My business is to help bring projects in on or ahead of schedule – or to determine why when they have not. But my passion is to acquire and spread knowledge in this field of CPM planning and scheduling. My sales coach tells me I am a lost cause because at heart, I am not a consultant but rather a professor. I care less about the sale than teaching others. So as we enter the last quarter of the year, I have much to be happy about.
CPM in Construction Management, by James J O’Brien and Fredric L Plotnick (author of this column), is about to be re-released with an 8th edition. After our first seven editions, what more may be said about CPM planning and scheduling for the construction and other time–centric industries? As stated in our Preface, the mighty ship USS Scheduling had come about 180 degrees back to software on remote time-share computers understood only by specialist information technology (IT) priests who may not know a hammer from a nail, and yet are supposed to assist us with our construction projects. (See Construction Professionals and Left Handed Golfers). Or perhaps the exercise was really for the purpose of having field personnel assist the priests with preparation of quarterly reports for corporate management, where your project (and perhaps the entire construction division) is but a blip in the enterprise.
We have endured a perfect storm in the 2000s starting with acquisition of “our” software providers by IT firms, exacerbating the shift to solutions of, by and for IT issues. This combined with a worldwide recession decimated the construction industry and further quieted the voice of those requiring continued support for time-centric scheduling. Finally, enhanced connectivity has furthered the shift from personal computing to the “cloud.”
But with an improving economy we are again getting our voice. A plethora of new software products have been introduced (or re-introduced) with renewed emphasis on time-centric construction functionality. The major players are also rediscovering the construction market, and all are embracing how more powerful computers may be used to further support the construction industry. (See GAME CHANGER – New software releases again support construction professionals).
The move from physical media to content on the cloud also has applicability to the text. Our 5th, 6th and 7th editions had a CD appended to the rear cover. The CD included content to extend the knowledge in the book, including a PDF file of all of the figures. This proved useful as small black and white screen shots of software being discussed are often difficult to read, but the PDF, fully scalable to any desired size and in full color, is much more useful. Other figures, only in black and white or mock color in print and sized to the page may be better appreciated in scalable color.
The text is built around an example John Doe project, for which a CPM logic network is created and then input to various software for calculation and illustration. The computer readable files for the project were provided on the CD in a variety of formats including Oracle P3 and P6, Deltek Open Plan, Microsoft Project and others. On the 5th and 6th editions a demonstration copy of P3 (limited to 60 activities) was provided. For the 7th edition we included a full unrestricted copy of Open Plan (normally $2000.)
The 8th edition no longer has a CD – instead we have a website including all of the previous CD content and much more. We now have the ability to update a printed text after it has been published. Content on navigation of software products, often outdated before the next edition, may be moved to this format more amenable to the evolving products. New software solutions may be reviewed and added. Links back to these products (which tend to change yearly) may now be included. The unrestricted copy of Open Plan is now uploaded via a unique password printed in each book and tied to the purchasers' email address.
My second means to acquire and spread knowledge has been creation of Construction CPM Conference. Five years ago we embarked “on a five year mission to explore leading edge CPM scheduling concepts, to seek out new expert schedulers and software solutions, and to boldly go where no scheduling conference has gone before.” Some questioned whether we would succeed in our first year. Yet in the midst of recession, and even a major snowstorm, we gathered the cream of the world of professional planners and schedulers and we have made a difference.
Our continuing mission rests on three legs. We must educate the software product developers of our special needs. We must educate our attendees of new functionalities of these products that actually assist our prmary goal of completion on time. We must have fun while accomplishing these goals. We will do this with three full days of “how to” sessions, preceded and succeeded by vendor specific User Meetings and additional training (including Two Days with Fred), and smack in the midst of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
We have Mardi Gras parades passing our Sheraton Canal Street hotel on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday leading up to our conference. We have Mardi Gras parades following on Wednesday through the following Fat Tuesday. We have our own fun events, a Welcome Reception on Sunday (following the parades), Happy Hour Receptions on Monday and Tuesday, our own parade through the French Quarter with police escort and a brass band, and late night activities including taking out an entire bar on Bourbon Street to importing talent from the Quarter for a private Jazz Club.
I enjoy teaching at Drexel University and Temple University and formerly at University of Pennsylvania. It feels good to do the research to acquire, write and edit and edit and edit, and to publish to spread the knowledge in my texts in CPM and law, and to run Fred’s University at Construction CPM Conference each year. But which is more important – to bring in more consulting business – or acquire more war stories and experience to share with my students? Life is good.