Deltek are in the late stages of development for Cobra 8.5 and are aiming to release this new version sometime near the end of Q2 or early Q3, 2023. But don’t hold us to that date – there is apparently some dependency on other factors outside of Deltek’s control. We’ll get to that in a moment.
The Cobra community have become accustomed to software releases around the end of each year. However, we didn’t see the 8.5 release in December 2022.
So, what exiting things might Deltek be working on that has altered this release cadence? Here’s what we know, or have been able to surmise so far.
Compliance and Formats
For some years now the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have been moving away from CPR and IPMR reporting formats as the contracted reporting standards for their major acquisitions in favor of electronic forms of reporting.
This trend traces back to the days of CS Solution’s wInsight product (now Deltek wInsight) that became a standard reporting tool among numerous government agencies. The wInsight application started its rise back in the 1990’s and its popularity grew steadily. This popularity hinged around wInsight’s ability to progressively load periodic earned value project data to build a time-phased database. This gave the agencies an historical audit trail of a project’s submitted periods, while also allowing them to analyze the health of a particular program and also track trends in performance.
Indeed, wInsight is still in active use today on serval major acquisitions. But alas – it’s underlying 32-bit Microsoft Access MDB technology has long since fallen off developer support. While Deltek still honor their user base with maintenance, and wherever possible, technology updates, the sun is definitely setting on this old-timer.
But I digress. The point is, that DOD customers where required to provide part of their Contract Data Requirements List, aka CDRLs in the X12 electronic format. While the X12 EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) format is still widely used in industry today, government agencies had begun looking for a format that better supported their EVM data analysis requirements, and moreover in a form that was product independent.
The Cobra 8.5 release will introduce support for the DOE’s new CPP (Contract Project Performance) JSON upload format, as they phase out the previous MDB and CSV uploads mid-Q2.
The DOE JSON schema has only recently been finalized, and Cobra will support this new format. And this, has likely been a key part of the reason we did not see a December 2022 point release. Assuming the DOE’s testing of their new schema doesn’t reveal any issues, we expect to see 8.5 in the previously mentioned timeframe. For DOE contractors, it will be worth the wait. Compiling the data for the current MDB and CSV formats has proven to be a notable overhead for these businesses.
Changes to Cobra Backup/Restore
Also expected in Cobra 8.5 is a change to the underlying backup and restore architecture. It appears that the old project .CMP format will be replaced in favor of a new .BKCP format.
The way a user performs a backup and restore process is not expected to change as far as point-and-click steps are concerned. However, users will notice a change to the file extensions when backing up any of these existing data types. This change is also expected to simplify the backup format options. We don’t have the details of this simplification yet, but will publish more details once the software becomes available.
As many of you may be aware, there has always been an issue with backward compatibility between point releases that required updates to the Cobra database schema. For example, one could not restore an 8.4 backup in an 8.3 system. We are hopeful that this new format may address this going forward, however we have no word on this, it’s just our speculative wish.
It is also known that you will be able to restore existing .CMP backups to 8.5 systems seamlessly, so that is reassuring.
It’s always good to see improvements to integration between the standard scheduling tools and Cobra. We understand that it will be possible to load the opening percentage value from the schedule when the User Defined EVT (earned value technique) is selected for a work package.
This is a very welcome improvement as this has been quite inconvenient for customers who make frequent use of the User Defined technique. Undocumented workarounds have been discovered, but typically the simplest way to achieve this has been manual post-integration adjustments within Cobra.
Primavera P6 Integration
Oracle have largely abandoned the old java-based Integration API. Indeed, in the ‘Tested Configurations for version 20 of P6 EPPM, the P6 Integration API is listed below the ‘Deprecated Technologies’ header, noting that: “P6 Integration API is deprecated as of version 16.1 of P6 and may be dropped in a future release”.
This API is still an option used by Cobra to load time-phased project data from the P6 database, and because of customer requirements, will remain so for the time being. As with previous Cobra releases, we anticipate continued improvements and efficiencies to Cobra’s Primavera Web Services integration, a solution that has been available for some time in Cobra. However, customers currently using P6, will find it beneficial to migrate away from the Integration API in favor of the P6 Web Service method as soon as possible.
Version 8.5 of Cobra is expected in late Q2 or early Q3 and will bring compliance reporting capabilities for the DOE’s new PARS (Project Analysis Reporting System) JSON format. This will significantly simplify the upload submissions process for those managing DOE acquisitions with a CPP requirement. We understand it will be a new option added to the Cost Data tool in Cobra’s integration tab.
Changes to the backup format are also expected. The current .CMP format will be replaced by a new .BKCP format. The legacy CMP formats will still be restorable to the Cobra 8.5 system. We have it on good authority that the steps required to perform a backup or restore will remain unchanged.
Schedule integrations will also see improvements in certain areas, namely support for importing the opening percentage when the User Defined EVT is employed for work packages. This removes the need for post integration updates, as has been necessary in current versions.
And as Oracle moves away from support of the P6 Integration API, Cobra is already able to support the alternative option via Primavera Web Services. Improvements and efficiencies are anticipated in this area also.
These are just a few items that we’ve learned about, and we are certain that there will be many more exciting improvements to report once the software is released, hopefully sometime within the next 3 to 4 months.