We are now in June. My classes in CPM at Temple University are over, and my summer session classes in Law for Engineers at Drexel University are about to begin. Manuscript for the 8th Edition of CPM in Construction Management is into McGraw-Hill and the AACE (Association for Advancement of Cost Engineering) annual conference will be held in a few weeks in Las Vegas. Planning for Construction CPM Conference in New Orleans January 31st to February 5th is moving into high gear.

My Temple class went better than usual with most students earning an “A.” New to the class was a renewed emphasis on learning basic navigation in three (or more) software solutions. This is done largely “off-line” with assigned readings to tutorials and use of provided software (“we teach how to write the narrative, not use of Microsoft Word – we teach CPM, not the predominant software products.”) We were greatly aided by the willingness of several vendors to provide educational access to their product. Our text used to include a student version of P3 but we are now somewhat limited in teaching the new P6 via student laptops.

Perhaps Oracle will hear us and provide a student Cloud based version limited in activities and time (for example wiping out each December and June,) but for now we are limited to showing screen shots or demos from the instructor’s laptop. Our 7th edition switched from a Primavera P3 demo (limit of 60 activities) to Deltek Open Plan (full unlimited license except for call center and update maintenance.) Now my students could learn basic navigation of two products (P3 disks were still available) and load full student projects as part of the learning process.

In this past year we added a third product – Phoenix Project Manager. As noted in a prior blog post, Phoenix had (at my request) added back the “interruptible duration” algorithm option of P3. Now they provided a student demo version (visit their website, click the EDU button, limited to students with an .edu email address) which may be loaded to either a Windows or Mac laptop. Bingo! Now that percent of my class limited by their MAC device could work from home rather than only from the library. My students liked this additional ability for “hands-on” training and focused more than ever on the classroom theory behind the software and its proper usage.

My Drexel summer class will again explore the engineer’s need for knowledge of the law. As discussed in our prior blog, What obligations come with a contract?, we will explain why a judge may interpret a specification differently than the engineer authoring that language. And we will hopefully teach students that enforcement goes beyond “what feels right.” As we move into professional liability and issues of property our on-line discussion section likely will again host virtual fist fights over topics ranging from eminent domain to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and other Amendments to the US Constitution.  

The Las Vegas venue for the AACE conference is apropos much of the discussion driving our planning and scheduling industry these days – RISK. I will not be a speaker this year but may have the opportunity to present my draft Recommended Practice on Future Forecasts Based Upon Past Trends. The question raised is why our updates based on past actuals do not adjust the future original durations to account for trends. If the contractor has been consistently 20% over for the past ten weeks, why not revise all future original durations by 20%?

My draft suggests “NO” for practical planning but “YES” for a “heads up” to alert for potential impact. I will direct fellow attendees to go downstairs from the meeting room, and if seeing BLACK come up ten times in a row at the roulette table to consider placing their entire year’s salary on the next spin. What looks like a trend may just be natural variation or a short term of good or bad luck. More on this in a future blog post.

Construction CPM Conference 2016 will be our sixth foray into providing a combination of trade show and university education in CPM planning and scheduling and associated fields. We will again host and be preceded by PMA Netpoint’s User Meeting on January 29-30, then kick into high gear on Sunday January 31st with classes February 1-2-3, follow-on programs for the 5th and 6th, and into Mardi Gras weekend.