Much has been happening these past few months. Construction CPM Conference #5 was held in San Diego in January, preceded by our hosting of the PMA Netpoint User Meeting #5, Synchro User Meeting #4, an AACE SoCal Certification Training Boot Camp, and a half day of Training in Asta PowerProject. Our conference itself had two keynotes, our signature mock trial, and eighty-three 75-minute breakout sessions. We had two software clinics providing 30-minute One-on-One counseling – one for Oracle and one for Synchro products. Many of the technical sessions were captured with Voice-over-Slide recording and are available to the general public at View Powerpoints and Videos for a nominal fee which is then to be donated to viewers choice of AACE, Planning Planet or PMI.

Shortly after, the ABA Forum for Construction held its Mid-Winter Meeting in Scottsdale with a few lucky attendees staying after to see the Super Bowl. DBIA held its twin Water and Transportation Design-Build conferences in San Antonio in March. AACE held both a Winter Workshop on the west coast and Northeast TCM Symposium on the east coast.

I have been kept busy by a small uptick in consulting work and in completing the manuscript for the Eighth Edition of CPM in Construction Management (McGraw-Hill.) Jim O’Brien and I are here attempting to revisit how the core values and techniques of CPM planning and scheduling are documented and taught. Writing a reference or textbook is a never ending effort – just as we are finishing materials on proper specifications, the USACE comes out with its latest (02/15) version of the Unified Facilities Guide Specification 013201. Since Jim and I wrote the original version of this specification back in 1987, we decided to add a small chapter on the evolution of this contract document. Our editors at McGraw-Hill have been very accommodating as we writers of a book on CPM push back our completion date.

The ABA Forum annual meeting will be this week (April 15-18) in Boca Raton. I have been asked to provide some comments at the Division 2 & 11 (Contract Documents and Corporate Counsel) breakfast on “Why the Scheduling Specification is in a State of Disrepair” subtitled “Rewriting the CPM Scheduling Specification to Better Support the Project Owner.”

The main points are that an owner should want a CPM for the primary purpose of further assurance that the contractor CAN complete on time. Perhaps the effort to provide a CPM may be leveraged to improve the progress payment process, but there were and are other means to control disbursements.

Perhaps the CPM may be used to better control the change management process, but if the contractor is told to lie about its anticipated “plan of execution” so to hypothetically influence the decision of the judge in a claim of delay, the viability of timely completion of the project may well be damaged, and the judge may well see the fraud here intended. Fraud may be a strong word but the road to hell is often paved with good intensions.

Perhaps the CPM may be milked for enterprise level monitoring and control. Asking a carpenter to put down her hammer between each swing to record such on a keypad may help report but will not help improve productivity. A CPM compromised to be the primary EVM tool will be less accurate than separate and proper CPM and EVM protocols. Demanding the splitting or merging of activities to meet an EVM or OBS or WBS protocol degrades the usefulness of the CPM analysis for forecasting, monitoring and controlling to achieve timely completion. The resultant CPM analysis is also then flawed to support the EVM system.

Understanding and teaching the mathematics behind CPM and EVM is the key. I will be at the AACE annual meeting in Las Vegas this June (as an attendee to learn and not as a speaker to teach) and perhaps several other venues through the year. Our next Construction CPM Conference #6 will be held in New Orleans February 1st through 3rd (pre- and post-events from January 29th to Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday January 9th) where these and other topics central to our industry will be discussed.