Acumen Fuse Project View – Enter the Command Center

Acumen Fuse Project tab: enter Command Central for CPM Analysis

Front-end and mid-range CPM construction scheduling programs don’t come loaded with forensics, analytic, or diagnostics tools. Their standard DCMA 14 modules spit out basic data, but barring that, any analysis must be done manually. In recent years, plug-in analyzing programs have begun to fill the niche where these programs don’t cut the mustard – upping the ante in schedule oversight and manipulation, and above all, minimizing risk exposure. This is where I find great use and see potential for the industry using Deltek’s Acumen Fuse Project tab.

Acumen has kept its developers and long-time sales and support team intact. This familiarity helps them work especially well together, as the product grows. Tech support is rock-solid – you might get an engineer who helped build the program. But you don’t need to be an engineer to get under the Fuse hood. It’s all user accessible and reconfigurable. It’s also important to know that Acumen has a proven track record. Indeed, Acumen is used by some 25 of the Top 100 ENR A/E/C firms, including Hill, Bombardier, owners NASA, DOD, GAO, FAA, and many other – what I like to call big-time schedulers.

Meet (just one view of) Acumen Fuse Project Dashboard

First impressions are everything. Those programs that are fully developed don’t need a lot of bling to get my attention. I like the familiar looking interface below, for its understated simplicity and intuitiveness: behind those big icons are powerful tools. The Acumen Fuse Project dashboard interface fits into the standard GUI that all Windows schedulers are used to: menu icons, drop-down commands, and GANTT, Activity View, and Sidebar.  However; one look at the Acumen Fuse Project view, the tab in which it opens, was a great inspiration and gave promise of good things to come.

Acumen Fuse Project

The base-camp page opens in the  tab S1//Acumen Fuse Project view. Tabs S2-S5 represent additional modules:

  • S2//Diagnostics
  • S2//Logic
  • S2//Benchmarking
  • S3//Risk*
  • S4//Acceleration*
  • S5// Dashboard
  • Forensics
  • Metrics
  • Fields

*Only with 360

The S//1-S5 framework represents what founder Dan Patterson says is a  “five-step maturity scale, with steps for taking a project from a non-validated schedule with questionable achievability to one that is sound, risk-adjusted, and has team buy-in.” Thus, there is logic to it. Read more about what Mr. Patterson has to say about Acumen.

Note, Acumen Fuse does not include the Risk and Acceleration modules. They are offered as bundled components.

Project Intake is Fluid, with Get External Data Import Function

Acumen Fuse Project

Get External Data From is the head-end for importing database or spreadsheet schedules from their respective programs. Fuse talks to several programs, including P6, Asta, Phoenix, MSP, MS Excel, et al. Fuse has the ability to field-filter these databases during the import and export processes. For a full list of Fuse-friendly platforms, and system requirements, see Fuse’s Technical Overview.

Fuse can also efficiently cleanse and convert all the file formats it works with. This is especially good news for MS Project users, who need their schedules exportable and convertible to a master Primavera schedule. Although these programs have native converters, and third-party apps are available, I have heard of no program that both import/exports and converts between so many different file types.

The import appears in the activity window to the left, and when checked, appears in the workspace, to the right. In this window you have all the operational capabilities to edit, add, delete, activities and relationships, as well as basic formatting and configuration of layout. Nice to have, in a pinch, but will depend on what is read in the imported file. Likely you will need to group and sort to get a familiar view of your schedule in Fuse’s Activity View.

Getting Organized with Activity View

This menu is where grouping, filtering, and bar and timeline formatting can be done. Although Fuse will import project codes, it cannot copy layouts, or import plfs from P6. Layout and grouping, if you want it it, can be done manually, or with the SmartGantt tool, which offers reconfigured or modified GANNT visualizations; however, the layout is merely a matter of form, as it will not affect any analysis or reporting.

The premise is that a project is imported from an external resource, processed in Fuse, and exported back into its source, where layouts and formatting are already maintained. Needless to say, layout rearrangement is optional. I don’t look at the bars often, as there is simply too much other data detail that makes them feel superfluous.

Giving the Schedule a Scrubbing with Cleanse, and Schedule Generation

Scenario Generation menu includes tools to create theoretical models called ‘Scenarios’, that come from Cleanser’s scrubbing, or Accelerator and Risk (360 only),  and infinite modeling possibilities using the calibrator.

The Cleanse Schedule tool is a utility that automatically resolves issues detected in its Logic Analysis engine, which uses the configurable metrics library (industry standards), chiefly:

Redundant links

Constraints

Lags

Redundancies

A redundant link would be the A/C relationship, below

A → B ,   A → C,  B→ C   as opposed to simply:

A → B,    B + C

-in other words, lose ‘associative lags”

Fuse dislikes too much redundant logic, for reasons we will get into further along.

Constraints

I use constraints for intermediate and finish milestones that have separate paths. I use them as sparingly as possible, as they tend to gum up float-modeling, and generate out-of-sequence messages. Constraints should be noted in the activity description, or a column cell, so it is clear to the end-user.

The abuse of hard-date or constrained scheduling is generally considered tail-wagging-the-dog, non-CPM methodology, which is why Fuse will wipe all constraints by default. Suffice it to say, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. And you don’t have to, because you can toggle on/off any of the three cleansing components.

Lag

Last, but not least, Cleanse converts lags into distinct activities in the schedule. It turns out this addition gives a vision to the end-user that is very useful to in analyzing complicated projects with lots of start-to-start + lag relationships – which includes most of mine. I would ask you how many of your aggressive timelines can afford the luxury of 100% finish-to-start relationships?

If I go for the preset, I can wipe all constraints, redundant links (A-C from above), and convert lag to activities in one keystroke. When I’m done, I export the “snapshot” back into my database, and see and appreciate the fruits of my efforts, which were minimal.

Alternatively, to have done for a 2,000 activity program what I did in one Fuse keystroke manually, might take days, and a lower and more inconsistent degree of exactitude. With this incentive, I am more mindful than ever of minimizing redundancies, constraints, and lags, in my development phase. As my timelines improve, I hope to require a minimum of tweaks using Cleanse.

Schedule Realism Advisor uses Fuse criteria, including total-float and free-float, to generate an index on a red-yellow-green heat Calibration Index, of each activity. For example, if an activity is red, the hover-over cell says “schedule quality 0%; requires much more time.” Knock the bar a few clicks to the right, and watch as Fuse optimizes not only that activity, but also driving activities, to recover more float, and improve schedule quality, or lock any one or group of bars from moving.

Now the call-out is “schedule quality 100%; requires less time.” Of course, those call-outs are a tad reductive, as there’s more to it than just less, and more time. Accordingly, every activity in a database can be drilled down to the most finite detail. Simply click the activity, and a whole slew of details and stats pops out.

Acumen Fuse Project View Detail: Float Master Sliders

Acumen Fuse Project

Advisor’s scenarios are generated based on a default template set criteria. Templates may be added and set to any level criteria in Scenario Calibration. Once a Scenario is created, it can be Published back into its native database environment.

Cleanser uses data that can be generated from the S//1 and 2 modules: Diagnostic, and Logic, which is where the real fun starts, next week.

If that doesn’t whet a scheduler’s interest, this might: you may download a nearly full-function trial version from Acumen’s download page here. This optional convenience is offered as a special arrangement  with Acumen, for this series.

 

Series NavigationAcumen Fuse, Diagnostics – Tune-up for your CPM Schedule >>

Written by

Derek Graham is a Primavera 6 scheduler and schedule oversight consultant for public and private sector projects with four decades of construction industry experience. He has been an active construction expert witness in over 30 cases - both nationwide, and Federally, since 2006, when his book Managing Residential Construction Projects, was published by McGraw Hill