I recommend using Deltek Acumen for schedule analytics, it’s simply the best tool I’ve ever seen for the job! I don’t usually do opinion pieces like this, because opinions are just that – opinions – and I’m not sure in what way mine might serve you, unless in this case, you were perhaps looking for an outstanding schedule analytics system. Were it not just my opinion, I might not be compelled to air it in public, but I’ve been working with a number of clients recently that share my enthusiasm for this innovative system.
In my nearly thirty years as a project controls specialist, I can count on one hand the number of software packages that I can truly say were innovative, ahead of their time, or just downright brilliant. It’s rare that a phenomenon when tools such as Deltek Acumen appear in the project controls space, but when one does, it’s worth getting a little excited about.
OK, so I appear to be a couple of years behind some of you who have been using Deltek Acumen since it was first delivered to the market by an industry thought leader and visionary, Dr. Dan Patterson. Deltek’s President and CEO Michael Corkery, also recognizing the potential of Acumen when Deltek acquired the company in July of 2013 and has been steadily growing the Acumen brand. But while I’ve been aware of its existence for a while now, I’ve only recently had the good fortune of getting more intimately involved with Acumen at the tactical level, and the more I use it, the more excited I become about the staggering breadth of its capabilities in the schedule analysis space. A breadth, I must say, I will fail to do justice to in this article.
With a career that in some ways shadows that of the tool’s inventor, I’ve been working with customers for decades trying to help them develop and improve the quality of their project schedules. And like Dr. Patterson, I’ve noticed that in spite of the breathtaking advances in scheduling software usability and power, the project schedules themselves have not necessarily been keeping up with the quality curve.
Over the years I’ve had some fairly sad specimens across my desk, despite the high quality of the scheduling software used to create them. Some of that is an education issue and, as an educator myself, I immediately recognize the value of a tool that will help me educate someone else, or equally will help people educate themselves in what it takes to build an excellent schedule.
Initially the project controls industry, with the help of organizations like the PMI, and government agencies like the DCMA, USACE, and GAO stepped in with solid guidelines for building great schedules: schedules that are realistic, believable and maintainable. Other project management disciplines too, such as risk analysis and earned value management have benefited from the writing of practice standards designed to help industry win at project controls.
In fact, this movement in project controls quality and methodology has been gaining momentum since the 1950’s when PERT and CPM where being pioneered. Since the late 1980’s, software has been catching up and conceptual leaps in software design, like Deltek Acumen, are well placed to drive schedule quality to new levels, and with record ease and speed.
So check it out. Today’s project controls tools combined with best practice standards, have helped support a revolution of management information that has placed a once obscure craft, into the hands of virtually any interested organization, in any industry, worldwide.
What is so exciting about Deltek Acumen, is that it allows you to work in all the critical disciplines, in one intuitive and extremely well designed package.
Deltek Acumen is quite literally a one-stop shop for the entire process of schedule quality and risk analysis. Hence the names of the three elements that are Deltek Acumen:
Acumen Fuse: Schedule Quality Analysis
Acumen Risk: Qualitative and Quantitative Risk Analysis
Acumen 360: Schedule Cleansing, Adjustment and Acceleration
So, after you’ve loaded your schedule, analyzed and improved its quality, risk adjusted it, and completed any manual what-ifs that you want to perform; you can then export the adjusted schedule(s) back to it’s original (or other) scheduling system. At this point, you have just given yourself a massive head start on the journey to project success.
All this functionality is built upon the Acumen S1 // S5 Schedule Maturity Framework, a concept that predates the software and is the building blocks for its interface design.
The above image is taken from Deltek Acumen’s help system and it explains the process that Deltek Acumen so perfectly supports.
When you look at the interface you can see the S1 – S5 tabs that bring each of the maturity framework steps right to your fingertips.
As I introduce this tool to more and more clients, I’m continually impressed with the way it meets the broadest spectrum of needs demanded of it. Indeed, there’s a vast array of capability in here and, as long as you are vaguely familiar with the concepts of schedule and risk analysis, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty in getting some very useful output, very quickly; which brings me to the amazing reporting capabilities of Deltek Acumen. Like so many of Deltek’s offerings these days, Acumen plays extremely well with Microsoft Office. This allows you to share whatever you are looking at on the screen with anyone who is able to open an Excel spreadsheet, PowerPoint, a Word document or PDF.
To get the full effect of this Fuse Analyst Report, click here to download this example output spreadsheet.
You can also create an Executive Briefing output to Microsoft Word or directly to PDF.
Other surprises you may not be expecting: Acumen can analyze a series of project snapshots (copies of a schedule taken at different times during its lifecycle) and look for trends across those snapshots. In this example, we are looking at Float erosion over time (high Float) and the DCMA’s BEI values.
This ability to see trends over time can prove to be hugely valuable during the lifecycle of any project. So once again, we see a tool that not only helps us start with excellent schedule quality, but helps us track that same project throughout its period of performance.
Virtually Unlimited Metrics
Deltek Acumen uses a series of some 300+ industry standard and specialized metrics for schedule quality analysis. I say virtually unlimited, because it is. You can create your own metrics either completely from scratch or by saving and modifying existing metrics in the system. You can then save these to a new group to create a completely unique and purpose-build Ribbon and/or Phase Analyzer.
If you are even slightly competent at doing Excel formula, you should quickly find your way through modifying your own metrics. Deltek even provide an excellent guide on the subject called the Deltek Acumen Metric Developers Guide.pdf. It’ll be in the Documentation folder of any of the Acumen software downloads or updates.
Take a look at the above figure. It’s showing one of the standard DCMA 14 point metrics that looks for missing logic. It’s a good example of a metric and you can clearly see how it has been constructed using the Formula tabs with Inclusions, Filters, and a Formula text area.
That’s some of the highlights that I have room for in this blog. To try and do this tool adequate justice and fully explain why I’m so excited about this system would take more time than I have today. I will be sharing much more about Deltek Acumen over the coming months, including in video format, so I can really show you what you can do with this terrific software.
So to answer the question, why do I recommend Deltek Acumen for schedule analytics, it’s simply the best tool I’ve ever seen for the job and I expect to see this tool become one of the cornerstone systems in the next chapters of the project controls revolution.
Finally, we offer Deltek Acumen training courses, so if you need some more direct help, feel free to give us a call.