NEON, Inc. is an independent corporation created to manage large-scale ecological observing systems and experiments on behalf of the scientific community and funded by the National Science Foundation. The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a proposed continental-scale research platform for discovering and understanding the impacts of climate change, land-use change, and invasive species on ecology. NEON will gather long-term data on ecological responses of the biosphere to changes in land use and climate, and on feedbacks with the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere.
The NEON observatory includes 20 eco-climatic domains that cover the contiguous 48 US states, Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Each domain represents a distinct region of vegetation, landforms, climate, and ecosystem performance. Domain boundaries were determined using a statistical clustering algorithm and data developed by William Hargrove and Forrest Hoffman of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
NEON, Inc. asked that Ten Six provide support for a new program that was struggling to meet the National Science Foundation (NSF) required deliverable dates. In addition, they needed help addressing numerous reporting requirements, integration, technical and reporting issues with Deltek Cobra and Oracle Primavera P6. Primavera P6 and Deltek Cobra were being used for about 1 1/2 years to support all NEON projects including a significant 5-year project with approximately 600 work packages setting up monitoring sites across the USA.
Ten Six Approach
Our plan to address the new program together with a number of issues and challenges that NEON was facing. This included the following steps:
The Ten Six team fast tracked the program issues and:
- Developed the WBS, Work Package Elements (framework) and the program schedule
- Built Estimate to Complete (ETC) from bottom up to create a complete program budget ($140+ million) for remainder of program to create a program baseline
- Implemented COBRA and integrated it with P6; trained the client how to execute the monthly updates using the two tools
- Provided ongoing support to program office to update and adjust COBRA as required
- Performed deep analysis of cost elements for preparation of budgeted work
- Implemented Risk Analysis using Primavera Risk Analysis tool; provided ongoing support to Risk Manager
- Conducted Monte Carlo analysis of risks to determine end date of project and project budget contingency
- Collected monthly project status and updated P6 and COBRA to provide required CPR reports
- Provided regular and ad-hoc reporting to functional managers, Domain/Site/Subsystem Managers, Program Manager on project
- Established and documented various project management processes
Additional Technical Issues
- Validation/Verification of the existing Deltek Cobra 5.0 Installation – Ten Six worked with NEON’s IT personnel to check and verify the Deltek Cobra installation and setup. This included adjusting the server’s application read/write permissions for Deltek Cobra to determine if the software had adequate access rights to certain critical system folders.
- Installation/training on the API Interface between Primavera P6 and Deltek Cobra – Ten Six worked with the IT personnel to install the Primavera P6 API components on the P6 database and Deltek Cobra systems. We tested the API to confirm correct setup and data transfer capabilities. We then trained the NEON team in the API capabilities and specifically it’s use when integrating with Deltek Cobra.
Deltek Cobra Report Customization Conducted a 1 day two-part workshop:
- Part 1 – To train attendees in Cobra report customization techniques such as template modification, criteria settings, definition settings, filters and batch reporting.
- Part 2 – Developed custom reports for use on the production system.
NEON’s Cost Book requirements resulted in configuration changes which included enhancing the WBS Hierarchical Code file to capture additional text and notes against various elements of the WBS. This involved introducing new code files and columns to the existing WBS code file.
Ten Six successfully stood up the new program which provided:
- Accountability – for internal, NSF and subcontractors
- The ability to drill into the program and answer specific questions more quickly and accurately
- Allowed the roll up and reporting by deliverables
- The ability to manage risk and contingency budget
- PTL’s and functional area managers the means to manage cost and schedule better
The team also addressed all NEON issues resulting in a fully working integrated Primavera P6 and Deltek Cobra system. This result was achieved by addressing a combination of technical, configuration and user issues. All technical issues were also documented as well as the custom report development techniques which were delivered in a detailed Report Developers field manual. Further development of NEON’s Cost Book templates which included an analysis report to compare direct costs in Primavera P6 with those in Deltek Cobra.
Finally, Ten Six highlighted a need for further end-user training and support as well as process gaps including NEON’s change control processes. These areas were then successfully addressed by the Ten Six team.