3 Ways to Improve Schedule and Cost Data Integration

Ensure Your Schedule and Cost Data Tell The Same Story

One of the challenges we often help our clients with is improving their schedule and cost data integration.  Why is this data integration so important?  The schedule system and cost system have different, specific roles they play in planning and managing a project.  You need both to do this effectively. 

When the two systems are integrated, the data are consistent whether you are looking at the detail schedule activities or time phased cost values.  And, you can easily do a data trace between the two systems to verify this is the case.  For example, the time phased budget for the scheduled activities reflects the activity start and finish dates and resource requirements to do the work.  This helps the project team to verify the baseline schedule and budget plan are achievable and align with the contract’s period of performance and target cost.  It is also essential for measuring performance and determining the estimate to complete the remaining work. 

Integrating the schedule and cost data begins during the proposal phase as the proposal team is developing their proposal schedule, basis of estimate, and cost estimate.  Ideally, the project team leverages the proposal’s integrated schedule and cost data after contract award to establish the schedule and budget baseline.  And, throughout the execution phase, they need to:

  • Track their changes to the schedule and budget baseline; 
  • Use the current schedule activity status as the basis for claiming work package earned value; and
  • Maintain activity forecast completion dates and estimate to complete.

Here is a short list of common situations we encounter when working with our clients.


Forcing the Schedule Tool to be a Cost Tool

While some scheduling tools can support some cost functions such as time phasing the resource assignment data and applying composite rates, detailed cost estimating is not the purpose of a scheduling tool.  We have seen some proposal teams go to great lengths to do their cost estimating in the scheduling tool.  The result?  It over complicates entering and maintaining activity resource requirements.  For example, entering resource assignments to replicate indirect costs when it is better to use a rate structure in a cost tool designed for that purpose.  It also introduces schedule data quality issues when resource requirements are entered for milestones or summary level activities.  This approach may be okay for the proposal phase.  It doesn’t work for the planning and execution phases where you need a quality schedule to plan and manage the work.

Substituting an Excel Spreadsheet to Manage Tasks

Substituting an Excel spreadsheet to manage tasks. On the flip side, some project teams begin the planning process developing time phased cost details for a list of tasks in Excel.  The problem here?  The schedule logic is missing.  What’s the sequence of work and dependencies between tasks?  Are resources over-allocated?  How do you know?  What about risk handling and opportunity capture?  Was that incorporated?  This approach may be okay for the proposal phase.  After contract award, the task list will need to transition to networked activities in a scheduling tool to manage the work effort.  Starting with the cost details is often more difficult because you have to back the data into a schedule tool and add the logic details to validate the cost plan.

Entering and Maintaining Activity Resource Requirements 

Poor schedule data quality or the data content isn’t set up properly in the schedule tool to generate the data necessary for the cost tool. This is the root cause for the majority of data integration issues.  If the schedule is incomplete or lacking the necessary coding details, it can be difficult or impossible to create useful time phased budget or estimate to complete data.  This often occurs when the process to establish quality schedule data is lacking.  Project personnel simply don’t know what they need to do to create the necessary schedule data.


So, what do you do if you find yourself in one of these situations?  Below are three things to consider when looking to improve schedule and cost data integration.


1. Use Schedule and Cost Tools as they were Intended

Don’t try to make a schedule tool function like a cost tool.  Don’t try to make a cost tool substitute for a scheduling tool.  That’s why we created BOEMax for cost estimating and EVMax for earned value management.  They are designed to complement the scheduling tools and integrate bi-directionally with MS Project and Oracle Primavera P6.  With the right tools in place, you can simplify how you create the network schedule data.  At the same time, you can improve the quality and usefulness of your basis of estimate (BOE) and time phased cost data for life of a project. 


2. Network Schedule Activities are Always the Basis for Cost Data

This starts in the proposal phase.  A vertically and horizontally integrated master schedule establishes and maintains the relationship between technical achievement and determining progress status for the duration of the project.  An industry best practice is to resource load the schedule activities so you can verify the work can be completed as planned taking into account resource availability and required skill sets.  Incorporating risk and opportunity assessments helps to identify high risk areas so you can make adjustments to the sequence of work, duration, or resources to create a more realistic schedule.  Time phase the resources to reflect how the work will be performed so claiming earned value is more accurate. 


3. Provide Guidance to Project Personnel

They need to know what is required to create a quality schedule that can be the basis for the time phased cost data and measuring progress.  Provide this guidance before they start developing the schedule so they include the necessary coding at the activity or resource level.  This typically includes the WBS, responsible organization, control account, work package or planning package coding.  It may include other coding such as a statement of work (SOW) reference, an earned value technique assignment, or charge number. 

The result?  You only need to enter the data once in the schedule tool.  Using BOEMax and EVMax, you can easily pull the schedule data to create the time phased cost data that matches the activity resource assignment time phasing whether for a proposal or establishing the performance measurement baseline (PMB).  For each status and analysis cycle, the schedule status is the basis for claiming earned value in EVMax and producing the time phased estimate to complete.  You can easily demonstrate the schedule and cost data are consistent and traceable. 


Call us today to schedule a demo of BOEMax or EVMax today to see how you can simplify and improve your schedule and cost integration. 

Topics: data integration, schedule integration, project control process

Author: Jeff Lutton