The UN/CEFACT format for project data is an XML schema that standardizes schedule, cost, and earned value data from organization to organization no matter the software used to input the information.
UN/CEFACT is a subcommittee of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). It is an official intergovernmental standards organisation connected to ISO. The goal of the UN/CEFACT is to improve worldwide cooperation by facilitating trade and electronic business by developing international EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) standards for electronic trade documents in XML format.
UN/CEFACT XML is the current data standard used for an Integrated Program Management Report (IPMR). The US Department of Defense implement this standard via Format 6 of DI-MGMT-81861. The IPMR’s primary value to the Government is its utility in reflecting current contract status and projecting future contract performance. It will be used by the DoD component staff, including program managers, engineers, cost estimators, and financial management personnel, as a basis for communicating performance status with the contractor.
The DoD IPMR contains data for measuring cost and schedule performance on acquisition contracts. It is structured around seven formats that contain the content and relationships required for the electronic submissions.
Format 1 defines cost and schedule performance data by product oriented Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).
Format 2 defines cost and schedule performance data by the contractor’s organizational structure (e.g., Functional or Integrated Product Team (IPT)).
Format 3 defines changes to the Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB).
Format 4 defines staffing forecasts.
Format 5 is a narrative report used to provide the required analysis of data contained in Formats 1 to 4 and 6.
Format 6 defines and contains the contractor’s Integrated Master Schedule (IMS).
Format 7 defines the time-phased historical & forecast cost submission.
With this weight of interest and support, the UN/CEFACT format for project data will become increasingly important and already a number of organizations, including Acumen are now offering a free, web-based file converter to translate proprietary schedule information into the XML format (see: http://www.projectacumen.com/news-item/acumen-launches-un-cefact-file-converter/).
At the moment the UN/CEFACT format seems to be used by clients to receive and compare project data from contractors or tenders. But I expect before long, the concept of data exchange will take hold and importing the XML file will become a standard feature on most main-line tools; however, a word of warning!
A consistent file format is not the same as a consistent analytical outcome. Different tools, different versions of the same tool and different switch settings within a singe tool can produce significant variations in the calculated results from identical data. To quote Fredric L. Plotnick, Ph.D., Esq., P.E. “Choose your Software – Choose your Options – Choose your Results”. Identical data formatting does not mean identical analysis results. We have a long way to go for standardized data analysis. For more on the analytical challenges see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/PDF/Schedule_Calculations.pdf