Construction CPM Conference 2014 is over and planning begins for 2015, January 13-17, San Diego.


Despite a major northeast US snow event, most attendees and all but one speaker were able to attend. We had three full days of software training at introductory and advanced levels, university level classes in theories of scheduling, BIM (building informational modeling), risk, EVM (earned value methodology) cost, document control and forensic concerns. PMI accredited our program for 24 PDH; these also accepted by model states as continuing education for professional engineers. The Florida Bar accredited our program for 20 credits for general or construction certification plus 1.5 for ethics.


Many sessions were recorded (voice over slides) and will be available to attendees (who had to choose one concurrent session over another) as well as those who could not attend. (Non-attendee access will be subject to a small charge which will be donated to their choice of AACE, Planning Planet, PMI or perhaps other technical society).


We are learning and we are teaching. We are making inroads relating to the conference industry issue of people leaving early, turning a three day conference to two and a half, or even two. Ours is three full days with many of our best sessions on the last day, and so our best speakers are now happy to present the third day. Several sessions at the ending of 4pm on Friday continued beyond with Q&A until hotel services chased them out to set up the next event.


Some major announcements and buzz were provided this year. Oracle’s Dick Faris and Garrett Harley advanced the message of Oracle Primavera Unifier. Synchro, in their own two full day User Meeting immediately before (and affiliated with our conference), and again at our event, noted several developments and improvements to their 3D to 4D, BIM to CPM system. While I am not known for open endorsement in this blog, this is huge and is going to be a game changer. The Synchro model is of equal stature to the advance from the TODO list to the Gantt Chart (1910), and from hand drafted and hand re-drafted updated bar-charts to CPM (1956). The request of my client oh so many years ago for a machine into which he could feed the blueprints at one end and print the schedule out the other end has moved from fantasy (not even science fiction) to reality. You have to see this product in action to believe it.


Other lesser known but respected software products were also visible as exhibitors, and explained and taught (basic navigation, download to first report, NTP to first update) in sessions. Spider Team software provides a superior algorithm, supporting the full set of lag choices (Finish-to-Start, Start-to-Start, Begin-to-Begin, Finish-to-Finish, End-to-End, Start-to-Finish) supported by the MSCS (McAuto Schedule Control System) of yore.


Both Spider and ASTA support interruptible duration which was a supported option of P3 but dropped in P6. (Where the finish of an activity may be deferred by a finish-to-finish restraint, the start remains unchanged and the span between ES and EF will be greater than the duration. While the interrupted effort of the crew performing this activity will be at a lower productivity, the bulk of effort will be now completed earlier and may benefit from earlier completion of the FF predecessor, and lead to a demonstrated earlier project completion). Oracle Primavera PRA (previously Pertmaster) also has a stretch option which suggests the appropriate reduction in crew size to stretch this work over the full span. (For an expanded discussion, see ENR Viewpoint: Hurricane Sandy, a Reminder of the Need for Speed).


The world of risk software is exploding. Deltek, already had Open Plan which includes a robust risk module built in. The F9 button calculates schedule, the F10 calculates probability of meeting that schedule and 50%, 80%, 90% prospect of achievement of alternate dates. But now Deltek has acquired the Acumen suite. This is recent and we look forward to seeing how the mastery of issues of risk by John Owen and Dan Patterson will be combined. Other “entries” into the field include Polaris by Booz Allen Hamilton, also pioneers to the field of schedule risk, Barbecana’s Full Monte (now for both Microsoft Project and Oracle Primavera P6) and Netpoint’s NetRisk by PMA Technologies.


The world of forensics is also undergoing change. Recognition of the mismatch of job-shop scheduling software algorithms to forensic evaluation is being discussed. The superintendent in the field may “fudge” to avoid issues. Not so for the expert who must testify in court. The desire to remove subjectivity and improve repeatability in forensic analyses is supporting use of one product to run the project, and another to post-analyze the historical record.


Decisions that must be made on a day-to-day basis, choosing options, performing out-of-sequence from that initially determined as optimal, are rarely recorded. And yet the job moves on. Analysts may need different tools to determine the rationale and reason for disruptions of work and whether such were delay drivers, concurrent, or merely opportunistic use of a newly created and temporary float path. (Such as that distinction of start-to-start and begin-to-begin; few superintendents really meant “I will start B three days after I start A even if no progress has been made”, yet that is what P6 records).


Two sessions, including a review and critique of CPM in Construction Management 7th Edition (towards what attendees feel should be in the 8th edition) and Comparison of the O’Brien-Plotnick Technique for Delay Analysis versus those of AACE RP-29 have provided grist for improvements to each. It was a good conference. Put San Diego on your calendar for January 13-17 2015 now.