Steelray Analyzer For P6 in an excellent tool that includes the Defense Contract Management Agency’s (DCMA) 14-Point Assessment Guidelines, among other analyses.
A helpful measure of the potential effectiveness of a project schedule is the DCMA’s 14-Point Assessment. This assessment was developed to examine a schedule’s quality and soundness. DCMA released the 14-Point Assessment to improve scheduling practices. The DCMA 14-Point Assessment measures schedule quality and alerts schedulers when a schedule has issues that may jeopardize the project’s opportunity for success.
The 14-Point Assessment’s seal of approval provides confidence that the schedule is well-modeled and practical. The 14-Point Assessment’s rigorous schedule analyses thoroughly review schedule quality.
Steelray’s Analyzer For P6 software performs all fourteen of the DCMA’s industry-standard assessments. And, it’s one of the few tools that provides meaningful schedule quality output data that adheres to the standards put forth by DCMA!
What is surprising, is that Ten Six has found that other companies’ DCMA 14-Point Assessment inspection analyses are less precise in their calculations or are “in development”.
This article overviews Steelray’s DCMA 14-Point Assessment software and confirms its results for calculating the more unique but problematic assessments.
Overview of Steelray’s DCMA 14 Point
Steelray’s 14-Point inspection software is intuitive, easy to use and it’s not difficult to generate the analysis results. We have in Figure 1 the Steelray DCMA 14-Point output data for a baseline schedule, with a start date of January 1, 2024.
Note also the two monthly snapshots in the dropdown menu. Each snapshot’s Steelray DCMA 14-Point Assessment is viewable by selecting it in the dropdown menu.
DCMA 14 Point Steelray Demonstration
Let’s demonstrate the import of a baseline and two snapshots for the DCMA 14-Point analysis.
From the main screen, choose File | New Project, Figure 2.
Select the source file and choose open. Then, give the project a unique name, Figure 3.
Un-toggle all options except for DCMA 14 Point, Figure 4.
In Figure 5, we choose Add Schedule Snapshots.
We have two snapshots, and we selected them both in Figure 6.
Finally, we confirm our snapshot selection and choose OK, Figure 7.
We are done! The Analyzer for P6 DCMA 14-Point results are displayed in Figure 8.
You may switch between the results for the baseline and each snapshot from the Data date drop-down menu, Figure 8.
Confirmation of Important DCMA Assessments
We review helpful yet difficult-to-calculate DCMA 14-Point Assessments and compare Steelray’s computations to the equivalent hand calculations. These notable assessments are listed below:
- Relationship Types
- Missed Activities
- Critical Path Test (CPT)
- Critical Path Length Index (CPLI)
- Baseline Execution Index (BEI)
We explain each assessment’s importance, confirm Steelray’s calculations, and appraise our demonstration project schedule using each.
Of particular importance in the 14-Point Assessment is the Relationship Types review, which inspects the relationships between activities. Activity relationships make schedules dynamic so that the effects of project change propagate through the whole schedule. This means that an activity’s start and finish dates automatically adjust according to changes in the plan or schedule progression. So, schedules must be responsive to schedule modifications, e.g., updated task durations. This makes the planning/scheduling process more efficient.
In addition to being dynamic, schedules must be understood by stakeholders. Much of the clarity of a schedule is determined by the types of relationships defined between activities. Schedule relationships supporting transparency are essential to a schedule’s quality.
To achieve a transparent schedule, remove start-to-start (SS) or finish-to-finish (FF) relationships modified by lag, i.e., waiting time, because lag has no labeling. Instead, define known-scopes-of-work tasks connected by finish-to-start (FS) relationships and no lags. Shorter, well-defined tasks with FS relationships are better; the successor effort commences on a well-defined scope of work. For this reason, the DCMA 14-Point Relationship Types assessment prefers the FS relationship for defining the interface between activities.
The use of the start-to-finish (SF) relationships should be rare and explained in detail. SS and FF are acceptable when in limited numbers. FS relationships, where the successor cannot start until the predecessor is complete, are best and should comprise at least 90% of the schedule’s relationship types. The following formula inspects FS relationships in the schedule:
Exclusions: Completed tasks, Level of Effort (LOE) tasks, and Milestones.
Procedure: Count the relationship types in the predecessor column.
There was a question about whether you count the number of relationships in the predecessor or successor columns. If you consider the below schedule, Figure 9, you will find that you have different counts and, therefore, differing % FS Relationships, depending on whether you count the predecessor or successor relationships.
In the schedule in Figure 9, if you exclude milestones and count relationship successors, the % FS equation computes as follows:
However, if you exclude milestones and count relationship predecessors, the % FS computes as follows:
In our demonstration, the schedule passes the Relationship Types assessment if you count successor relationships and fails if you count predecessor relationships. Steelray received confirmation from DCMA that the proper procedure is for you to count predecessor relationships. The exclusions mentioned for the Relationship Types assessment are specified in the DCMA Integrated Master Schedule (IMS) Assessment Guide Document Control ID: EVC-103-Rev2.
Steelray Relationship Types Output
In the Analyzer for P6 DCMA 14 Point results, Figure 10, the Relationship Types score for Wellmont02 baseline is 93.3%.
Manual Relationship Types Output
We want to confirm this output by a manual inspection. Figure 11 marks the hand count of FS relationships, 14, and the total number of logic links 15.
The percentage of FS relationships equation is as follows:
This matches the Analyzer For P6 ratio computation.
Note that the SS relationship connecting W1010 Project Start and W1040 Mobilize is included in the Total logic link count of 15. W1040 Mobilize is a task-dependent activity; all predecessor relationships to a task-dependent task are counted.
Relationship Types Demonstration Outcome
The FS relationships percentage of 93.33% meets the strict 90% FS relationships requirement of the DCMA Relationship Types assessment. This indicates successors are commenced based on well-defined scopes of work, which means a more transparent schedule. No further investigation is required of the Relationship Types assessment.
This Missed Activities assessment monitors and flags the excessive slippage of a progressing schedule. A schedule that repeatedly exceeds its baseline finish dates could be in trouble. And it may require a corrective action plan to realign the actual schedule to the plan. It is expected that not everything happens as intended. Nevertheless, your plan is your desired outcome, so you want real progress to track the schedule as much as possible.
Use the following equation to compute the percentage of Missed Tasks:
The Missed Task assessment is an early warning indicator that the schedule is slipping away from the baseline and may require corrective action to realign with the baseline. DCMA specifies that the number of missed tasks should not exceed the 5% threshold at most.
Steelray Missed Activities Output
Figure 12 displays Steelray’s Missed Activities output for the second month’s snapshot with Data Date February 29, 2024.
Manual Missed Activities Output
Continuing, we confirm Steelray’s results via a manual inspection. On the Gantt chart in Figure 13, we have the schedule hand calculation inputs for the second month’s reporting.
Eleven tasks were planned to be completed before the status date, and only one of these tasks met its baseline finish date. So, ten of these planned tasks missed their baseline finish date. The ratio computes as follows:
This matches the calculation from the Analyzer For P6. And confirms Steelray’s proper filter and calculation for this assessment.
Missed Activities Demonstration Outcome
This schedule has a terrible percentage of missed tasks, significantly above the 5% threshold. The project is awry and in trouble. An investigation to discover the reason so many tasks are not completed as intended is imperative.
Critical Path Test
Quality schedules have a continuous critical path from the project start milestone to the project finish milestone. It may, however, be difficult to perceive that your critical path is truly unbroken when you have many activities and possibly activity constraints. Confirmation of a continuous critical path is a necessity.
The CPT inspects the integrity of network logic and the critical path. The critical path test says the project completion date should be delayed in direct proportion to the amount of intentional slippage introduced to the schedule as part of this test. If not, the schedule has broken logic. Broken logic is the result of missing predecessors and successors. Schedules pass the critical path test if the project completion milestone shows a negative total float value or early finish date in direct proportion to the applied intentional slip.
The DCMA Critical Path Test assesses the integrity of the overall network logic. Schedules should commence at a single milestone and complete at a single milestone. But in between, you may have multiple paths. One of those paths, however, should begin at the scheduled start milestone and conclude at the scheduled finish milestone. This is your schedule’s critical path. It forms an unbroken link through the entire schedule and is the longest path through the schedule logic.
The CPT is implemented by increasing the remaining duration of an open task on the critical path by a specified amount. This should be an open task near the scheduled start date. Some guidelines recommend a 600-day increase. The amount is not important but note the slippage value. If there is one unbroken chain of activities from the start point to the end of the schedule, you will observe that the project’s early finish date is affected in direct proportion to the inserted test slippage. Schedules having project constraint deadlines will show a negative total float increase in direct proportion to the slippage.
Steelray CPT Output for Continuous Logic
Let us confirm that the Steelray CPT correctly identifies continuity in the schedule. Figure 14 is a printout of the baseline Wellmont02 schedule, which has continuous logic from Notice to Proceed to Project Complete.
Steelray output for the CPT is displayed in Figure 15.
The Analyzer for P6 correctly confirms the continuity of the schedule, Figure 15.
Steelray CPT Output for Broken Logic
Let us now confirm Steelray’s ability to flag broken logic. In Figure 16 we remove the relationship and two-day negative lag connecting W1060 Foundation and W1080 Cable Trench.
We also remove the project constraint, then recalculate the schedule and display its changes, Figure 17.
Figure 17 shows that the schedule logic is broken at the Foundation task. The Analyzer For P6 analysis, Figure 18, correctly fails the schedule that has the missing Foundation to Cable Trench logic link.
Steelray CPT Output for Activity Constraints
Activity constraints also affect the CPT results. The CPT passed when the following soft constraints were included in the schedule:
- Finish On or Before
- Finish On
The CPT output failed, as expected, with the following activity hard constraint:
- Mandatory Finish
Hard constraints fail because they can violate network logic in their effort to achieve the constraint dates.
Critical Path Length Index
The CPLI provides a forward-looking metric on the efficiency required for remaining efforts to achieve the project deadline. So, if the Missed Task metric says your project is falling behind, the CPLI index gives you an idea of what it will take to get back on track to meet the deadline.
The CPLI focus is on the achievability of the critical path. A CPLI of 1.00 is acceptable; it says the program must accomplish one day’s worth of work for every day that passes. A CPLI greater than 1.00 is good; the project plans to finish early. Schedules that have a CPLI less than 0.95 are flagged for further review.
Let’s take a closer look at this helpful metric. The equation to calculate CPLI from the DCMA 14 Point assessment is as follows:
Where CPL is the critical path length, i.e., the project’s remaining duration along the critical path, note CPL considers the remaining duration, as CPLI is a forward-looking metric. The equation follows: in the numerator is CPL plus TF or total float, either positive or negative. This sum is divided by CPL in the denominator.
Steelray CPLI Output
Figure 19 displays the Analyzer For P6 CPLI computation for the second month’s snapshot with Data Date February 29, 2024.
Manual CPLI Output
To manually calculate the CPLI after the Wellmont02 project’s second-month update, we first find the values for CPL and Total Float. We proceed and access the schedule’s activity table in P6. Then, we select the top-level deliverable in the activity table, Figure 20.
The remaining duration of the project is 17.9 days. This is the CPL. The total float also displays, which is negative 4.9 days. The CPLI computes as follows:
This 0.73 result matches the CPLI calculated by Analyzer for P6, Figure 19, and confirms that Steelray software correctly calculates the CPLI. Note that the CPL is business days and not calendar days. Calculating the CPLI using calendar days does not match the true schedule situation.
CPLI Demonstration Outcome
The CPLI of 0.73 (calculated using working days) warns that our schedule after the second-month update is in trouble. The schedule will have difficulty meeting the project deadline. And is flagged for further review.
Baseline Execution Index
BEI is achieving popularity as a schedule completion early warning indicator. The Schedule Performance Index (SPI) is a well-known Earned Value Management (EVM) metric that extrapolates the project’s schedule completion situation. SPI is, therefore, an insightful schedule progress metric. However, the BEI provides an early schedule completion detection warning that flashes trouble signals before the SPI. The BEI is like the canary in the coal mine, providing a first alert that the schedule is amiss.
The equation is as follows:
The numerator is the total number of tasks completed per the data date (i.e., status date). The denominator Baseline Count is equivalent to the number of activities that should be completed on or before the status date.
A benefit of the BEI assessment is that it is less sensitive to minutiae than the Missed Tasks assessment. This is because the Missed Task metric includes tasks that missed their baseline finish date but are, nevertheless, complete as per that data date. The BEI ratio is tasks completed by the status date divided by what should be completed by the status date. It’s therefore fine for an activity to slip beyond its baseline finish date, provided it is complete by the data date.
A major duty of the project manager is to monitor schedule progress and adjust to keep the project on time. The earlier the project manager can spot a schedule diverting from the plan the better. The BEI has the proper balance between early detection of schedules not proceeding according to plan and too much sensitivity to minor schedule task lapses.
A BEI > 1 is favorable, and a BEI < 1 is unfavorable. A BEI greater than 1.00 reflects a higher task throughput than planned. Schedules that have a BEI less than 0.95 are flagged for further review.
Steelray BEI Output
Figure 21 displays BEI results for the February snapshot, February 29, 2024.
Manual BEI Output
To validate the Steelray BEI we hand select the tasks missing their planned reporting period finish and number tasks scheduled to complete in the reporting period, Figure 22.
The BEI calculation follows:
The numerator is the number of tasks scheduled to be completed in the reporting period minus the number of tasks that failed to be completed, which computes the number of tasks completed in the reporting period, which is six. Again, the denominator is the number of tasks planned to be completed per the status date—our hand calculation of 0.55 matches the BEI output for the February snapshot, Figure 21.
BEI Demonstration Outcome
Our schedule’s BEI value of 0.55 indicates a strong early warning that our schedule is going awry.
We have looked at the most practical and problematic DCMA 14-Point Assessment computations. In reviewing several companies’ P6 14-Point Assessment quality check software, Ten Six has found that some either do not include these assessments in their schedule check or, worse, do not adhere to DCMA’s strict procedures for their calculation. As investigated and shown, Steelray computations for the most difficult-to-calculate assessments meet the guidelines documented by DCMA.
Be aware that for the Relationship Types assessment, you count predecessor relationships. Counting successor relationships may provide a different percentage of FS relationships. Steelray confirmed with DCMA their way of computing the percentage of FS tasks, so their procedure follows DCMA guidance.
The Missed Activities assessment is a no exception, stringent and conservative criteria that warns when the progress diverges from the plan. But it can have too much sensitivity to minor lapses from the baseline. The CPT fails for broken logic or mandatory activity constraints. Calculate the CPLI using working days and not calendar days. Computation using calendar days is less precise and not as conservative. The BEI ratio is the best early warning indicator because it is less susceptible to minutiae. A meaningful BEI ratio requires importing a baseline and at least one snapshot.
Steelray Analyzer for P6 is an intuitive and easy to use tool. It is efficient and accurate in its calculations that confirm the health and probable success of a project schedule. As mentioned before, it is surprising how many of these types of tools on the market are less precise in their calculations!
You can download a trial copy of Steelray Analyzer For P6 here.
You can also download a free copy of Steve Montgomery’s rather useful book titled ‘An Introduction To The DCMA 14-Point Assessment’ here.