Sunday, September 27, 2020

Out of Sequence (OOS) Logic: Splitting In-Progress Tasks in MS Project


I received the following question from one the participants in the global webinar on dependencies, leads and lags.


*********

Good Morning Satya,

Thanks for the presentation yesterday.  I was looking for a more simplistic manner to present to new superintendents and APMs this subject.  I like the way you laid out the predecessor column and successor column and think that is a great way to simplify it for others.

I filled out the survey information and made the following comment at the end of the survey:

I posted a question that was never asked - not sure why.  The topic was rather elementary and was expecting to be able to resolve issues we have with entering Actual Start dates that contradict the dependency entered - increasing the duration of the task due to an early start yet maintaining the logic which many times no longer applies.  The fix for this is to actually modify the task dependency to accurately reflect how it was started in relationship to the predecessor.

At some point MS Project (I believe it was with the 2007 release but may have been before that) changed the way task dependencies were handled when updating the project schedule.  The process used to hold logic until an Actual Start date was entered and then it reverted to calculating the task finish date by adding the duration to the Actual Start date entered.  Now Project maintains the task dependency even if the Actual Start did not follow the logic created.  Using your examples:

Task A – 4d

Task B – 4d – Task A FS

Task B Actual Start on day 3 in lieu of day 5

Task B duration now becomes 6d long

Our company is a multi-family general contractor in central Florida.  We build large apartment complexes, senior care, hotels, timeshares (which are few and far between these days), etc.  Our schedules deal with larger groups of units and we use a lot of leads and lags to overlap trades.  I was hoping this issue would have been discussed and I guess I was wondering if there is a specific way to create schedules that alleviate or minimize the impact of this condition.  My fix is to adjust the logic to accurately reflect the date we want the subcontractor to complete the scope.  It is hard to get PMs and APMs to actually focus enough when updating to pay attention to this issue.  As a result, I lean heavily on SS+ relationships.  Could you convey your view on this please.

Thanks again for taking the time to present and for your time with these questions.

DAVID HAMMOND | Scheduling Manager

18 Years of Service

WINTER PARK CONSTRUCTION

WWW.WPC.COM

221 Circle Drive |  Maitland, FL 32751

*********


This question was repeated by a couple of other people who use my MS Project courses and some who had joined the webinar. Hence, I decided to put it as a post. There is another question on SF dependency, which I’ve already explained in the webinar. 

Now, let’s see the first question and how changing dependency changes the duration “visibly” to additional days! 

The Situation

I’ll outline the situation that David has used and I’ve put similarly in my explanations. 

  • Two tasks – Task A and Task B
  • Duration – 4 days for each task
  • Task B follows Task A with a Finish-to-Start (FS) relationship. 
  • It has no lead or lag. It’s a pure FS dependency. 
  • You saved this plan, baselined and started tracking. 

So far, no problem at all. This is shown below. 

 

As shown above, both Task A and Task B, are of 4 days duration. There is a FS dependency between these two tasks. The black bar below the blue bar is for the baseline. The redline is for the status date, which is as on Wednesday (Day 3) end.

But then the problem arises when you start Task B ahead of its “planned start”. In other words, the “actual start” of Task B is ahead of the “planned start’. 

It means the following:

  • Task A planned start is on Monday (Day 1) and finish is on Thursday (Day 4). It’s going according to the plan. By days, I mean only working days. 
  • Task B's planned start is on Friday (Day 5) and it finishes on coming Wednesday (Day 8). This is because of the FS relationship.
  • But then Task B actually started 2 days before, i.e., instead of starting on Friday (Day 5), it started on Wednesday (Day 3). 

This is how it’s represented in MS Project.  


Can you see the problem above?


The Problem

Task B has a splitting line drawn in-front when the actual start is on Tuesday (Day 3). In other words, the total duration looks to be 6 days instead of 4 days. 

This is what David notes in his problem and tells the Task B becomes 6 days of duration. Because Task B has now the following dates in its duration:

  • Day 3 (Wed) + Day 4 (Thu) + Day 5 (Fri): This week, which totals to 3 days.
  • Day 6 (Mon) + Day 7 (Tue) + Day 8 (Wed): Coming week, which totals to another 3 days.

The representation at least shows that Task B is of 6 days of duration, instead of 4 days. Hence, it becomes confusing for many. 

However, MS Project software correctly notes the values in the Tracking table. The default table is Entry table and I’ve switched to Tracking table by going to View – Data – Tables – Tracking table.

As you can see, in the tracking table, Task B’s remaining duration is still 4 days, not 6 days! 

Nevertheless, some management practitioners want to show the dependencies properly with FS dependency and no-split at all and that’s what David’s needs were and also others who sent related questions. 

The Solution

To have the dependency shown without any splitting of tasks, all you have to do is clear the related checkbox in the global setting. You can do so by going to Backstage View – Options – Schedule – Scheduling options for this project – Split in-progress tasks.


By default, it will be enabled. You have to clear this checkbox. 

After you disable split in-progress tasks, you can have the below representation in MS Project.

As you can see, now the dependency is shown properly. For Task B, the schedule has shifted two days to the left (also from the baseline) and the total duration “visibly” is 4 days, not 6 days.  

Cautions

Be careful with such situations as there will be consequences for it. As the MS Project software notes in splitting in-progress tasks the following. 

“Allows rescheduling of remaining duration and work when a task slips or reports progress ahead of schedule.

If this check box is cleared, progress information is recorded on the originally scheduled dates, regardless of when the actuals took place. Likewise, remaining work is not scheduled to maintain the task relationship.”

This statement is significant as noted in MS Project software tool. If you are clearing the checkbox, then the progress information will be on the originally scheduled dates. Also, the remaining work of the tasks will not be scheduled to maintain the task relationship. 

Conclusion

When a task deviates from a pure FS relationship, then various software will have different representations depending upon the logic set. 

When a pure FS relationship is changed–as in our case the actual start of the success task is before the planned start, the FS relationship is no longer pure. The logic is also no longer pure. This kind of logic among tasks is known as out-of-sequence (OOS) logic. 

If you are a scheduling manager or a scheduling professional, you should be clear about various OOS logic that can happen in a schedule and the subsequent impact on the schedule. 


Articles on MS Project:


Saturday, September 19, 2020

PMP Online Proctored Exam - How to Write All PMP Formulas in 5 Minutes on the Online Whiteboard?


The PMP® exam has gone online since April 15, 2020, as I've been writing in the last few months. You can read more about online proctored exam in the below posts.

  1. PMI Online Proctored Exams in 11 Steps - Three Important Videos 
  2. PMI Online Proctored Exams - How to Take it Step by Step?
  3. PMP Online Proctored Exam - How to Write Down 49 Processes of PMBOK, 6th Edition in 7 Minutes on the Online Whiteboard?


As an aspiring PMP, you have to be proficient in a number of formulas. In my interactions, I ask the candidates, can you tell how many formulas have you learned so far? Some say it's 10 and others go up-to 12 or 15 in number. It has never crossed the number 20, as I’ve seen in my interactions.

In reality, there are around 50/60 equations and/or formulas and you have to be familiar with all of these formulas. It's not just familiarity, but you have to understand, absorb and apply them in various situations or scenarios. The questions in your exam will be predominatly situational ones in nature - even the mathematical ones.

Now, that’s quite a big number! Can someone remember so many formulas while preparing for the exam? 

Another aspect is the complications of the formulas. Taking an example, the formulas for EAC and ETC calculations are not that easy to remember. Not only they are not easy to remember, but they also have quite a few variations. There are also formulas related to Point of Total Assumption (PTA), Range of Incentive Effectiveness (RIE) etc. which takes time to understand. Then, you have variations in forward pass, backward pass, free float, total float and even negative float calculations. You can also have a variety of questions on Earned Value Management (EVM) and advanced EVM concepts. As you can see, many PMPs have already written on these topics.

These can be quite intimidating for candidates preparing for the PMP exam. It’s not definitely easy to remember all these formulas.

But then, there is a number of good news, which are noted below.

  • You don’t have to remember all of them. You are likely to forget only the complex or complicated ones. Hence, remember only those. 
  • Formulas are basically mathematical equations and derived equations. The good thing about mathematics is this: once you understand, you understand them for a life-time. The principles of mathematics are the same everywhere. Two plus two equals to four everywhere, on Earth or on Mars! 
  • In mathematical questions, you have only one correct answer. Hence, you have no confusion as usually is the case for other questions. Many successful PMPs say they can zero it down to the final two answers, but then they struggle. In mathematical questions, you don't have such a case. Hence, in mathematical questions, your scoring chance is much higher. 
  • Finally, you can write the formulas on the whiteboard. This is applicable irrespective of the exam modes – traditional or online-proctored. 

Here, I would like to note that the many times in the PMP exam you may have just a few mathematical questions. Sometimes, you’ll just get one as many PMPs have written such experiences. But in an exam like PMP, you can’t take chances. You have to be prepared and be ready for everything. 

With these in mind, let’s check on the video on writing down the formulas. 


Video – How to Write Down All PMP Formulas in 5 Minutes

In this video [duration: 8m:49s], I’m showing you how to write down all the formulas in 5 minutes. Of course, when you do it the first time, it may take you around 10 minutes or more. With subsequent practices, it will come down to 5 minutes. For best experience, you may want to go full-screen in HD mode and plug-in your earphones.




Few Tips and Notes

Below are some of the tips and notes, I would say you must note. Exhaustive sets of tips and notes are part of PMP Live Lessons

  • Place the formulas next or below to the 49 processes you have written. previous post informs on it in detail.  
    This way you are clear in your mind during the exam that you have written the formulas at one place: the left-most part of the white board. As you proceed with the exam, you are likely to write quite a few things while solving the questions. It’s easy to get lost with the exam pressure and stress. If you write everything at one place, you don’t face this problem.
  • Draw one textbox area and continue with that for a set of formulas. This has been explained in the above video as well. 
    With these you can write down many formulas in one go. Don’t write every formula in separate text boxes. It will take a lot of time. Draw a box and continue writing the formulas till you hit the page-end and then draw another text-box next to it to write the next set of formulas. (Check the video to understand)
  • Do NOT use any other commands-other than textbox and pencil-while writing down the formula.
    Only the text box command (along with the pencil) is needed while writing the formulas. There are other commands, but those will take your time. Hence, stick to the text box.
  • While using the “Pan” and "Textbox" commands, have a single strategy and stick to it. 
    The pan command button is shown in the below image, which also shows the text box. One of the buttons that you are going to use a lot on the whiteboard is the “Pan” button. While using it – have a strategy on its movement, i.e., either left to right or top to bottom. Whichever you want to pan, stick to that approach. Otherwise, you will be confused in the exam. This rule applies to the 49 processes and formula writing. 


I believe this post, the video and tips, will help you to prepare for the PMP Online Proctored Exam and you can write down the formulas easily.

Remember: You can’t write the formulas, before the exam begins. You can ONLY write-it-down within the exam duration of four hours and after the exam starts. 

If you are reading this post, wish you all the best for your exam.


References:

[1] PMP Live Lessons - Guaranteed Pass or Your Money Back, by Satya Narayan Dash

[2] Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) Guide, 6th Edition, by Project Management Institute (PMI)


Thursday, September 10, 2020

RMP Success Story: Risk Management Will Be A Vital Part of Life and Business After COVID-19 Experience, My Recommendation for PMI-RMP Aspirants

By Shahpour Kakaei, PgMP, PMP, ACP, RMP, ITIL, Attended Harvard Business School



Introduction
I have lived with and grown up in large enterprises in Telecommunications and Information Technology. With rapid and ever-changing technologies in all aspects, it is vital to deal with managing people, business, projects and systems in an enterprise.

My focus is mainly on enterprise changes, program management and business development and operations. Hence, Risk Management plays a significant role in all these areas. Although I had foundational knowledge of risk management processes for both at project and enterprise levels (programs and portfolios), from my experience and my previous PMI® credentials such as PgMP®, PMP® and PMI-ACP®, I was enthusiastic to complement it with the PMI-RMP® credential. 

Own Study

I decided to be proactive during the COVID-19 restrictions, so gained my previous online courses for the 30 training hours and applied for PMI-RMP Certification in early April 2020 and planned to study during April to June 2020 for one to two hours daily. 


As I had a fresh understanding from PMI reference books for my other PMI credentials, I only had to go through the chapters related to Project Risk Management, Communications Management, Stakeholder engagement, Procurement Management, Integration Management in the PMBOK guide, 6th edition. I also studied the “Practice Standard for Risk Management” and “The Standard for Risk Management in Portfolios, Programs and Projects” two times.

While reading the above, I purchased and completed reading the book I Want To Be A RMP, 2nd Edition, by Satya Narayan Dash two times. I found the book to be very resourceful.

I found that RMP covers a broad range of knowledge and experience, so preparation for this exam needs serious planning and diverse efforts. 

RMP Exam Experience
I scheduled my exam on the first available appointment in a Pearson VUE test centre near my location in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 18, 2020. However, it was cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic. I rescheduled the exam three more times on July 26, August 04 and August 23, but each time the exam was cancelled due to COVID-19.

I finally re-scheduled it on September 06, 2020 and passed it with the “Above Target” in all 5 domains at my first attempt!   

During the exam, I tried to spend only one minute on each question and marked the questions, where I had doubts about the correct answers or questions that needed too much time for math. In the end, I reviewed the marked questions. With this strategy I was able to manage my time and avoided the risk of losing the chance or getting panicked by tricky questions.

Types of Questions 
The exam covered various types of questions mostly situational cases, mathematical, tricky, and trapping questions. It requires a deep study and practical experience to understand the situations in the questions and then apply your knowledge. You have to adapt your understanding with respect to the proper process, tools and techniques in Risk Management. 
  • Most of the questions were somehow those I had seen in the above sources especially in Satya’s book, although the wording was different. 
  • There were many questions on PMP and RMP processes, i.e., from the ITTOs and specially tools and techniques in the seven Risk Management processes. 
  • There were also questions on risk management framework, risk response strategies. 
  • I faced questions on Monte Carlo and Latin Hypercubic simulations and analysis.
  • RMP exam questions were also from Agile/adaptive approaches, and enterprise risk management. In the latter case, there will be scenarios of risk in a project as a component of a program or portfolio.
  • I faced questions on types of contracts, organization types, decision tree analysis and different data analysis techniques. 
  • I was expecting many math questions on EVM, but the EVM questions were mostly understanding of the concepts, e.g., what type or portion of budget such as forecasting ETC or EAC will be addressed in the question.
  • There were many questions evaluating your understanding on where to use contingency reserve or management reserve, along with plenty of questions on stakeholder engagement and communications management.

Book Review - I Want To Be A RMP, 2nd Edition
I decided to buy this book because I found Satya very proactive and up to date with PMI® standard editions by looking through his published papers and sources of information. 

I found the book to be significantly unique in covering all requirements for the RMP exam with tips and revision tips, reminders and referring to previous sections. It takes examples from the real world and has practice tests that address new changes and updates to the PMI literature in enterprise project management and risk management.

The book has two series of 170 questions each and they are like the real RMP exam questions. In fact, I would say the questions are a bit more difficult than the real exam questions. The book has complementary video contents, papers, exercise, and flow diagrams, which are helpful for preparations for the RMP exam.

Satya’s support and engagement in the process of exam preparations with the students and readers of his book are of significant value.

Suggestions for RMP Aspirants 

Dos: 

  • Fully read all three PMI references guides related to risk management.
  • Refer to a complete Exam preparation book like Satya’s I Want To Be A RMP, 2nd Edition Book. I strongly recommend this book and will ask the RMP aspirant to read at least two times.
  • Practice at least a thousand different questions from fresh resources before taking the exam. Many available sources of Project Risk Management practice tests are quite old and are referenced to PMBOK earlier editions.    
  • Have a good sleep on the night before the exam. 
Don’ts: 
  • Don’t start the practice tests before completely reading the book; start with practicing questions only when you reviewed the book at least once. Next, practice after reading each chapter for the second or third time. 
  • Practice questions as part of your daily life at least 2-3 hours per day for the 3 weeks right before the exam.
  • Don’t take outdated practice tests referring to the old reference guides and books.

Conclusion
I will pursue my learnings on RMP especially ERM as an unavoidable part of my profession, we will live with change management and risk management in this century and in each aspect of our life Risk Management has a vital role.  

Brief Profile: 
Shahpour Kakaei, PgMP, PMP, PMI-ACP, PMI-RMP, ITIL, Attended Harvard Business School. 

I am currently Sr. Program Manager in developing business and managing operations of AWITEL INC in Canada. I have lived with and grown up in large enterprises in Telecommunications and Information Technology like Ericsson and Mobile operators with more than 20 years of experience in managing large scale programs/projects and organizations. 

Friday, September 04, 2020

Seven Practical Nuggets–Dependencies, Leads and Lags with MS Project



Recently, I spoke in a global webinar on a very important area of Dependencies, leads and Lags and showed how it’s addressed by Microsoft Project Software tool. You can check the recorded webinar in the below link.

Understanding Dependencies, Leads and Lags with MS Project

Irrespective management domain you are in – project, program, portfolio, delivery, agile, risk or any other, you have to know about dependencies, though task  or activity dependencies are predominantly used in projects and programs. In this post, I’ll outline some of the practical tips associated with leads, lags and dependencies. 

These nuggets are primarily from MS Project Live Lessons. The theory part of depdencies, leads and lags are from PMP Live Lessons, with the formal definitions coming from the PMBOK Guide.


Practical Nugget1: Changing the Dependencies with Task Information Dialog Box
This is widely used in the software tool of MS Project. In the task information dialog box, you can quickly change the dependencies as well as the lead and lag. This is shown below. 




The task information dialog box pops-up when you double click on a task or activity in MS Project. 

Practical Nugget2: Change the Dependencies On-The-Fly
You can change the dependencies on the fly with MS Project. To do that:
  • Put your cursor over the link, and
  • Double click. 
This will pop-up the dialog box shown below, where you can change the dependencies. 




Practical Nugget3: Change the Leads and Lags On-The-Fly
In the above pop-up dialog box shown, you can also change the leads and lags on the fly. As the dialog box pops-up, you can change the field value of “Lag:” as shown in the above figure.

For lag, you have to enter a positive value and for lead, you have to enter a negative value. 

Practical Nugget4: Create the Dependencies On-The-Fly
You can create dependencies on-the-fly between tasks of MS Project. Do note that it’s NOT about changing the link, but creating a fresh link between tasks.  To do that:
  • Select the “from task” where you want to create the link.
  • Then drag to the “to task”, where you want to have the link. 
  • As you drag, the cursor will show a link icon. 
  • Drop the cursor at the “to task” and a link will be created. 

As shown above, I’m drawing a link from Task 3 (Task B) to Task 5 (Task C). When you finally drop the cursor at Task 5 (Task C), a FS dependency will be created on the fly.




Practical Nugget5: Auto Insert Dependencies 
You can auto insert dependencies between newly added or moved tasks. When you add a new task, among a set of contiguous tasks, the link is not created by default. To have such a link, you have to enable it from Global Options. To do that:
  • Go to Backstage view – Options.
  • From there Schedule tab – Scheduling options for this project.
  • There you have to enable “Autolink inserted or moved tasks”. 


Practical Nugget6: Entering Percentage Values to Have Leads and Lags 
By default, you can enter days for Leads and Lags for an activity or task. You can also enter percentage values to generate leads and lags, which is shown below.




When you enter 50% in the Lag field, it will take 50% value of the predecessor. 

Practical Nugget7: For Start-to-Finish Dependency, Have the Successor Task First, followed by Predecessor! 
Many get this dependency wrong. In a Start-to-Finish dependency, the start of successor task drives the finish of the predecessor task, which many put in varieties of wrong ways. 

As the successor task drives the professor task’s finish or end, you have put the successor task first, followed with the predecessor task. This is counterintuitive, but it works that way! This is shown in the below figure.




For videos and explanations with a number of tips, you can refer:

MS Project Live Lessons (comes with full moneyback gurantee) 

In fact, a dedicated set of tips, unknown to many, are part of this live lesson. In together, you will find hundreds of such tips as you proceed through the lessons.




Articles on MS Project: