On 22nd December, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued the final version of its Schedule Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Project Schedules (GAO-16-89G), this guide is a companion the GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide published in 2009. The Government Accountability Office is an independent, nonpartisan, agency that exists to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities, and works to improve the performance of federal government programs.
The Schedule Assessment Guide applies to civilian and defence projects managed by either government entities or private contractors in the USA; it is also an extremely valuable reference for all projects world-wide. On its release, Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO said “A well-planned schedule is an essential tool for program management. The best practices described in the guide are intended to help agencies create and maintain schedules that are comprehensive, well-constructed, credible, and controlled.”
Over the last 5 years, the GAO has worked with experts in cost estimating, scheduling, and earned value management from government agencies, private industry, and academia to develop and formalise scheduling the best practices outlined in the Schedule Assessment Guide. The ten best practices associated with a high-quality and reliable schedule defined in the Schedule Assessment Guide are:
- Capturing all activities. The schedule should reflect all activities necessary to accomplish a project’s objectives, including activities both the owner and the contractors are to perform.
- Sequencing all activities. All activities must be logically sequenced and linked. Date constraints and lags should be minimised and justified.
- Assigning resources to all activities. The schedule should reflect the resources (labour, materials, travel, facilities, equipment, and the like) needed to do the work.
- Establishing the duration of all activities. The schedule should realistically reflect how long each activity will take. Schedules that contain planning and summary planning packages as activities will normally reflect longer durations until broken into work packages or specific activities.
- Verifying that the schedule can be traced horizontally and vertically. The schedule should be horizontally traceable with “hand-offs” defined. And vertically traceable; lower-level schedules are clearly consistent with upper-level schedule milestones.
- Confirming that the critical path is valid. The schedule should identify the program’s critical path.
- Ensuring reasonable total float. The schedule should identify reasonable total float on activities.
- Conducting a schedule risk analysis. Using a statistical simulation to predict the level of confidence in meeting a program’s completion date. Programs should include the results of the schedule risk analysis in constructing an executable baseline schedule.
- Updating the schedule using actual progress and logic. Progress updates and logic provide a realistic forecast of start and completion dates for program activities. Maintaining the integrity of the schedule logic is necessary to reflect the true status of the program.
- Maintaining a baseline schedule. A baseline schedule is the basis for managing the program scope, the time period for accomplishing it, and the required resources. Program performance is measured, monitored, and reported against the baseline schedule.
In its 224 pages the Schedule Assessment Guide provides detailed explanations of each of the best practices, supported by case studies and includes ‘key questions’ and the ‘key documentation’ to be used by auditors in assessing schedule compliance.
The development of the Schedule Assessment Guide has been lead by 2014 PGCS keynote presenter Karen Richey, her presentation to the symposium outlining the challenges faced by the USA government auditors can be downloaded from: http://www.pgcs.org.au/index.php/download_file/view/116/
(see more on the Project Governance and Controls Symposium).
The Schedule Assessment Guide validates many of the concepts defined in our scheduling papers and the CIOB Guide to Good Practice in the Management of Time in Complex Projects , see: http://www.mosaicprojects.com.au/Planning.html
To download your copy of the Schedule Assessment Guide go to: http://www.gao.gov/products/gao-16-89g