DCMA 14-point Schedule Assessment is a project management guideline established on 14 metrics that provide the possibility to make a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the schedule. It is a handbook developed by the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) for the purposes of the defense industry.
Making an assessment of the schedule is essential for the phases of planning, monitoring and controlling. Therefore, these points are crucial for the health of the project schedule as they allow identifying and analyzing areas that are critical and can potentially create issues and obstruct the schedule.
Which are the 14 metrics of the DCMA 14-Point Assessment?
DCMA 14-point Schedule Assessment set of criteria was formed in 2005 and firstly it was used by the US Department of Defense. Since then it had become a guideline for schedule review which has been implemented in many project management software widely used in the aerospace and defense industry.
The 14 metrics are not set as necessary rules or standards but more as measurable criteria that is advisable to be analyzed regularly during the planning, monitoring and controlling of the project schedule. Particularly, they are intended to indicate potential problems in the project schedule and, in the end, to ensure that the projects is managed towards success.
The metrics that need to be followed and examined are the following:
The metric ‘Logic’ provides the possibility for measurement of the ‘%’ of incomplete tasks with no predecessors and/or successors, also called ‘dangling’ activities. For this metric, it is preferable that the number of unfinished activities missing predecessors and/or successors doesn’t exceed 5%.
The best practice for avoiding incompleteness of tasks is ensuring that every task has at least one finish-to-start or start-to-start relation as its predecessor and at least one finish-to-start or finish-to-finish as its successor. This metric is important in investigating how project tasks are connected to each other and in assuring that no incomplete tasks affect the project schedule negatively.
‘Leads’ is the control criteria that helps measure the ‘%’ of tasks that have a negative lag between each other. In particular, the term designates the overlapping time between two activities in the project schedule. In other words, it indicates the exact time (days) that would be overlapped if a task starts a certain time before the finish date of its predecessor.
The leads in the schedule should equal to zero, therefore there shouldn’t be tasks with a negative lag between each other. If there is a part of the schedule, which could prove itself as a potential problem, the tasks in question should be decomposed into separate tasks. This metric can impede the critical path analysis, therefore it is preferable that is used within the limits.
The metric ‘Lags’ is the opposite of ‘Leads’. Specifically, it allows an evaluation of the ‘%’ of project activities that have a positive lag between each other. The metric actually indicates the time (hours/days) calculated when a certain activity starts after the finish date of its predecessor.
The DCMA threshold for this metric is more flexible than the one for the Leads and it advises that the lags in the project schedule shouldn’t be greater than 5%. However, the excessive use of lags as well can cause an obstruction to the critical path analysis, therefore it is recommended that they are avoided. A good practice for this metric is to present activities with specific names rather than with an ‘X-days lag’.
It is recommended that the 90% of the project schedule activities are of a finish-to-start type (FS). The finish-to-start type of relationship stands for ‘Activity A must be completed before activity B can begin’. This type of relationship between particular tasks is the foundation of the Waterfall method used in project management.
Finish-to-start relationship provides the most explicit presentation of the project schedule activities. The other types of relationships, which can be identified in a schedule, are finish-to-finish (FF), start-to-start (SS), and start-to-finish (SF). However, it is not recommendable for these to be used since they are harder to monitor and control.
Under ‘Constraints’ in a project schedule are identified Hard Constraints (Mandatory Start and Mandatory Finish) and Soft Constraints (As Late As Possible, Start On, Start On or Before, Start On or After, Finish On, Finish On or Before and Finish On or After).
DCMA recommends 5% of the constraints used to be Hard Constraints because they can provoke problems in the schedule. Hard Constraints can prevent the schedule to be logic-driven and create negative lags. In other words, Hard Constraints should be avoided since they can obstruct the logic of flowing naturally. Soft Constraints, on the other hand, allow the schedule to be logic-driven and they are not critical to the schedule.
This metric measures the ‘%’ of unfinished tasks with total float greater than 44 working days. DCMA requires that the High Float activity doesn’t exceed 44 working days, i.e. the percentage of total incomplete tasks doesn’t exceed 5%.
This metric represents the time (hours/days) that an activity can be delayed without affecting negatively the project milestones and/or the estimated time for project completion. A certain task with a total float that exceeds 44 working days could be a consequence of incomplete activities (predecessor/successor).
This metric is interconnected with Hard Constraints since it can indicate that Hard Constraints have been assigned to the schedule. When this happens, it is very much feasible that the project's or milestones' completion is delayed.
DCMA threshold for this metric is zero, therefore it is required that regular checks and reviews of the project schedule are executed. The Negative Float, or Slack, should be avoided, and, if tasks with a large amount of negative float are noticed, they should be mitigated or otherwise, the risk for a missing project or milestones deadlines could arise.
This metric provides the possibility to monitor and control the duration of tasks and it requires that no task should last longer than 44 working days. If it is detected that the percentage of incomplete tasks with duration beyond 44 days is above 5% it is preferable to examine if it is achievable to decompose them in distinct tasks.
Breaking down activities allows them to be measurable and controllable. Tasks with high duration can create obstacles in the project schedule and progress and can deform the critical path.
The metric for Invalid Dates analyses both forecast and actual dates of project activities. An activity is considered to have invalid dates if it has forecast start/finish dates in the past or actual start/finish dates in the future. More specifically, this metric refers to tasks with actual start/finish date after project status date and with start/finish date before project status date without an actual start/finish.
‘Invalid dates’ is a very critical metric, therefore the goal is not to surpass 0%, i.e. tasks with invalid dates shouldn’t be present in the schedule.
The metric for ‘Resources’ is the most open-ended on the list. DCMA recommends that all project schedules are resource-loaded, but additionally, it allows some schedules to not include resources at all.
However, for those who are using this metric DCMA asks to not exceed the limit of 0%, i.e. to assign at least one resource (labor, cost and/equipment) to all activities included in the schedule so that a misbalance is avoided.
The metric for ‘Missed Tasks’ can cause or prevent the project to fall far behind. It assists in measuring the schedule performance in parallel to the baseline plan. Particularly, the number of missing tasks can indicate how well or badly the project schedule meets the baseline schedule.
The bad performance, i.e. the large amount of missed tasks can be a result of inadequate resourcing, poor planning or else. Consequently, DCMA holds that the number in question shouldn’t exceed 5% and if it gets critical, proper plans for correction are needed.
Critical Path Test
This test focusses on assessing the integrity of the schedule’s network logic. Firstly it is identified as a critical activity and its remaining duration. The next step is intentionally extending the duration of this activity for 600 days. The last step is recalculating the schedule dates and identifying if the date for completion of the project is extended for the same number of days applied to the critical activity.
The Critical Path Test is performed in order to inspect if these two numbers are proportional. In other words, if the project completion date is not delayed for the same amount of days (600 days) it means that somewhere in the schedule exists broken logic which may be a result of missing predecessor and/or successor activities. If this happens it is imperative to execute in-depth analysis of the project schedule.
Critical Path Length Index (CPLI)
The Critical Path Length Index (CPLI) presents the measure of the efficiency necessary for completing a milestone on assigned time. CPLI evaluates the integrity of the overall network logic and measures the ‘realism’ of completing a project successfully.
It is preferable that the CPLI equals 1.00, which means that the project must be completed within the planned time. A CPLI that is below 1.00 indicates that the project is inefficient, while a CPLI that is above 1.00 shows that the there is a schedule margin which means that the project may be finished earlier than planned.
Baseline Execution Index (BEI)
The Baseline Execution Index (BEI) test is a metric for evaluating schedule performance in parallel with the baseline plan but it focuses on the project’s team productivity in the process of executing activities.
Similarly as for the Critical Path Length Index (CPLI), DCMA for the Baseline Execution Index (BEI) test, the acceptable limit is 1.00, which indicates that the project team is performing well and according to plan. When BEI surpasses 1.00 it suggests that the team is performing ahead of schedule, while when it falls behind 1.00 it means that it is behind schedule.
What are the benefits of DCMA 14-Point Assessment
Although it is not considered an industry standard, DCMA 14 is a comprehensive set of guidelines for planning, managing and controlling project plans.
DCMA 14 check-points guarantee many benefits for the project schedule. Some of those are the following:
- Provide the possibility for a constant in-depth analysis of the schedule;
- Help to identify weak points in the schedule;
- Assist in designating potential problems around the project activities and in creating appropriate corrective plans;
- Assure that the project is managed and executed with success and on time.
DCMA 14 Schedule Assessment in ScheduleReader PRO
DCMA 14 Schedule Assessment in ScheduleReader PRO is presented as a one-page dashboard.
This functionality is designed to help users (Project Controls, Planners, Schedulers, Managers, Team Leads, Team Members and Stakeholders who view the plans in PDF or XLS) to improve the process of scheduling exchanging information.
The DCMA feature allows measuring the project progress, communicating more effectively with the project team, and customizing the reports according to user’s preferences.
Moreover offers the three benefits that are crucial for achieving project success, which are:
- The scheduling information is presented in a clear and concise and it can be easily understood and absorbed by every project participant. In addition, PMOs can help making business decisions in a reasonable time.
- DCMA 14 Schedule Assessment graphical reports are created with just one click. Additionally, the user can print the report for management meeting or create more complicated reports and then export it and share with other project participants or team members;
- Report’s components are changed quickly by any project participant or team member and every report is customized with less effort.