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Resource optimisation
A new paradigm for project scheduling

On average, nothing is average!
Dan Gilbert

Keywords: Scheduling, Planning, Resource Optimisation, CPM, Flow Line, Critical Chain. 

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Resource optimisation - a new paradigm for project scheduling   [P152]

The current focus of CPM scheduling on activities, sequences, float and criticality is failing to deliver successful project outcomes. This paper will look at the alternative approach based on workflows and the optimisation of available resources; the underlying approach in methodologies such as Flow-Line, ToC and Critical Chain (although non of these methodologies use optimisation).

Current CPM scheduling is failing to deliver successful project outcomes.
There are two solutions to this problem, one is to move to a proper resource optimisation approach (already included, in part, in tools such as Spider) the second is to adopt a more pragmatic approach to scheduling based on ‘what you know’.

The short-term pragmatic approach:

A realistically achievable approach in the short term, can be summarised as ‘plan what you know and budget the rest’.  This is the approach adopted in the CIOB ‘Guide to good practice in the management of time in Complex Projects’.  The Guide introduces the concept of Schedule Density:
The Low Density schedule is developed and agreed with the client and represents the contractual commitment to deliver the project.

The Medium Density schedule is developed and agreed with the key suppliers and subcontractors, but only for the work planned to be accomplished in the next year or so. It defines the way the organisations committed to the project will achieve the strategic objectives defined in the Low Density schedule.

The High Density schedule is developed and agreed with the people actually doing the work and should be realistic and achievable statement of what will occur in the next 3 months. If this does not achieve the overall strategic objectives, the problems are resolved in the Medium Density schedule so as to minimise disruption to current workflows.

Current scheduling practice has clearly demonstrated that trying to predict detailed resource requirements years in advance when no-one knows who will be doing the work, how effective they will be and frequently what the details of the work actually are is pointless – the only use for this type of schedule is measuring failure after the event.  Unfortunately the requirement for a multi-year, detailed, resource loaded schedule is a far too common contractual and legal requirement.
The new paradigms proposed in this section of the paper offer a short term solution based on The Guide, that can be adopted on any project using most of the currently available scheduling tools.

A Resource Optimisation approach:

Adopting a resource optimisation approach would involve changing the underlying philosophical approach embedded in CPM from a belief that the pre-determined duration and sequencing of activities takes precedence, constrained by the availability of resources (if resource levelling is used); to one that recognises the real objective of scheduling is to keep the resources working effectively (resource work flows) and any activity sequencing represents a constraint on the locations where resources can work.

This change in approach would represent a totally new paradigm in the modern age, although interestingly, the original objective of CPM was resource optimisation!  CPM was dumbed down to its current form to achieve realistic processing times on the computers available in the late 1950s; unfortunately almost no-one has moved on from the basic structure for a CPM model that were fully defined by the early 1960s despite the massive advances in computer power. Re-introducing resource optimisation would result in:
This is a longer term option that could be as radical as the shift from barcharts to CPM. Developing this paradigm will require academic research, resulting in new approaches to software, contracts and the management of projects.

The presentations:

The ideas outlined in this abstract will be developed in two stages.  

Author:  Patrick Weaver

Sydney 22-24th November
Construction CPM Conference
   January 21-25, 2012
   Walt Disney World, Florida

PMOZ 2012
PMOZ 2012
15  to 16 August 
The Sebel and Citigate Albert Park, Melbourne

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Download preview presentations 
- View the ProjectChat 2011 presentation
- View the Construction CPM 2012 presentation
-  View the PMOz presentation
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