Do your activity forecasted and/or actual dates and schedule data date accurately reflect the status of your project? If you are not certain then you should familiarize yourself with the Defense Contract Management Agency’s (DCMA) invalid dates assessment.
The status date or data date, depending on your scheduling software terminology, is similar to the closing statement date of your checking account. The closing date on your checking account statement is the latest date through which all checking account activities have been recorded. Likewise a schedule’s status date is the date through which all activity schedule progress has been recorded.
If your schedule has been properly updated then everything on the left side of your status date should be complete and everything on the right side should be incomplete. In some scheduling software more than others it is possible to enter status and update the status date in a way that violates this principle.
This article examines the DCMA invalid dates assessment as a measure of the quality of a progressed schedule.
The DCMA invalid dates assessment inspects the schedule and flags any activity with a forecasted start or finish date before the project status date. Forecasted dates should be downstream or beyond the data date. So forecasted activities left of the status date are missing either an actual start or actual finish date. Additionally, the invalid dates assessment flags any activity that has an actual start or actual finish after the project status date. Actual dates should be upstream or before the data date. Both these scenarios flag invalid dates.
The DCMA threshold for activities with invalid dates is zero; there should be no invalid date tasks. Again, a task has invalid dates if it has forecast start/finish dates in the past or actual start/finish dates in the future, with respect to the status date. This means that the remaining duration of tasks that have not yet begun or completed should be pushed beyond the status date.
Schedules in some scheduling software like Microsoft Project are more susceptible to invalid forecast dates than others like Primavera P6. When the schedule in Primavera P6 is recalculated the remaining duration for all incomplete activities is automatically moved to the right side of the data date. This helps keep the schedule progress in line with the data date. P6 will, however, allow the scheduler to complete activities in the future, i.e. beyond the data date. Figure 1 displays a P6 schedule where activity B is completed “out of sequence” and in the future or beyond the data date.
(Note that the data date is represented by a blue vertical line.) This calls into question the integrity of the schedule: if its completed already, then enter the correct passed actual dates
Again, it is a little more difficult to keep tasks in line with the status date in Microsoft Project. Figure 2 displays a Microsoft Project schedule where forecasted dates are before the status date and actual dates are beyond the status date.
(Note the status date is represented by a red vertical line.) In task A both the activity forecasted start and finish dates come before the status date. Activity B has the forecasted finish date come before the status date. On the other side the actual start of activity C comes after the status date. And the actual start and finish of activity D is downstream of the status date.
All of these scenarios are possible in Microsoft Project. As per Figure 3, Microsoft Project schedulers must manually toggle when they update the project to say they want to reschedule incomplete work to start after a specified date, which may differ from the status date in Microsoft Project.
Forecasted start and finish dates that are in the past relative to the status date are suspect. Additionally, actual start and finish dates that are in the future relative to the data date are also cause for concern. Both these situations describe invalid dates. And the DCMA threshold for invalid dates in the schedule is zero. Schedulers should review their procedure for progressing the schedule.
The steps in Primavera P6, in particular, are:
- Enter the status of tasks
- Move the data date forward
- Recalculate the schedule, which moves all remaining work to the right of the data date
Again, for a properly progressed schedule, forecasted start and finish dates should not be left of the data date, and actual start and finish dates should not be right of the data date. The status date is therefore the dividing line between task actual and forecasted dates.
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