Deltek Cobra’s latest updates to the IPMR Format 3
In the latest requirements for the Integrated Program Management Report (IPMR) Format 3, the Baseline Report, the government has added the ability to distinguish between significant and non-significant changes as a criteria for what changes get specifically broken out in the report. This is a welcome change as many of the standard tools used to produce the Format 3 simply included all changes to the baseline within a period in section 1b – BASELINE CHANGES AUTHORIZED DURING REPORTING PERIOD.
While this seems an obvious answer, if your project is one where there are a higher number of changes in any period, the amount of data reported in that section can become overwhelming and obscure the focus on the changes that will have the biggest impact on the program. For example, if you are reporting an IDIQ with a large number of task orders or providing support type services in an environment that has a short planning window because of rapid changes driven by your customer, you could be making updates to future baseline periods on a pretty regular basis.
As with anything, if the data you are reporting becomes so big, the readers will start to ignore the whole data set, essentially throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Human nature drives us to perceive the data as less valuable. This makes sense when you think about it from a reviewer’s standpoint. They may end up spending a lot of time investigating data that ultimately they don’t have to worry about. The inclusion of the ability for the reporting organization to distinguish between significant changes and non-significant changes helps address this problem.
Interestingly there is not a standard definition to what significant means. This makes sense when you step back and think about the varying scopes of the different projects for which this report format is required. Instead the definition of significant is left up to either the program itself to define or for the contractor, if the program doesn’t define it. The program can define what significant is by providing the definition in the CDRL itself. This is something specifically identified by the DiD as an attribute that can, and should, be defined in the CDRL. From the Defense Acquisition University documentation, it notes that:
“The Format 3 significant changes should be defined in the CDRL. For example, the Government may require that the “other” line be limited to 30% or less of the ending Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB) value for any period.”
This gives the Program the opportunity to identify what constitutes a significant change based on the nature of the work they are contracting.
DAU goes on to say:
“If the Government does not specify in the CDRL, the contractor will define the meaning of “significant” for reporting Format 3 changes.”
This gives the contractor the opportunity to define what they will report as significant if there is no definition provided. They would be able to document this in their Program Management Plan (PMP) for example. Interestingly the language does not limit how the definition will be constructed. So while the example provided by DAU is a percentage of PMB, the definition could be based on some other criteria besides a percentage. Maybe it’s a dollar value or a combination of dollar value and percentage. This provides the parties involved the flexibility to identify the best criteria for their project scope and size.
In the most recent release of Cobra, Deltek has added the ability to identify what changes will be characterized as significant for the Format 3 reporting. Because the definition of significant is pretty wide open the process within the tool needed to be as flexible as possible. This translates to it’s a manual process where the user has to flag a change as significant or not. There is a way to help in this process we’ll discuss in a bit, but first let’s look at how to turn on the capability in Deltek Cobra.
To enable the option to flag a change as significant or not as you implement the changes you’ll need to ensure that the Log for the program is set to “Log time phased changes” in the Project Audit dialog. If this box is not checked when you look at the dialog you’ll need to first turn the log off and then turn it back on. That option can only be activated when the log is turned on. In the example below the logging of the time-phased changes is already turned on so we are good to go.
Once we’ve verified that the log is set up correctly we can now proceed to making a change to the baseline and we’ll see the option to identify that change as significant or not. Once a change is made at the work package level that impacts the baseline you will be prompted to identify the change through the standard Log Comment dialog. In the example below we were prompted with this dialog once we moved to a different control account after implementing a change as our log is set to track changes at the Control Account level.
You’ll notice that next to the Change Number field there is now a check box that can be used to flag a specific change as Significant. Simply by checking that box the changes tracked against this change number will be broken out in the IPMR Format 3 the next time you run the report. Changes not checked will be summed up in the “Other” line.
If you are just turning on the capability or want to adjust when changes are significant or not after the change has been recorded in the log, you can run the Project Audit tool in Deltek Cobra. After the Project Audit dialog is open for the project on which you are working, you need to select the “Edit the log comment and change number” option and click the Next bottom.
The next dialog lets you review all of the changes being tracked in the log and identify the Significant attribute, among other attributes, in the log prior to running the report. For example in the log below we can see the change we made above with the Change Number 9876. Note that the Significant flag is selected as we had checked the box when the comment was recorded.
If we wanted to identify another log entry here as Significant we would just need to select the row, or rows, in the grid and check the Significant check box below the grid. Fill in the Change Number and Change Comment as needed and click the Apply button. (If you don’t click the Apply button the changes you have made won’t be saved when you move off the record)
Now when you run the IPRM Format 3 report for your project you’ll have the Significant changes broken out in the report by Change Number and all other changes will be grouped in the “Other” line.
This addition makes it easy to focus the attention of the Format 3 reader to the really significant changes to a baseline while not clouding the picture with a lot of smaller, less significant, changes. It would be great if there was a more automated way to identify what is significant in the tool. However, with the broad leeway given to the program and contractors in how they want to define it, you can understand how that would be difficult. I would expect as industry and government get used to using the new criteria in the DiD, we’ll see some agreement on how best they should be defined and consistently used, similar to how variance thresholds work today.