Taming Your Big Beastie Projects (Part 1)

Posted by Megan Cacioppo on September 15, 2016

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No matter what industry you do business in, projects come in all flavors and sizes – small, medium, large; easy or complex; low cost or high cost; the list goes on. But typically, the size of the project (as determined by either activity count or cost) will give an indication of how complicated the project will be to implement.

Today we’re taking a closer look at one of the most complex and challenging types of projects to manage: Integrated Programs, otherwise known as “Big Beasties”.

“Big Beasties” have several specific characteristics that make them especially difficult:

  • They have multiple, individual project schedules with logic between them
  • They need to perform both Schedule and Cost Risk Analysis
  • Cost data is held in multiple tools
  • They have huge data sets (i.e. thousands of activities and cost lines)
  • They require a lot of reporting and oversight (at both the individual project and the portfolio level)
  • There is a combination of capital expenditure, maintenance and/or production activities

With this level of complexity, it is easy to get “lost in the trees,” so to speak. And if you’ve ever found yourself wandering in an unknown forest while working on one of these Integrated Programs, you’re not alone. They key is making the analysis and evaluation simpler. Because when set-up and analyzed early, customer and hierarchy expectations can be more easily managed, and your project team can better understand what is and isn’t possible.

Over the next three weeks, we’re taking an in depth look at how you can tame your “Big Beastie” projects to ensure successful execution – no matter what challenges arise. In Part 1, we dive headfirst into the first, and arguably most important, step: program set-up.

Program Set-Up

When it comes to program set-up, selecting the right scheduling tool is of the utmost importance. If your program schedule data is going to stay only in the scheduling tool, then there are a number of options available. However, if your program schedule is going to be exported to any outside tool, then it is important to select a scheduling program that can export all of the relevant schedule information.

Once the scheduling tool is selected, there are several key set-up criteria to then follow. For example, if a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is used, then it should be compatible with you Cost Breakdown Structure (CBS). This enables the quick identification of schedule activities that impact time dependent cost lines.

After the overall structure is set up, teams should then identify the main sequence of work. However, it is very important to create a separation between actual work activities and reporting activities. Large, Integrated Programs often have strict schedule quality requirements – and without this separation, the program reporting activities are evaluated just like the actual work activities, potentially creating a lot of ‘fixing the schedule’ work for non-work activities.

Another piece of program set-up is to determine the goals and success criteria of the schedule and cost risk analysis that will happen next. One specific goal that should be determined up-front is what P-value is desired from the analyses (the P-value is the desired probability that the program will be delivered by a particular date, or earlier; or a particular cost, or less).

Finally, you need to determine who wins if a choice has to be made between meeting the schedule, the cost, or the scope. Everyone always wants all of them, but sometimes triage has to be done. By determining up front which is more valued for your particular program, then clear choices can be determined from the schedule risk analysis.

Stay tuned for next week when we’ll offer a detailed guide for performing program schedule risk analysis on even the biggest, “Big Beastie” projects.

In the meantime, I encourage you to download our recent white paper on the topic, authored by Lorrie Tietze, Founder & Owner of Interface Consulting, LLC, or tune into the on-demand webinar, How to Tame Your Big Beastie Projects.