Integrated Cost & Schedule Control

Integrated Cost & Schedule Control

INF 337 Integrated Cost & Schedule Control

Integrated Cost & Schedule Control

For any project to become a success, strategic planning is essential to this success. This strategic planning consists of creating a work breakdown structure (WBS), the development of cost and schedule performance measurement baseline and the comprehension of Earned Value Management (EVM), all which greatly assist in the viewing the status of a project by providing visual aids, by showing the current status along with present value of the same. Typically, project control charts monitor performance by time, but the most important factor that is often ignored and must be considered is cost, which is the largest concern for any project. In this paper, I will discuss what I have learned throughout the course of this class as it relates to project management, and why integrated cost and schedule control are vital in the success of any project new or old.

For this paper, the project I had in mind to use for my examples was the installation of AT&T fiber optic cables throughout South East Texas. While I do not have intimate and exclusive knowledge of the inner workings of this project, I assisted in the ground work and coordination of installs throughout several cities in the SE Texas areas. Knowing this I am aware and familiar with the project management concepts and will still be able to provide comparisons based on the elements I’ve learned through the duration of this course.

During the planning phase of a project, one must ensure that all bases are covered. Time estimation is important because it sets the deadline for all items within the project to be completed. The AT&T fiber optic cable install was scheduled to take 6 months, however the 6-month mark has come and gone, and the project is still on-going to this day. This project was estimated to add fiber optic cables in over 3 million locations, reaching more than 10 million locations across 84 metropolitan areas nationwide, with the objective to deliver this service to 14 million locations by mid-2019 (prnewwire.com, 2018). Working under the assumption as a project manager or part of the team, one must assess the WBS and its importance to the project. The development of the WBS is an important step in project planning. In this phase the project is broken down into manageable and well-defined work packages. The creation of the same ensures no element of work is overlooked or duplicated, and the relationships among work packages are clearly identified and understood (Venkatamaran & Pinto, 2008). Using the WBS, a manager can determine any required resources needed to accomplish whatever goals have been established. Furthermore, the WBS is the foreground to which schedules and cost estimates are created, provides the framework for assigning management and task responsibilities (Venkatamaran & Pinto, 2008). Acquiring a WBS allows for the manager to maintain the overall welfare of the project and should ultimately be considered as the backbone of project management. In combination of a defined project scope, the two create the foundation for effective project cost and value management (Venkatamaran & Pinto, 2008).

The performance baseline provides the essential features that are used to calculate the project’s cost and schedule variance, however before this is accomplished a needs identification must be established as this is one of the first stages of the project life cycle (Venkatamaran & Pinto, 2008), or in simple terms, the purpose of the project itself. For the AT&T project, this came in the form of being the top internet service provider, competing with Time Warner Cable/Spectrum and essentially becoming the fastest and most reliable internet service provider in the region. Precise definition of project needs, a well-defined statement of work, project scope documents and articulate WBS are essential, because without these elements value optimization or efficient management of project costs will not be possible (Venkatamaran & Pinto, 2008). While I was not aware of the budget, I could estimate this project for expansion would likely be in the tens of millions so for the sake of this paper, the budget was approximately $50 million dollars. AT&T wanted the newly installed fiber cables to run along the right of way with the previously installed fiber and telephone cables, so right of ways and coordination of installation of ground and aerial cables were essential. In some areas the cables were required to be buried, while others were installed aerial along with the existing cables. Furthermore, depending on whether the previously installed cables were installed in the front or rear easement was vital to know because the homeowners were required to be notified of the excavation and installation.

Earned Value Management (EVM) is a tool that uses a tracking system that provides updated information which can be compared to the budget and actual cost, providing insight to project cost, scheduling and performance. The core principle of EVM is “integration”—of contractor cost, schedule and technical performance measurement (Abba, 2017). Project and control system measures project progress and performance against a project plan to ensure that the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of the customer (Venkataraman & Pinto, 2008). Furthermore, measures the value of the work accomplished at the cost rate set out in the original budget (Venkataraman & Pinto, 2008), so if the value of cost is low, then there’s a good chance performance is under par as well. Comparing this to the AT&T project, there were many occasions where the contractors had to regroup due to environmental issues because in some locations where fiber was scheduled to be installed was impossible due to state laws, critical infrastructure and major utilities in the way which hindered the installation process. Furthermore, the contractors ran out of supplies to install the fiber cable storage cases, nodes and even fiber cabling to complete some of the worksites they were assigned, which resulted in numerous delays. In this case, the EVM report would conclude a negative value due to the extension of the deadline, and to reflect this as a visual reference project managers could use Gantt charts to monitor the performance and compare items.

It is important to realize that the best time to start anticipating and planning for change is at the beginning of the project, when scope, budgets, schedules and activity sequences are established (Venkataraman & Pinto, 2008). When any change occurs during a project, my first thought would be the consequences of this change. What is the issue of concern, how large of scale is the problem or what is this problem effecting specifically (i.e. – budget, timeline, resources, etc. or all-inclusive due to size)? These are some of the items that must be analyzed to find a solution. Any approvals for deviation or alternative options of course must be approved by supervision or higher, and of course documentation would be required of such approval to not only cover our bases but in case these deviations were against a regulation, we would have documentation so we’re compliant with any regulations that may occur. Changes are classified into three sources which are corporate management, business environment and project management. These can include changes to the culture and structure of upper management, changes to the market and customer demands and changes in contracts, conflicting ideas, lack of preparation or inadequate risk assessment (Venkataraman & Pinto, 2008). In the case of the AT&T project, the change could be categorized as a project management source since the adjustment of timeframe for completion is the largest issue I’ve seen thus far. The deadline had to be pushed back many times to date, and this was due to lack of resources and quality contractors to accomplish the job. To combat this issue, the best solution would be to pre-plan and anticipate the need for supplies and high-quality contractors that have the manpower and equipment needed to accomplish the massive amount of excavation and installation required, something that I believe should have been predicted in the first stages of the project.

Strategic planning is essential for any project to become a successful and continue to move forward according to the schedule set out. To ensure this occurs, any possible changes should be considered, budget must be reasonable yet flexible in case such changes are to occur, and timeframe must be adjusted depending on the size and effect of the change. The concept of planning to cover the bases are paramount to project completion.

References

Venkataraman, R., & Pinto, J. (2008). Cost and value management in projects. Retrieved from

https://redshelf.com/

Abba, W. F. (2017). The Evolution of Earned Value Management. Defense AT&L, 46(2), 2.

Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=121669868&site=eds-live&scope=site

PrNewswire.com (2018, December, 12). Ultra-Fast Internet Powered by AT&T Fiber Available in 12 New Metros. Retrieved from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/ultra-fast-internet-powered-by-att-fiber-available-in-12-new-metros-300764019.html