I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date


What is the cost of being late on a project and how do time extensions impact an end product or service?

We can invent a formula that runs like this . . .

S=f(t, c, p)

where “S” is “satisfaction”, “t” is “time, “c” is “cost” and “p” is “performance.

Clearly, the variables are related – when the meter is running, there are cost implications and once an organization discovers that it is about to get called on the carpet by an unhappy customer, the usual strategy is to pull out all stops. Corners are cut and the risk of delivering a poorly-performing product increases.

Let’s look at different ways and means of controlling “time” in the context of BPM (Business Process Management).

Time Predictions with CPM

When work is structured, when we know what the standard time is for each workflow step, we can use CPM (Critical Path Method), an antecedent of BPM. If you trend “float” you can get a pretty good idea of where a project is going, providing there is no manipulation of data.

Unfortunately, the usual scenario when a project is starting to run late is that management complains, planners rework their network diagrams, forward projections improve and life goes on.

All of this manipulation catches up with the planners and the organization. By the time the manipulation is discovered, usually it’s too late, so the project overruns, costs overrun, performance may be negatively impacted and satisfaction decreases.

Predicting Project End Dates when workflow is no longer deterministic

What if your network has in-line branching decision boxes?

Time projections quickly become unstable, with “float” shifting all over the place.

One week your float reads +10 weeks, the next week you might have -6, and the week after that you find yourself back at +10.   It all depends on which sub-pathways are taken at decision boxes.

CPM becomes less attractive.

Predicting Project End Dates when there is a mix of structured and unstructured work.

When a significant portion of the work is unstructured, CPM loses most of its appeal.

Whether we have time estimates on hand for workflow steps or not, the facts are it becomes difficult to calculate project end dates.

Each time an ad hoc intervention takes place, the project timeline may or may not extend. It all depends on whether the ad hoc intervention is contemporaneous with other work that already impacts time-to-complete or whether the ad hoc intervention directly extends the project duration.

How do we manage time, cost and performance on complex projects?

The high-level tool of choice for assessing progress toward attaining objectives is a Figure of Merit Matrix (FOMM).

Start by identifying sub-objectives in your project. Weight these. Some of these must be attained, others possibly not. Let the Case Manager worry about this.

In respect of each sub-objective, try to identify goals (identifiable stages along the way to attaining each sub-objective).

Remember that in respect of all activity there is a “learning curve”. When a team starts to work on an initiative, there is a certain amount of “getting ready to get started” that takes time. Once the initiative gets traction, progress usually is rapid up to something like the 90% stage where things slow down as the team attends to loose ends. Take the time to categorize work according to its “S-curve” characteristics.

Throughout the duration of each initiative, prepare and issue reports then discuss progress, identify bottlenecks, and take reasonable steps to correct unfavorable trends as these are noticed.

Park an FOMM spreadsheet at each Case so that it screams out to be looked at each time the Case Manager opens the Case.

Trend progress toward attaining sub-objectives and the overall Case objective on a weekly basis for short term initiatives.

About kwkeirstead@civerex.com

Management consultant and process control engineer (MSc EE) with a focus on bridging the gap between operations and strategy in the areas of critical infrastructure protection, connect-the-dots law enforcement investigations, healthcare services delivery, job shop manufacturing and b2b/b2c/b2d transactions. (C) 2010-2017 Karl Walter Keirstead, P. Eng. All rights reserved. The opinions expressed here are those of the author, and are not connected with Jay-Kell Technologies Inc, Civerex Systems Inc. (Canada), Civerex Systems Inc. (USA) or CvX Productions.
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One Response to I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date

  1. kwkeirstead says:

    The essence of CPM is to calculate Early Start, Late Start, Early Finish , Late Finish. (ES-LS-EF-LF). Float is LF – EF (i.e. you plan to arrive at a completion node on day 30, you must arrive no later then day 50, the float is +20)

    You could improve the stability of the calculations in a network where there are a lot of branching decision boxes by assigning branching probabilities at decision boxes.

    The problem with CPM has always been that given a merge point that has 5 incoming pathways with floats -12, -10, -8, -6, +5 compared to another instance of the same network with floats of -12 , -6, +12, +11, +12 the algorithm will report -12 for both but clearly there is a lot more work needed to get to 0 in the first instance.

    Like

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