Schedule Quality Assessment

Location:  PMKI > Project Controls and Scheduling > Schedule Quality Assessment. 
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This subject focuses on the emerging science of measuring schedule quality and conformance to ‘good practice’ and the automated tools that are now available to assist in this process. There is a strong correlation between a well-constructed schedule and a desirable project outcome, applying these concepts will enhance the probability of on-time completion.

Topics included in Schedule Quality Assessment:

- Schedule Quality Overview
- Schedule Quality & Conformance Scoring
- Schedule Quality Assessment Tools and Software
- Useful External Web-links & Resources.

Other related sections of the PMKI:

- Project Quality Management 
- Schedule control in Agile and Distributed projects  

Schedule Quality Overview

Scheduling  StandardOne of the foundations for successful project management is to start with the right schedule. The devil is not in the detail.... it is in the schedule!!

Smart project managers always check the schedule! But, the subjective view of someone in the project team (even you) is often based on a personal assessment of what an acceptable schedule should look like. There are better options:

  • Technical conformance can be assessed by the software tools listed below.
  • Assessing the 'usefulness' of a schedule is more complex, a good starting point is for managers to ask the right questions.

For many years scheduling was seen as a ‘black art’ with only subjective opinions as to what constituted a ‘good schedule’, any debate over schedule quality tended to be confused with arguments over personal preferences in tools and/or networking techniques. Unfortunately despite options to standardize scheduling practice evolving since the turn of the 21st century, these attitudes are still far too common.

The publication by PMI of its ‘Practice Standard for Scheduling’ in May 2007 (now in its third edition) went a long way towards resolving many of these issues. The Standard development team drew on expertise from around the world to deliver an authoritative document that defines ‘good scheduling practice’ based on the ‘Time Management’ processes from the PMBOK® Guide.   Also, for many years, certifications in scheduling were focused exclusively on senior schedulers and had very little effect on the profession of scheduling. More recently these factors have started to change - new ideas and paradigms are emerging to change the way scheduling and project ‘controls’ operate.

Key publications include:

  • CIOB’s Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Major Projects originally published January 2011
  • Faster Construction Projects with CPM Scheduling by: Murray B.Woolf, Published, McGraw-Hill .
  • The PMI Practice Standard for Scheduling
  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Schedule Assessment Guide
  • Certifications from AACE and PMI: AACE PSP™ and PMI-SP®
  • New certifications from the Guild of Project Controls

The future of project management is predicted to be one that focuses on ‘soft skills’ including; communications, motivation and leadership. Uncertainty will be recognized as normal and skills for managing uncertainty will become essential for successful project managers. Consequently, the revised focus on using the schedule should concentrate on supporting the project management team with useful information that emphasizes:

  • Collaboration and agreement
  • Coordination and the delivery of useful information to the the right people at the right time, and
  • The ability to adapt to changing circumstances quickly

In this scenario, scheduling should be seen as a modelling process that helps communicate and coordinate ideas about what might happen in the future. This is achieved by providing timely and useful information, NOT masses of irrelevant data weeks after the event. This is the essence of effective time management and the basis for building project success, which in turn provides the framework for defining a quality schedule, that is fit-for-purpose. This approach is becoming increasingly important on projects where the CPM paradigm simply does not work. This type of project (Class 3 projects) include Agile and Distributed projects, time management is still important, but the techniques and tools needed to optimize resource utilization are different, see: Schedule control in Agile and Distributed projects.

This section focuses on the need of Class 1 and 2 projects where the use of an effective CPM schedule is still one of the best options for effective control:

Art: Testing Schedule Quality: Why do so many organizations and clients accept bad schedules? suggests five key questions to ask about the development of a schedule to ensure it meets an acceptable standard.

PP: Standardizing Quality in Project Scheduling. The role of certifications and standardization in the development of scheduling practice focused on successful project delivery. This paper also provides a review of the PMI Practice Standard for Scheduling, and its use as a conformance measurement tool.

WP: 14 point DCMA assessment. The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) has developed a set of standards that (when met) ensure a well-built schedule. Each of the checks included in the DCMA 14 Point Assessment are discussed together with some additional useful checks from other sources. The DCMA 14 Point schedule assessment is probably the most used assessment and is required by the USA government in many projects. Download WP1088.

Blg: CPM Scheduling – the logical way to error #1. Logical anomalies in a CPM schedule can cause Blg: CPM Scheduling – the logical way to error #2. unexpected consequences when an activity duration is changed - for example, increasing the duration of a critical activity reduces the overall project duration. These post highlights the issue.      


Schedule Quality & Conformance Scoring

There are a number of 'standard' approaches to assessing schedule quality.

Scheduling  StandardPMI's Practice Standard for Scheduling includes a conformance scoring system that allows schedules to be rated for conformance with accepted good practice. This version of the Standards allows assessors to assess whether a schedule uses (ie, contains) a component correctly, not the way it is utilized (ie, its usefulness). The standard is available free of charge to PMI members.

GAO GuideThe U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) Schedule Assessment Guide provides more comprehensive guidance on creating and maintaining a schedule and supports the scheduling concepts introduced in the Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide. Download a free copy of the  GAO Schedule Assessment Guide.


DCMA 14 Point

Earned Value Management System (EVMS) Program Analysis Pamphlet (PAP), DCMA-EA PAM 200.1, October 2012. Section 4 of DCMA-EA PAM 200.1 define the last published version of the DCMA 14 Point Schedule Metrics, which were developed to identify potential problem areas within a schedule.

Prs: Project Controls. The art of predicting project completion. A good baseline schedule is not enough. Developing a schedule that complies with the GAO schedule assessment guide by incorporating resources and risk.

WP: 14 point DCMA assessment. The Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) has developed a set of standards that (when met) ensure a well-built schedule. Each of the checks included in the DCMA 14 Point Assessment are discussed together with some additional useful checks from other sources. The DCMA 14 Point schedule assessment is probably the most used assessment and is required by the USA government in many projects. Download WP1088.

Blg: The Schedule Compliance Risk Assessment Methodology (SCRAM). A brief description of the SCRAM approach to assessing a schedule and the organization that is developing it. SCRAM is an approach for identifying risks to compliance with program schedule, i.e. SCRAM can be used for the assessment and improvement of schedule risk compliance. Unlike the automated options below, SCRAM uses an assessment team to review all aspects of the schedule's development (people and process as well as technical conformance) -


The information in these papers (and more) has been consolidated into Easy CPM which focuses on schedule quality in section 6.1. 

Easy CPM Easy CPM is an easy-to-read, course-in-a-book, that provides practical training and guidance to individuals and organizations involved in developing or using CPM schedules based on the Critical Path Method (CPM). It is designed to act as both a reference, and practice guide, for people implementing CPM scheduling after they have learned to use the CPM scheduling software of their choice.

See more, free preview and buy ($35, immediate download).


Schedule Quality Assessment Tools and Software

Effective analytical tools are available to automate the checking process. These tools reverse engineer schedules created in a range of software tools and check for errors and inconsistencies. Some of the better options include:

Deltek Acumen Fuse: A powerful analytical tool that integrates with most of the major scheduling tools. Acumen is a comprehensive analysis and correction tool that Fuse reporting is designed to be hierarchical so that it accommodates planners, schedulers and executive’s needs. You can drill down, slicing and dicing through multiple levels (Work Breakdown) or by any other code or user field to quickly pinpoint potential issues with your schedule. Conversely, summarize detailed results and publish to project dashboards, executive briefings and PowerPoint presentations, all at the click of a button. See:

Schedule Analyzer: For Primavera,is a suite of programs to assist the Scheduler and Claims Analyst in performing difficult or impossible scheduling tasks. Multiple modules are included as a single package, offering detailed analysis and expert recommendations with a wide range of capabilities and reports. Add the eForensic package for forensic analysis -

Schedule Inspector:  Barbecana’s Schedule Inspector does 30 different tests on your schedule, including all 14 points in the Defense Contract Management Agency's (DCMA's) assessment guide for Microsoft Project 2007 or later schedules, plus many others including: redundant relationships, out-of-sequence progress, connectivity index (ratio of relationships to tasks), and resources or relationships on summary tasks -

SmartPM Technologies: Project analytics built for the Construction Industry. At every schedule update, SmartPM can analyze schedule quality and integrity, perform on-going critical path delay analysis, assess schedule changes over time, support compression and feasibility analysis, and run predictive analytics on both critical path sensitivity and major milestone completion - 

For more schedule quality assessment tools visit our comprehensive software listing. 



Useful External Web-links & Resources

Access the Guild of Project Controls Body of Knowledge. A suite of process-based documents which define Project Controls (membership required):


Work Performance Management

Stakeholder on a Page

Communication Plan

Work Performance Management

EVM Work Sheet

Risk Register

Work Performance Management

Easy CPM

Easy EVM

Risk Management Plan

Stakeholder Work Sheet

Work Performance Management