But if real work was done with deviations people may enter actual data that differs from planned.

There is certain sequence for entering actual information: from the left to the right and from the assignments to activity. But again,Spider does not recalculate actual data using planned calendar. People may report that they worked through the night in case of emergemcy and enter more hours that exist in planned calendars. This shall be controlled by their managers.

Rafael Davila
User offline. Last seen 15 min 4 sec ago. Offline
Joined: 1 Mar 2004
Posts: 4762

how do you do this on your real projects? Do you just manually check, that this misalignment between resource work and project duration is never entered by those responsible?  

  • I use Include in Actual Data Input Table without Show Assignments option. In this way the software assumes the quantities as per activity duration avoiding any such conflict.  I know it does not represents true actual resource usage. We look at the CPM tool more as a forward looking tool rather than as a claim tool that requires too much granularity.  
  • Even when resource loading some of our jobs we do not keep track of resource usage via the CPM database.  Spider method is easy but it still requires a lot of work, time most contractors do not want to spend. I believe for the sake of keeping contemporary records it is worth it. We shall look for methods that reduce required data entry while keeping the record close enough to actual performance. If an Actual Data Input record have significant distribution difference then splitting the record in several chunks shall give us enough approximation to reality. To the minute records are not needed and will not add real value.  
  • Spider provides for an easy method to enter actual resource hours but there is still some room for improvement. You have just mentioned something that can be improved, why allow human errors that can be detected by the software?
  • For your knowledge in actual practice at home we are usually required to use P6 a software that is so bad at resource loading that the mere initial data entry promote to avoid resource loading on our jobs, not to mention its inability to model many real life resource allocations such as variable quantity and variable workload as to avoid idle resources.  Because PMs are concerned about cost, they must handle the missing functionality using manual calculations of their own. Under these circumstances we consider resource loading of not much value as to justify it, better than wasting time on something useless. 
  • In the case of a claim then with the use of the Job Costing records we can find out total resource hours actually used and determine if there was pacing or not. But these records submitted after the facts can be questioned, matching standard job cost accounts to individual activities is no easy task, at times impossible, better if submitted on every update within the CPM database. 

Re "The fact that resources and activities can have different calendars and that actual performance might have broken scheduled work time makes it to me a bit complicated"

I agree with you, that calendars shall be taken into account only when we are talking about the activities ahead of Data Date (in the future). When it comes to actually performed work, tool shall allow to overwrites this. Just because the reality always overwrites plans.

  • The following is a screen that graphically display how resources working on the same activity at different hours (different shifts) are taken into consideration to estimate activity remaining duration.
  •  photo rollupactivityduration_zps9299e142.jpg
  • But same as calendars are taken into account for remaining durations maybe actual work hours shall be taken into account for actual activity duration calculations. The problem is on how to enter the data without use of time card software. Some assumptions shall be made as to simplify data entry. I suggest for the reporting period the average work hours per day to be equally distributed from start of resource work hours in the direction of end of day, if not enough the remaining in the direction of start of day. Will not be an exact distribution but will keep on record the work-hours during the period on contemporary updates. 

Rafael

Evgeny Z.
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 6 days ago. Offline
Joined: 13 Jan 2008
Posts: 405
Groups: None

Rafael,

how do you do this on your real projects?

Do you just manually check, that this misalignment between resource work and project duration is never entered by those responsible?  

Re "The fact that resources and activities can have different calendars and that actual performance might have broken scheduled work time makes it to me a bit complicated"

I agree with you, that calendars shall be taken into account only when we are talking about the activities ahead of Data Date (in the future). When it comes to actually performed work, tool shall allow to overwrites this. Just because the reality always overwrites plans.

Regards.

Evgeny

Rafael Davila
User offline. Last seen 15 min 4 sec ago. Offline
Joined: 1 Mar 2004
Posts: 4762

Evgeny,

I agree with you, I am trying to find a logic on how it shall be done. It shall be easy to program the software to automatically change the activity dates to prevent resource usage outside activity range.

I am having issues on how to date activity duration shall be calculated and how this impact remaining duration calculations. The fact that resources and activities can have different calendars, that actual resource performance might have broken scheduled work time and that activities might progress without resource loading makes it to me a bit complicated.

For a start I would like to understand actual algorithm for such calculations. 

Best Regards,

Rafael

Evgeny Z.
User offline. Last seen 2 weeks 6 days ago. Offline
Joined: 13 Jan 2008
Posts: 405
Groups: None

Rafael,

I am not sure I understood from your answers whether you consider the behavior, described by me, to be a problem or there is a good reason for it.

Specifically, I don't understand, what is the reason to be able to have activity duration shorter, than the duration of the actual work of a resource, which is being done under this activity

Regards.

Evgeny

Rafael Davila
User offline. Last seen 15 min 4 sec ago. Offline
Joined: 1 Mar 2004
Posts: 4762

Evgeny,

Not only you can edit resource finish to finish after activity finish but also to start before activity start. 

An update record at the Actual Data Input Table consists of one activity line to report progress under no resource presence and a separate line for every resource usage being reported.

I believe that maybe: 

  1. The Actual Data Input Table shall accept multiple update records for a single activity. 
  2. For every record each individual resource duration shall be computed based the activity as well as resource calendars unless the user manually override it from 0 up to the maximum number of natural hours between start and finish time. We got to realize work is not always realized within the as planned calendars, overtime occurs even when not planned, but actual total time shall be reported as it happened. There is no need for every single hour be specifically entered, it is enough to enter totals within a small period and distributed on some daily average. 
  3. To date resource hours will be computed by adding resource records while activity hours shall be based on a different roll-up algorithm. 

Hope this helps to communicate some ideas fresh from the oven, not fully cooked, one more turn and back to the oven. 

Best Regards,

Rafael