Seven years ago, as part of the AECOM acquisition of Davis Langdon, we developed a rapid way for projects to get an estimate at completion. This was our first cut at resource planning from within UniPhi. Six years prior to this, we had completed an epic fail of a resource planning project with BlueScope steel that led to the development of UniPhi's timesheet module. In this project, we had set up a central resource pool of 125 researches in MS Project and linked this pool to numerous task-based MS Project plans. We then used the in-built thick client timesheet tool that was a secret add-on to MS Project 2000 and beyond. It was a horrible widget but I loved the idea of getting actual data against a baselined project plan. I was enamoured with theory of constraints, loved the idea of managing project float and had been commissioned by BlueScope Steel to come up with a way of managing the research load. Unfortunately, the end result meant researches spent more time updating Gantt charts than they did researching ways to improve the performance of the business.
Fast forward six years and we were determined to find a way that met the need for strategic resource planning as well as not consume the subject matter experts who were required to update it. This first cut, unbeknownst to us at the time, was actually loved by the cost managers at Davis Langdon. In this version, we went for a lifecycle phasing method where a user could:
- Schedule lifecycle start and end dates (e.g. Masterplanning, concept design, detailed design, tender docs, implementation, close out)
- Enter a budget total resource effort (or hours per week) against each person allocated to a lifecycle phase
- Linear phase the total hours out over the dates of the phase
- Track progress via the timesheets module into this data set
- Forecast remaining to get an updated total effort
- Apply standard cost rates to this to get an estimate at completion cost
- Apply standard charge rates to get a high-level estimate for the project
By accident, this method mirrored the method our end users were using. However, as we expanded our user base, a more nuanced version was requested where you could "S" curve the effort and have people working at different capacities at different stages of the project. As we did not know how much the current version aligned to cost consultants estimating methods, we threw away our first effort and came up with the "enhanced" resource planning that can be seen in UniPhi 13 (lesson: always survey your end users). This has been mildly successful supporting some large infrastructure projects, however, it has proven too manual again.
A virtuous circle
UniPhi 14 brings in several elements that hopefully will finally crack the resource planning nut. The first and probably key part is that the resource planning effort can be leveraged into:
- The contract deliverables of your proposal
- Phased cash flow
- Timesheet allocation
- Actual updates back against the baseline
- Updated estimate at completion
- Earned value
An old friend
Not only this, but the resource plan can be shifted easily by linking the effort to the lifecycle dates as per our 2012 version (our old friend has returned). This means that when things change, all that needs to be updated is the lifecycle dates of the project. The shape of the phasing moves in unison with the shifting dates. This flows through the virtuous circle of contract dates, phased cash flow and timesheet allocation.
An early prototype of this virtuous circle was demonstrated in our monthly webinar two months ago and can be seen here:
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