NASHVILLE, MUSIC CITY, TN, October 23 – 26, 2017
If anyone knows how to throw an epic conference and celebration for cast of a few thousand constituents and client-base, it’s Deltek. So it’s no wonder they chose Nashville’s sprawling Grand Old Opry and Gaylord Hotel campus, to host the Deltek Insight 2017 Annual Conference, this past week, where I was invited to present my PPM- 25 Creating Executive Awareness with Acumen Fuse, to some of their members.
The Gaylord Hotel – with its cavernous atria, ballrooms, and exhibition halls, was where constituents across multiple industries converged for four days of Exposition, break-out sessions, and (surprisingly really good) food and entertainment. On the final evening, all were treated to a massive BBQ and country rock concert, featuring a Lo Cash show, at the truly world class Opry Theatre: they even had freaking laser cut country star pumpkins in the lobby!
A hangar sized mega-hall housed some 75 kiosks, where attendees could chat with Deltek Insight reps, and look over the latest developments in their myriad software packages. My head is still swirling with the plethora of new Data-Driven and Best Practice approaches to Enterprise Project Control Solutions, advanced risk managed project delivery, and PPM, or Project Portfolio Management.
Of course we are talking about the Acumen Suite – Fuse, 360, and Risk, Deltek’s PPM triumvirate of relational applications that should be de rigeur for any large scale general contractor or construction manager’s arsenal of project control/delivery tools. Acumen integrates with most, if not all, the massive Deltek family of products, some of which I will touch on, below. I have published an in depth review of Acumen Fuse 6.0, in a previous series.
I saw some familiar faces – Acumen gurus Dave Barnhart, Rob Edwards, Jarod Maloney, Tom Pollen, and several other leading Acumen spokespeople Deltek has cultivated over the years, to discuss current platforms, and ‘exciting’ (for a scheduler) plans for 2018 launches. All of Acumen’s current platforms were discussed in lively breakout sessions, with separate sessions for forthcoming launches.
Others, like me, were invited as Guest Speakers by Deltek Insight beforehand to present sessions of our own, as well. Indeed, Deltek is plugged-in 24/7 with its community – big and small, to the extent that they routinely work together to develop or optimize specific features in their releases and updates.
Deltek licenses some hundred applications in addition to Acumen, that serve large HR, accounting, portfolio management, and AE concerns, including such big hitters as DOD, GAO, Boeing, McDonnell, Fluor, and Bechtel. It would take far longer than a three day conference to sample the cornucopia of a few hundred breakout sessions, in fact, three days was barely sufficient to kick the tires on the Acumen Suite, and its interfaces with other platforms – such as Cost Point, Vision, and WinSight Analytics, which I will elucidate further along.
Unexamined Project Control? Not with Acumen
As I suspected representation from the building and construction industry was less than robust. In fact, I was hard pressed to find contractors. This showing reinforced my suspicion that most of the remainder of the industry is over-reliant on their Oracle or MSP scheduling platforms, i.e., as their sole means of project control.
Oracle Primavera is a relatively stable, albeit one dimensional limited platform (resource loading, risk) in terms of operability and stagnant in terms of investment in development. That is, not really Deltek’s competitor, and works well with Fuse, all the same.
Better Project Delivery Success, One Module at a Time, with the Acumen Suite
Deltek Insight featured scheduling platform, Open-Plan, which is fully integrated into the Acumen Suite, and its related APIs. Open Plan is a far more robust and evolved platform than any of its GUI competitors. The remainder of the construction CPM scheduling industry will use Oracle Primavera, which Acumen Fuse readily imports and exports to great purpose; however, all non-native formats may require more field mapping than one is prepared to do. That said, there is no cross-platform field mapping required with Open Plan.
In addition, traditionally feeble resource and cost loading from third-party platforms would serve little purpose in the Open Plan environment ultimately mucking things up. Better off with Cobra, Deltek’s comprehensive EVM and cost control platform.
A theoretical Open Plan schedule lacks a proper model in the building industry, thus several apt examples were put to me over the past few days, such as vigorous turnaround of aircraft maintenance, or rapid deployment of power transmission in the power grid. For example, consider a given schedule with 30,000 activities. No big deal, in of itself, however, one scenario represented that these 30K activities were slated to occur in 4 or five days. In this case, activities were resource-loaded with durations in minutes, where late turnaround affected revenue that was also measured in minutes.
Holistic Planning and the Deltek Cycle: All in the Family
- I begin with a CPM timeline created in Open Plan because I don’t have a lot of time to waste field mapping and error correction with a third-party SQL database. Open Plan supports basic resource and cost loading that will later be refined with Deltek Cobra schedule and cost reporting, and risk adjusted scopes of work.
- At this juncture, I run the schedule timeline through a gauntlet of Acumen Fuse tools, to see if the logic is coherent enough to proceed with introducing full resource and cost loading, and assigning them to activities
With my resources and costs, taken from Deltek’s estimating platform – Costpoint, I will follow with Cobra to establish legitimate durations for my activities that will yield effort, or resource-driven durations, as opposed to calendar day duration-driven.
Once this workshop concludes, I can reload my schedule into Open Plan, or straight to Fuse, with these criteria in place, for a final review, with the refined durations and sequences.
- No complex or risk-averse schedule would be complete without a proper risk assessment. And this is the juncture where one should be submitted no later than .. in schedule parlance.
Again, I can stay within the Deltek family and initiate risk workshops and risk registers in Acumen Risk – Deltek’s RA platform. Risk will generate a register that tells me where my potential liabilities are, and make recommendations for improvement that it can generally execute. That means seamless integration across platforms.
Acumen Risk (360, below)
I can now present a range of risk positions and aversion strategies. I can make educated, proactive, mitigation choices, not random, unqualified, impulsive ones. Based on the register, I am able to optimally tweak durations and sequence of operations.
- If my timeline isn’t hitting pay-dirt (not to be confused with the time tracking app) I will invoke 360, Acumen’s acceleration module. 360 is a robust acceleration module, or schedule mitigation or recovery tool, that allows for multiple scenarios, based on standard metrics, filters, or your customized set of assets.
In 360, I may learn from a linked risk assessment that certain design activities may be foreshortened, and others not: if I want, I can choose to not include design activities in 360’s mitigation scenarios, in favor of select groups of field labor activities. 360 scenarios are deep dives that consider resources, risk, EVA and cost, generating several forecasts, for select activities. Once I am satisfied with my acceleration scenario I am now ready for a second pass with Fuse forensics and analytics. There may be a final pass with Fuse’s Cleanser, and a look at my benchmark scores to see how I like them: and I do.
Acumen Fuse Logic Index
- As a means of enterprise level data driven (as opposed to inference driven) project control and analytics budgeting, performance tracking, and forecasting., WinSight Analytics is a Big Data machine that takes advantage of Associative Data Models to give end-users vast alternative open-source (they can tweak the settings) high-level data perspectives, forecasts, and insights.
Deltek Winsight Analytics
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The Message from Deltek Insight 2017: Acumen = $priceless ROI. ROI is only limited by one’s aspiration to maximize it.
Global construction industry negative production rates are the problem. Moreover; the bigger the headache, the bigger the pill (think Big Dig, East Side Access, and Vogtle). Most every other global industry sees positive growth. That means something endemic to the building industry is the problem..
It is a relatively simple exercise to impart Acumen ROI to a client with a complex third-party schedule: Acumen literally pays for itself on the first day of installation. In fact, so simple, that I always tell people to feel free to send me their schedule backup file for a complementary Fuse Cleanser logic work over!
You’ll get to see the before and after in two industry benchmark indices: Fuse Schedule (% of or range of probabilistic deadlines/turnaround scenarios ), and Fuse Logic (schedule quality) Index histograms.