The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has mandatory requirements for the submission of all Oracle Primavera P6 Professional schedules. Let’s take a look that these requirements and better understand their purpose and benefits.
Studying scheduling guidelines is helpful, as there is usually a wealth of knowledge and good reasoning behind the scheduling criteria.
Understanding this reasoning enhances your scheduling base of knowledge. Sources behind scheduling best practices guidelines include among others the Project Management Institute (PMI), Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), USACE, Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC), and Air Force Civil Engineering Center.
Most these organizations support general scheduling guidelines. But, because the US Government had more or less standardized on Primavera P6 as the scheduling tool of choice, the USACE has specific requirements for the submission of schedules based entirely upon P6 Professional. These requirements are tool specific and support uniformity of schedules developed in P6.
This article seeks to explain the knowledge behind the USACE’s ‘Primavera P6 – USACE Mandatory Requirements’.
The USACE has ten mandatory requirements the Primavera P6 project schedule must meet. These are as follows:
- Activity Codes are Project Level
- Calendars are Project Level
- Duration types set to “Fixed Duration & Units
- Percent complete types set to “Physical”
- Time period preferences set to default
- Critical activities set to “Longest Path”
- Schedule option set to “Retained Logic”
- Schedule cost loading using lump sum labor resource
- Activity ID values do not exceed 10 characters
- Activity name values do not exceed 30 characters
Keep in mind that some of these requirements exist to better control the fact that your project may exists on two different systems, the USACE’s system, and your companies system. The business of sending updated schedules to external P6 systems mean careful control of many parameters. With that in mind, fet’s take a brief look at each requirement:
1. Activity Codes are Project Level
Activity codes may be set to global, Enterprise Project Structure (EPS), or project. The problem with global activity codes is that they appear for all users, so the list of activity codes may quickly become cluttered with activity codes that are only relevant to a specific project.
The other issue is if a user changes a global activity code then that activity code is changed for all projects, which may not be what you want. Activity codes at the EPS level pose a similar problem to global activity codes, but on a smaller scale. They are also problematic in that you cannot move the project to a system that has a different EPS structure. If you did so, then in all likelihood the EPS codes will not be loaded because the node they are associated with doesn’t exist. For this reason, Ten Six, and many other Primavera P6 centers of excellence recommend the avoidance of using EPS Activity Codes.
2. Calendars are Project Level
Calendars may be global, resource, and project levels. Global calendars are discouraged, again, because they are available to all users; you may clutter the list of global calendars with calendars that are only relevant to a particular project schedule. And, again, if a user updates a global calendar then all projects assigned that calendar will change.
Resource calendars define the schedule, including holidays and vacations, of a particular resource (actual person doing the work) and provides more minutia than desired by the USACE. Therefore the use of Project Calendars is preferred for the reasons previously stated and also they can be transferred between systems using the XML or XER Export/Import functions.
3. Duration types set to “Fixed Duration & Units”
There are four duration type settings in P6. When the duration type is “Fixed Duration & Units” you are saying the length of the project and budget are fixed. This makes sense as schedules generally have fixed deadlines and budgets. The variable is the daily effort of resources, which will update accordingly.
4. Percent Complete Types set to “Physical”
There are three percent complete types in P6: duration, physical, and units. Duration requires the least amount of information, as it automatically calculates the remaining duration based on activity % complete. Units is helpful for multiple resource assignments that have non-uniform labor burn rates.
However, Physical percent complete is the most accurate as the remaining duration is based upon the actual work physically achieved, which is also separated from the remaining duration; which can be different to a value calculated based upon present complete. For example, just because you have completed 50% of a 10 day activity, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will take 5 more days to complete it. It also accounts for learning curves where the subcontractor performs the remaining work at a higher production rate.
5. Time Period Preferences set to Default
Set the schedule to a standard eight hour day (8 hour/day) and five day workweek (40 hour/week). USACE prefers a standard workweek for scheduling; however in some less common circumstances this may be a different. Conformity to hours per month and hours per year are not quite as critical. But you definitely want your hours per day and hours per week to be in conformance with USACE requirements and/or to reflect an accurate average picture of effort on the schedule.
6. Critical Activities Should be Defined as ‘Longest Path’
Defining the critical activities as ‘Longest Path’ ensures that there is only one critical path through the network logic. If critical activities are defined as 0-day total float activities, there may be more than one critical path through the network. Multiple critical paths can potentially add confusion to schedule optimization efforts.
7. Schedule Option Set to ‘Retained Logic’
There are three ways to handle out-of-sequence activities in P6. Retained logic is preferred by USACE. In Figure 1 we have a schedule with three activities: A, B, and C.
Activity B began out-of-sequence’. According to the ‘finish to start’ (FS) relationship with activity A, activity B should not have begun until A is completely finished. Well, B began early.
The question is how do we schedule the remainder of activity B’s time? If we set the schedule options to ‘retained logic’, as recommended by USACE, then P6 software will schedule activity B according to the FS relationship between activities A and B. In other words ‘retained logic’ schedules will continue to honor the predecessor/successor FS relationship even when the successor begins out-of-sequence. So despite an out-of-sequence task event the logic is retained.
8. Schedule Cost Loaded Using Lump Sum Labor Resource
USACE prefers the fixed price labor effort or lump sum. Fixed price contracts transfer the risk of cost overruns to the subcontractor; any expense above the specified fixed price is paid for by the subcontractor. The lump sum labor resource effort is also preferred to make the schedule compatible with the USACE desired Standard Data Exchange Format (SDEF). Note P6 Professional ship with utilities that allow the conversion of XER file to SDEF formatted text files. You may be requested to provide these when working with USACE.
9. Activity ID Values do not Exceed 10 Characters
This actually is the default setting in P6 Professional Admin Preferences. It makes sense to limit the Activity ID to support schedule reporting.
10. Activity Name Values do not Exceed 30 Characters
Primavera P6 Professional has a data character limit of 120 characters, but this criteria, again, supports a more simplistic schedule activity naming and reporting process. Overly verbose activity names can be problematic when reporting and reviewing schedules.
There are many years of experience and a lot of thought and consensus invested in the foundation of scheduling criteria. The USACE has specific mandatory requirements for Oracle Primavera P6 Professional schedules. Anyone required to submit P6 schedules to the USACE would do well to study these requirements. They contain a lot of scheduling wisdom in general and P6 wisdom in particular. And some of the criteria are relevant regardless of the software-scheduling tool.
Particularly good takeaways from studying the ‘P6 – USACE Mandatory Requirements’ are their specification to make activity codes and calendars project specific. Adherence to this project requirement not only reduces clutter, but also restricts unintentional collateral changes other users can have on your schedule.
Knowing that the ‘Longest Path’ option guarantees only one critical path through the network logic is good to know for schedule optimization efforts. So whether it is details specific to P6 or general scheduling guidelines, studying the USACE’s ‘Primavera P6 – USACE Mandatory Requirements’ will enhance your scheduling knowledge, experience and expertise.