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Benefits of Constant Communication: CPM and SIP

 

Originally aired on 07/26/2022

52 Minute Watch Time

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Nate St. John: 

Okay. Wonderful. Well, welcome everyone to the AACE and InEight partnership webinar series. This one is titled Benefits of constant Communication: CPM and SIP. So, full disclosure, our AACE host right now is having some technical problems, but the show will go on. So, you’re stuck with me doing my best to fumble through some housekeeping items, just a few things here. So, for those of you who haven’t participated in one of these with AACE, if you do have comments or questions for myself or Jordan, there is a specific Q&A section of this webinar versus just the chat box. And then within those questions, there’s a feature where you can up vote, like, or favorite a particular question.

So, again, with the AACE host running into some technical challenges, we’ll do our best to pick a few of the top voted questions at the end of the segment. So, with that, we’ll get started. So, my name is Nate St. John, and I’m responsible for the vision and strategic architecture of scheduling and risk management at InEight. Jordan and I both spent several years managing CPM and SIP schedules, and I’m very much looking forward to this conversation. So, I’ll kick it over to my colleague, Jordan, who’ll be the main emcee to introduce himself.

 

Jordan Brooks:  

Thanks, Nate. Yeah. As Nate was saying, Jordan Brooks, we’ve had a lot of experience in the past with SIP, CPM scheduling. I am the product manager for scheduling and risk at InEight, been working throughout the construction field in many different markets and industries. I look forward to speaking with everyone today and getting more perspective and also giving our perspective on this talk. I’m excited for it.

 

Nate St. John:

So, we go to the next slide here, Jordan. So, just a quick introduction of InEight for those of you who might not know about us. We are a full cycle connected platform serving almost 600,000 users across 60 countries with our InEight teams operating across 10 main talent hubs in order to serve those clients worldwide. So, in order to become or to make up at InEight, this integrated project controls platform, we have 8 functional categories and each of those categories are supported by 16 distinct business processes.

So, today, we’ll be speaking under the umbrella of this category here that’s highlighted, scheduling risk and design, very much appropriate for this topic. And then specifically talking to the business process of scheduling in short term, short interval planning. All right.

 

Jordan Brooks: 

So, we’ve got a poll question that AACE is going to kick off for us here. We’ll give you 30, 45 seconds to go ahead and answer that poll question. Once everyone’s done, we’ll go through results and then move forward with the webinar here. All right. I’m going to go ahead and call up there. So, if we want to end that poll, if you’re getting your votes in, get them in quick. All right. So, let me pull the results up on my screen just so we can see them. Sorry, Nate, we’ve got a wide variety there, which is good. I’m glad that we’ve got a wide variety in here with the firm you work for as well as even the role, it looks like too. This talk is very focused on short interval planning, but I think this applies to all organizations and all roles throughout those companies as well.

So, I’m glad that we’ve got a wide variety showing up today. All right. Let me get this down and we can start it. So, I want to spend some time at the beginning here, going through what we’re going to be talking about, what our takeaways should be from this webinar real quick. As most of us know, CPM is heavily relied upon as a scheduling method and there exist gaps for more detailed communication across project personas and teams.

This is precisely why the need arises to use a combination of CPM and short interval planning, and not only a combination of these two types of planning methods, but as well as some cohesiveness between those two, with that goal being increasing communication and efficiency, which in the end is leading to a stronger understanding of project deliveries. What we’re going to touch on further to cover that paragraph above into bullet points, we’ll go through defining CPM, what that means to us, and also SIP. We’ll spend a little bit of more time of what that is, describing exactly what would mean when we talk about shorter interval planning in this talk.

Then we’ll go through outlining the various groups that are reliant on that information who ex post facto would be reliant on having effective communication with these planning methods. We’ll also go through what information they’re looking for from both planning methods as well. Then we’ll walk through identifying common gaps in these methodologies that Nate and I have seen through our careers, spend a little bit of time on there, walk through what it is we’re looking to solve, highlight the importance of aligning your short interval plan to your CPM schedule. So, those gaps in the methodologies lead right into why it’s important to align those two methods.

And then finally, we’ll go through some solutions specifically how technology can help solution the problem that we point out in those methodologies from above. So, like I talked about first, let’s go into describing CPM and also short interval planning. I’m going to move one second here. Okay. So, with a focus on the contribution AACE has and continues to make to our industry, we’re going to utilize AACE’s schedule levels so that we can establish a baseline understanding for this webinar of where your CPM and your SIP schedules typically align by identifying what classes of schedules we’re discussing, discussing communication gaps between we can establish who on a project or in an organization the communication typically occurs.

So, as you can see here, our AACE classes, which can be found from Recommended Practice 27R-03, we show the level of detail for a CPM schedule being around a class three and then those short interval plans falling right around that class one, possibly class two. We realize that this can be fluid, but just for this talk today, we wanted to have a baseline understanding of where we were talking so that we can establish where that communication occurs. And then with the focus of today’s webinar being on SIP, we’ll go into detail on what we mean, but let’s do a quick reminder on CPM.

So, when we talk about CPM or critical path method, we’re talking about the method of using a forward and backward pass to calculate early and late dates, which then establishes the longest path of construction. So, with that understanding, let’s move forward in what we’re calling short interval planning here. So, when we talk about short interval plans, what we’re really referring to is the planning tactic used to handle the dynamic nature of executing work. When we talk about SIP, we want your focus to go on those 30-, 90-, 120-day schedules that you typically see on a project.

Those focus on, “What needs to be done this week? What needs to be done next week? What crews are required to get that work completed? When can we start? When do we need to finish even? And then if we fall behind, what are our best options to get back on track and not impact other disciplines or other teams down that road?” On this slide, you can see we show two examples of what we want you to envision when we’re talking short interval planning. We’ve got that whiteboard, that job site whiteboard that I’m sure many of you have seen in your careers, I’ve seen in my career. It’s very typical. I mean, this brings up envisioning of even pull planning methods, backend method planning, back into top down type of planning.

And then on the right, you’ve got that basic Excel Gantt chart where you’ve got a bunch of formulas punched in that show those pretty Gantt bars showing up on that Excel spreadsheet. So, that’s where we want your mind to go when we talk about SIP. Then to get into the teams who are reliant on that info from those planning methods, so from the CPM and the SIP method, who’s reliant on that information? Where are those communication gaps typically seen? These are the teams we typically talk about. So, you’ve got your project management team, which they’re looking for status reporting a lot of times, major milestones, that update reporting, payment applications.

Other items obviously are in there, but they’re relying on the high level information that they want to get from not only typically is the CPM, but sometimes you see that wanting to get that information from short interval plans as well. Then you’ve got the project controls teams on your project. They’re interested in that earned value management, cost reporting, update data, the delay data, milestones, et cetera. They’re looking to get a little bit more detailed on information. They’re obviously very interested in that CPM, that critical path method schedule, but they’re also very interested and ingrained with that SIP planning method.

They need to track day-to-day operations as well, not only for that earned value management, but to keep track of where they are with milestones. And then you get into field execution. A lot of times these teams can be honed in on that short interval plan and they miss the bigger picture with CPM, which we’ll get into later, but they want to know what their daily tasks are. They want to know what accrue or equipment availability they have, installation expectations for each day, and then milestones that they need to achieve, not only daily, but weekly, 30 days, they’ll look out. A lot of times they don’t look any further than that. They’re honed in on that short-term level planning.

 

Nate St. John: 

Yeah. So, Jordan, I think one of the things we’re seeing here and it’s very obvious in this slide is that there’s a lot of hands in the pot. A lot of people are relying on what should be one single source of truth when it comes to scheduling data, regardless of what level you’re on. There’s many gaps and we’ll get into outlining the top things that we’ve seen over time, but just to position the next slide, immediately, you think of the risk of siloed planning, right? So, miscommunication on upcoming work, miscommunication on status, miscommunication on milestone goals, overall targets, and then also the lack of validation between front-end planning and CPM. So, if we progress to the next slide here, let’s maybe break it down a bit further.

So, I think it could be argued really at any given time there’s two groups of people managing the schedule on a project. There’s the project controls group. So, think of project management, planners, schedulers, project engineers. They’re really focused on the CPM schedule, this contract document, right? So, preparing it for communication to the client, to stakeholders, to partners. And then on the other side of the coin, you have the field execution team. So, think of your superintendents, your foreman, the folks that are actually building the work. Those roles benefit greatly from this more granular nature of planning in SIP.

So, take for example, when steps are rearranged, so whether or not a step is split or if it moves, that level of maintenance is difficult to well maintain in CPM and it really requires a more free and dynamic environment. So, I guess in the perfect world, as long as all of the details stay within the boundaries of the CPM activity, everything in theory should be good, right? So, let’s take a simple example. Let’s take the very common CPM activity, [inaudible]. It’s extremely common. So, the project controls group can easily understand looking at the CPM that there is a foundation being worked on during this period of time in the CPM schedule.

Now, however, there’s a more detailed step-by-step approach that’s required to actually execute that activity, prep upgrade, install shoring, place rebar. I mean, not to mention the coordination of required equipment needed on site to perform that work. And so, you can see we’re not favoring one method over the other. And in fact, we do recommend both, but we want to highlight the intersection of both these methodologies and that’s essentially data. And so, data in things like comments, conversations, data in decision making, data in plan adjustments. So, all with the focus centered around real time communication. Let’s walk through some of the most common alignment issues we see in the industry when these systems don’t integrate.

 

Jordan Brooks:

So, as Nate said, let’s go through some of these alignment issues we’ve seen in our careers. Number one we wanted to touch on is losing visibility to milestones. As I talked about previously, specifically with SIP, I’m going to skip to that second bullet point and come back to the first. But with short interval planning, that field execution team is typically the ones that are looking at that short interval plan, which they can become very susceptible to looking at the near term focus and they lose track of those bigger milestones that they should be tracking towards on their projects to make sure that they’re getting the work complete on time and on budget.

CPM is where those project high level milestones are typically housed. You see them in there. That’s something that project controls teams, as we talked about earlier, and especially project management’s focus is a lot of the time is on those high level milestones. What’s the end game that we need to hit to say we were successful on this project? This is something that we see a lot throughout the industry.

 

Nate St. John: 

Yeah. I mean, essentially, Jordan, you’re taking two separate mindsets, two separate mental systems with different objectives and forcing them or giving them an opportunity in one environment to utilize what they want but ensuring them that they’re aligned the entire time, right?

 

Jordan Brooks: 

Absolutely. Number two is differing progress statuses. This one comes down to that we talked a little bit about it with earned value management. I’ve seen it a lot in my career. There’s a heavy focus on being aligned with progress on all reports, all applications on a project. Even all teams reporting the same level and the same amount of progress on a status is very important to make sure everyone’s aligned and that expectations are where they should be. So, the question then becomes the alignment problems coming in with who owns your percent complete.

A lot of the times we see differing teams having butting heads over, “Which percent complete type? Is it the cost? Is it the cost application that owns that? Is it the schedule application? Is it some other application that you’re tracking percent off to the side on?” And then that then leads into reporting accuracy between those. Having those not aligned, which one do you trust? Which one’s accurate? Which one’s the true representation of the progress currently on that project?

 

Nate St. John: 

Yeah, I mean, on paper, percent complete is defined very neatly and nicely and elegant. On paper, it should be very simple, but time and again, especially as complexity scales on projects, it can definitely be cumbersome and just simply taking quantities that are most likely claimed in the field and passing that up to a CPM level of communication, systems break down constantly with this.

 

Jordan Brooks:

Then the third one we want to talk about is the compounding effects of re-sequencing in isolation. We didn’t touch on this earlier, but good schedule practices we’ve seen in the industry are those lower level schedules being derived from those higher level schedules. So, when you go from class one to class five, you want to be able to look at that class five schedule and see where it came from when you look back at the class one. Estimate to baseline to short interval plan schedule, those should have some type of relation that can lead the team into having the same plan moving forward, making sure the team’s aligned.

And when you start resequencing that CPM, so that class three schedule and then that class five SIP level schedule, if you’re doing that in isolation and one head is doing something completely different than the other head’s doing, then who knows which way each one’s heading? You’re showing a different message. Contract documents could be showing one thing when actually what the work’s being done in the field is completely different. And that causes a compounding effect over time where these plans just become completely disjointed.

 

Nate St. John:

Yeah. I mean, CPM, at least in my time and your time, Jordan, just under 20 years in the industry, so not that long in the grand scheme of things, SIP has most likely been there the whole time, but in relativity to the invention of CPM, it’s new. I think there’s an argument that the genesis of SIP came from people having problems, forcing levels of communication into the CPM where it’s not applicable. And so, here we are saying, use two systems and bringing them together, but of course, anytime you give somebody two different things, then there’s the risk of just that isolation. So, again, something to be cognizant of when we talk about flowing information through this cycle of both CPM and SIP.

 

Jordan Brooks:

The number four alignment problem that we wanted to talk about was lack of real time data adjustments. So, does a change in one affect the other? And then you want to prevent stale states. So, what we’re really talking about here is that real time updates. A lot of the times your CPM schedule and your SIP schedule have different update cycles. The SIP schedule being a short interval plan, maybe happening more frequently. Weekly, daily updates to that SIP schedule probably are happening on a project while your CPM schedule may be weekly. A lot of the times it could be monthly and you’re seeing a disjoint in real time updates showing accurately.

And then this can create stale states between the two when you’re not updating those on the same frequency that a team needs to specifically communicate what changes are happening. Even though that CPM schedule may not be updated until the future, they need to know what changes are happening so that they can be prepared to make those changes in the CPM schedule represent them adjust as needed. And that way, that SIP schedule and that CPM schedule are reflecting the same plan. And that really comes down to the team’s communicating to each other who are updating both schedules or plans.

 

Nate St. John:

Is that a realistic expectation in your mind, Jordan? Can teams use software that is real time? That’s a buzzword almost, but do you think you can get there in terms of technology today in real time communication?

 

Jordan Brooks:

I think that we can get there in terms of real time communication between the two, at least give people a snapshot of real time or of what real time would be if they were to change, make those changes in the plan. I don’t think that we want to ever get to the point where technology is making decisions for a project team. So, to say is real time expected, I don’t think it should be expected, but I think at least snapshot of real time data and what it will do to your plan should be expected and it can be provided from technology today, I believe.

 

Nate St. John:

Yeah. Certainly, there’s a fine line and this is probably a separate webinar altogether in terms of utilizing advanced technologies. But in terms of providing people, regardless of geographical location, especially on a project, the ability to go in and have confidence that they’re looking at the right set of information, I think it’s critical. I think that a lot of people say it, but to actually execute and to use it, I think it should be an expectation today. And I think that regardless of what software vendor you all are operating with, I think that there’s a strive and a demand to say, “It’s 2022. When something changes, I need to be informed.”

 

Jordan Brooks: 

And then the fifth alignment problem we wanted to cover today was collaboration challenges. So, when we’re talking about collaboration challenges, we’re focused on what each group needs and the critical thinking that needs to happen within these groups. Specifically, as we showed earlier on our project team slide, each group has specific needs. Some of those align. Some of them don’t. So, every team’s need from a plan and what communications they need to have happening are a little bit different, but in the end, they’re the same because it should be effectively planning a job in the end should be the common goal.

So, trying to use technology or using technology to get each group their needs met through communication and providing a go between the two groups that provides that information to them is something that I think that we can achieve with technology as well. And then that critical thinking, when changes happen on a project, what does that do not only to the short interval plan? What does that do to the CPM schedule?

Well, those critical thinking, those group things that need to happen to have an accurate plan can happen, because you have a representation of what it’s doing to your plan on the screen that you can look at as a group in a job trailer, in an office separately across the globe possibly like Nate was saying, and make critical decisions based on that information that you’re getting.

 

Nate St. John: 

Yeah. I mean, you’re spot on this one. The cycle of CPM and SIP doesn’t work, unless teams are collaborating. Sometimes we meet people out in the world with some resistance too. Especially in some of the lean construction planning methodologies, they want to get up on the white board. They want to be physically there, and there’s certainly benefits to that. I think in a perfect solution, you would be physically there moving around sticky notes and placing them, but you’d be doing so in a digital world, because there is a manual process then after the whiteboard of, “Now, let’s put it into essentially your company’s ecosystem so that all that data can be hooked into and reported on.”

So, I absolutely understand and just through my time of taking place with pull planning sessions and actually being there, it’s a great exercise, but I think that especially in construction technology, I think we can strive to have at the foundation of that technology to make it easier than ever.

 

Jordan Brooks:

Absolutely. These five alignment problems that we’ve covered, by all means, these are the top five that we’ve seen in our career. There’s probably an expansive list that we could come up with if we thought about every single alignment problem that’s out there. By all means, if someone in the audience has a differing opinion on which one should be up in number five, by all means, put it in that Q&A session and let’s cover it at the end here.

We don’t want to make this just one-, two-person room where no one else is giving any type of feedback. So, by all means, if we miss something you feel like, by all means, put it in the Q&A and we’ll talk about it, but this is the list that Nate and I have seen in our careers, past experiences, on jobs that caused the biggest problems with communication.

 

Nate St. John: 

Yeah. It was a struggle, Jordan, to just boil it down to five, talking about the upvote feature at the top of the hour. We brought together our list and then upvoted, and this is how it made it to the top five, but yeah, we’re constantly learning. We constantly have an open mind. We know we don’t have all the answers. So, if you have something that’s a top five for you or has really hurt your project in the past and you want to share, go ahead and type it in. Yeah, it’s always good to chat on this stuff.

 

Jordan Brooks: 

So, Nate and I presented the problems. It wouldn’t be a webinar if we stopped here, so we will go into solutions and that’s what we’re going to talk about next. So, solutions and benefits of those alignment issues you’ve saw on the previous screen. Really, it comes down to advancing upon the CPM and the SIP methodologies that we already have in the industry today. I think our industry’s very good about planning at the CPM level. I think we’re very good about planning down to the SIP level. I’ve seen some of the best plannings on a project down at that foreman, superintendent level, field engineers, who are doing those daily plans or those 30-day plans and they know what needs to happen next. And they get hyper focused on those short interval plans.

But how do we advance upon those to bridge those alignment problems that we’re seeing between CPM and SIP? So, some of the bullet points that we want to point out here is always plan with the context of CPM. As I talked about earlier, you have AACE’s recommended practices of classes of schedules from class one down to class five. I mentioned they should be a derivative of each other. So, you always want to plan your SIP schedules, the changes that may be happening. You always want to account for what it shows within that CPM schedule, because that CPM schedule should be derived from your estimate and your baseline schedule is coming from that estimate, which carries a budget with it.

So, there’s a point in time or there’s some goals that need to be met to stay within budget and that should be built into those baseline CPM schedules and then derived down to that SIP level schedule. So, changes need to be thought about. They need to be thought about with the context of CPM in mind when it’s happening. Planning needs to be done intelligently and technology can provide us a way to reference those. Then you need to expose hidden constraints and opportunities. A lot of the times that CPM schedule may not take into constraints that SIP does. Equipment constraints, a lot of times, your CPM schedules aren’t loaded with equipment resources and you may only have a limited number of cranes on a job site that can do work.

So, that SIP level schedule is going to point out those constraints when you start pulling in those equipment needs across crews, and possibly, a CPM schedule needs to be reworked to comply with those constraints that SIP is surfacing. Then converting that analog process of SIP into a single digital project. So, what we’re talking about here is really bringing SIP into the technology world. I showed on a previous screen that job site whiteboard with the timeline scribbled in and posted the notes shown on there and Nate talked about it with lean planning. A lot of the time, doing it on the whiteboard with the entire team is great, but can we get that into a digital world where there’s access to everyone?

You don’t have to have it specifically on one meeting that you show up to see this plan. Owners can hop in possibly and even see your plan in the field to make sure it aligns. If you’re open to having those owners in the room with you and communicating to them, there’s a lot of benefits to that. So, getting it into one digital project, one message going forward is a big thing. And then clear visibility of project milestones across stakeholders. So, we talked about this multiple times, Nate, today. Milestones at different levels sometimes become focuses of those teams and they miss other teams’ milestones.

So, that SIP level milestones, what do I need to get installed today? Quantity wise milestone may be missing what a big milestone, a shutdown milestone at the CPM level could be and how you’re impacting that. So, how do we get those milestones and the same milestones in front of everyone, showing the same dates, showing the same data, and everyone working towards those same milestones is a big thing. And Nate, why don’t you walk us through what we’re looking at on the right hand side of this slide here?

 

Nate St. John:

Yeah, sure. I can do that. So, to break it down, it’s a lot of this and that, how this would happen practically. If we focus just on the right hand side graphic, so above the line is essentially your CPM. So, you have your WBS construction and early work package, right? It’s a WBS item. And then beneath that, you have two activities, activity A and B. And then below the line, you have more detailed steps, which we’re calling the short interval plan perspective. This is what I usually tell people. As long as you’re within the boundaries with crew A and B underneath each activity, you’re fine.

And the CPM’s there to set those guide rails to remind near term focused planning like SIP, to remind them of the grander scheme and essentially the executable contract, the promise that we’ve made to install activity A and then B, but there of course is going to be challenges with that. There may be, and it happens all the time, a need to rearrange those orange steps outside of the boundaries of the CPM. And so, what having this in one tool does is it catches those what we call breaches and it’s absolutely fine.

The most important outcome of this is that parties are discussing and talking. And so, if someone in the SIP world proposes expanding out something that extends the schedule activity, then the CPM manager just needs to go and vet, “Can we afford to do that?” Maybe we can. Maybe it’s very low. Maybe it has a ton of float that’s low on our flow path order or vice versa. Maybe that is the critical path and that person has to push back on the SIP team and say, “In the grander scheme of things, we can’t afford to extend this duration. Are there any other options to resequence at the SIP level?”

So, that’s how practically these conversations go and they do happen. It’s just when it’s not together, like what we’re saying, if it’s not in sync, that’s when you start to go down divergent paths and the wheels can fall off quickly. Jordan, before we go to the next slide, I’m going to break up the flow of it and just answer maybe one or two questions.

 

Jordan Brooks: 

Absolutely.

 

Nate St. John: 

I think we are going to wrap up a little early on this too. We might be able to entertain a couple at the end, but just looking at the top votes. One attendee said, “SIP, pull planning, what’s the difference?” So, I’m going to go out on a limb here because I’m recorded and I have not authored any books yet on any of these topics, but I can tell you my point of view with this. So, they are two different in my world and what I tell people. So, pull planning is a reserved approach to scheduling. And often what I see is different groups of teams will focus in on one deliverable, one milestone, and then from there, they’ll not go left to right. They’ll go right to left. So, they’ll work backwards and they’ll pull plan, right?

And so, what this does is it creates really constraint-free execution. So, they’re reverse engineering, “What is it going to take to deliver this milestone?” And generally, those are cross-functional teams as well. So, you start to do interface dependency planning, essentially freeing up constraints to say, “Can we get there with as least restriction as possible?” On the SIP side of the house, I generally focus still with a left to right approach. So, if you think of critical path, critical path is generally left to right, that’s why you do your forward first, then you come around into your backwards path. Critical path does have its place. It’s absolutely brilliant at establishing your float sequence, your longest path in construction. So, it’s not all bad, but there is a heavy focus left to right.

And with that heavy focus, there tends to be a hypersensitivity or a hyperfocus on the critical path. And so, seeing that SIP stems from the critical path, it’s generally your three-week look ahead, your 90-day look ahead of, “Here’s project time. Now, let’s plan out the future.” And so, to sum it up and again, I’m sure I’m offending some people, but this is just my view of the world. They’re both great planning tactics. I think that I’ve seen some creativity where they’ve blended the two, but pull planning’s generally working at reverse engineering from a milestone, whereas SIP stems from the CPM and it’s generally a forward looking approach.

And I guess there’s just one other question. Are you performing SIP within the CPM or separate product? So, we will showcase at the end, our tool. It’s one product. So, I think we’ll get to that one. It had quite a few uploads as well, but yeah, essentially, you have a space to manage your CPM and those people and personas can operate in that area of a product and SIP another area of the product.

But when you enter SIP, we surface and visualize CPM and we hold critical path method rules so that you can have visibility across everything. So, essentially, if you hung a string or drew a line in this single environment, you get all of the information from both sides at once. So, we’ll continue, Jordan. I wanted to pick a couple, because we might be a few minutes early. So, hopefully, that answered some questions.

 

Jordan Brooks:

In regards to that first question, actually, I think to clear up, I’m going to go backwards. Excuse me. I know this is probably not typical, but I want to go back to that class schedule, how AACE defines it. This may be where that question came from. You can see on class one, it’s bottom up planning, so that back to front planning that Nate was talking about. When we’re talking about SIP with that left to right still approach, it’s really more focused on what level of detail are these down to. When you look at the class three, it says semi-detailed. So, it’s those WBS levels which equate to sometimes deliverables, sometimes segments on a project.

It’s your WBS structure breakdown within that class three, and then it’s really becoming more detailed upon those activities within that CPM schedule when you go down to class one. Yes, it says bottom up planning. I think that’s more of a guideline instead of a rule of thumb and we follow that when we’re talking about SIP. So, it’s a good question. I can see where that came from and I just wanted to clarify that before we move forward.

All right. So, where can technology come into play when you’re talking about CPM to SIP communication? What we’re really looking to do with this technology is align your short interval plan to your CPM schedule for seamless stakeholder communication. That’s pretty generic statement, but really, what you’re talking about here is getting both groups that are looking at that CPM schedule or that short interval plan into the same project plan and looking at the same data. So, that communication that happens on the project is speaking towards the same plan. When you look at milestones, it’s looking at the exact same dates.

When you’re looking at critical activities on a project, both teams or both groups, CPM and who’s looking at SIP know what that critical means on that specific project. You want to be able to identify those activities and be talking about the same thing. Then you get into leveraging SIP’s digital whiteboard experience to drive field execution planning. So, as you can see, Nate will go into the screenshot on the right here shortly, but what you’re looking at is really putting that whiteboard experience from the job site trailer or even that really whiteboard experience in Excel.

When you really look at it, that’s what Excel really is. It’s more of a digital whiteboard, but getting that into a cloud version that can be referenced to the CPM more easily, more readily, give more of those real time snapshots, that real time data that we were talking about that people can have at their fingertips so that they can align their plans with it. And then validating CPM with field execution planning.

So, lastly, you want to make sure that whatever plan you have, CPM and SIP, is somewhat validated that it’s actually achievable, that you can do that on your project, that it’s possibly been done in the past. All of that needs to be brought into one within technology and give users and groups, teams on a project, the ability to communicate using this one view of the project plan. So, Nate’s going to go into the screenshot here on the right, talk us through where these bullet points come into play here.

 

Nate St. John:

Okay. Thanks, Jordan, for blowing that up. Yeah. So, this is a good follow on to the previous question. So, this is a screenshot from InEight schedule. It’s in our SIP view, we call it, and let’s just maybe unpack and orient ourselves to what we’re seeing. So, obviously, on the left, you have the schedule WBS and then we have activities. In fact, there are some critical and non-critical activities in this screenshot. The red bars in the right, those are your critical activities. They get skinnier over the weekends, because obviously, we need to bring in that exception, that calendar data, when we talk about bringing all data together. And so, by default, SIP would honor the assigned calendar at the activity level. Of course, you can override it.

And then under each activity, we have more detailed steps or components. So, then those steps, they contain metadata. So, comment logs, their own resources, units, color coding, et cetera. And then each step has a sticky note and that sticky note represents a date and it has its own set of metadata. So, depending on how you group and view this structure on the left, you can begin to safeguard against clashes. You can initiate cross-functional coordination, especially when more than one crew is working on the same activity. So, if I’m working on the back end of activity A and I don’t have visibility into the other crew that’s doing the front end, perhaps in my view of the world, I can scoot up and plan my resources to take place early to start a week earlier.

When in fact, if I just dive into some of this cross-functional visibility we’ve built, it would say, “Hey, well, Jordan’s actually sharing this activity with you and needs time in the front end of that work.” So, that’s a very critical component and an output of this. And then of course, you can roll up and have constant visibility to things like project milestones, the local weather, et cetera. So, I think the summary here is there’s a lot to benefit from taking what’s traditionally an analog or separate methodology and placing them in a single cloud-based platform. And at InEight, we just happen to call that view of the world SIP.

 

Jordan Brooks:

And to further your point before we go to the next slide, I think the beauty of SIP planning is the flexibility. It brings into the planning teams and their methodologies. In SIP, you can have multiple activities shown more than once between two people and it’s not going to create the hassle doing that in say the CPM schedule would. So, the ability for a technology to help facilitate those possibly predecessor or success or constraints or which crew is working after me on this activity, it allows you with that flexibility to show that uniquely to users so that they can use that to plan their work properly and communicate properly, which is ultimately what we’re talking about here today.

 

Nate St. John:

Again, I think our AACE host may still be having issues, but we’ll throw up this QR code. Love the feedback. We’re totally open minded. This is just a glimpse of our experience doing this work. We spent over a decade doing it and now we’ve transitioned over to the technology side. We’ve got 15 minutes. I think what I’ll do, Jordan, is let’s pick two more questions, the top votes. So, I’ll question this one over your way, okay?

 

Jordan Brooks: 

Okay.

 

Nate St. John:

So, CPM is proven technique but has failed in many construction projects around the world. Do you know how many percent of construction projects are successfully using CPM?

 

Jordan Brooks:

That one, if I even gave a percentage, I think would be a wild guess at that point. I think the main focus should be of CPM is that it is an agreed upon tool within the industry. This again, like Nate said earlier, could be a whole another webinar that you could go through, but claims analysis have used CPM to validate their point. And it has been proven in those claims analysis sometimes to be the record of truth that people go with when trying to prove that point. So, with that, it has become an industry standard. It’s been around longer than I have. It’s a tool that isn’t unique, but it is very powerful, I think. I think there is some beauty in its forward and backward pass that it can do to give you the longest path to construction. There’s some use as far as criticality.

It gives people a guideline on a project. And I don’t think it needs to be the end-all-be-all planning methodology for your team on that project also. Yes, a lot of the times, it is the contract tool, the contract documentation that’s used to communicate that project status, but that’s why a lot of projects come up with items like SIP, for example, like we did, where that planning is more flexible and it allows you to go outside the constraints that CPM presents on projects. So, that you’re not hamstrung to having to use a tool that I wouldn’t have the slightest idea of how many people are using it effectively on a project, right?

So, get down to that SIP level, if that’s what you use effectively, then use that on a project. I think that should be the main focus and then communicating to that CPM schedule with whatever tool you’re using is the bottom line. That CPM schedule needs to be updated and accurately show what’s being reflected in the plan that you are using to accurately status your project.

 

Nate St. John:

Yeah. I mean, to put a percentage on it, I think, is difficult to go back to say, “Oh, it’s 10% of projects.” When you talk about projects that fail or underperform, I think, what we’ve seen and others at InEight that are more gray haired than us have seen and have stood by is that it can generally bubble up to poor planning, not poor execution. Experts that are in concrete know how to pour concrete, but if their plans are being rearranged last minute because of poor planning, they don’t have an opportunity to hit their productivity.

I think that even if you look at failure because of CPM, I mean, CPM is essentially mathematics. It’s an algorithm and you use that within a tool, but to point and say, that’s what was flawed, I think it’s more human involvement and again, more just lack of planning or proper planning or just being prepared. I mean, you can plan all day, but are you prepared? Those are two different things. And then there’s certainly many, many benefits CPM does very well what it’s intended to do. So, maybe the final question, maybe I’ll take this one, Jordan. If you want to advance to the final slide here.

 

Jordan Brooks: 

Absolutely.

 

Nate St. John: 

The one with the top votes here, the project scheduling landscape is changing to AI/ML driven. How long is the expected runway remains for human-centric CPM scheduling? This is a fascinating one because InEight schedule has some AI/ML built into it already, but we always asterisks with the humans in charge. And in fact, we have a section on the app titled Human Intelligence, which is just that humans validating the plan based on what maybe some advanced technologies have shown or bubbled up. I think the real constraint in all of this when we start talking about advanced technologies and taking over the world is the bottleneck is most likely companies and organizations’ resistance to digitally transform.

That’s the bottleneck, because if you don’t digitally transform your organization, you won’t even have that question as a point of contention because you’re unable to leverage those advanced technologies. So, I think there’s plenty of runway and I think there’s plenty of runway because of the slow adoption, particularly in our industry to digitally transform. So, great interaction. We’re a few minutes early. I’m happy to wrap it up now. I want to thank Jordan for being the emcee. Thanks always to partner with ACCE. We’ve been both long time members and the organization does just great work. This is our two contacts should you have more questions.

I believe ACCE will send this out as a recording and a copy of the PowerPoint. I believe there’s some CEU credits associated to it. So, be on the lookout for any email from them. And if you’re interested in some more reading, we have an InEight blog, three- or four-minute read to just put some more eyeballs on our thoughts between critical path and SIP. So, hopefully, you enjoyed it. Hopefully, it resonated or made some sense or at least got you thinking what can you do better to advance your current situation’s planning methodology. So, with that again, thanks Jordan. And everyone, have a wonderful rest of the day.

 

Jordan Brooks:

Yup. Thanks, Nate. Thank you, everyone.

 

Nate St. John:

Okay. Cheers.