Using Primavera P6, the schedule update process lessons learned are organized into four main steps: PLAN, UPDATE, REVIEW / ANALYZE and COMMUNICATE. In this installment we are going to focus on the first step, “Plan.”
If you missed the first part of this series, begin here.
Understand Contract and Specification Requirements
It is important for the Planner / Scheduler to understand the contract and specification requirements for schedule updates. These documents should outline frequency of updates, procedures for updates versus revisions, earned value requirements, cost and/or resource status requirements, and change management procedures. These documents may also require specific software to be used.
Determine Update Frequency
In order to effectively record and measure project progress consideration should be taken as to regularity of updates. Internal company policy, project budgeting constraints, and application usage are factors in establishing schedule update occurrence.
Maintaining more frequent records (i.e. weekly) of previous as-built data (based on the required periodic performance updates) establishes greater accuracy of as-built documentation, promotes timely issues resolution/mitigation, enhances the user’s skills in both application and management of the project schedule, and provides a starting point to which the user can return should errors be made in the update process.
Regardless of update frequency, an established time of week/month enhances the use of P6™ functionality using Layouts and Reporting tools as well as predefined filters based on standard rolling dates and the schedule’s Data Date.
Establish Baseline / Contract Schedule
Prior to starting the update process a Baseline or Contract Schedule must be developed and established. “The primary outcome of the schedule development process is an as-planned schedule model that becomes the schedule control baseline for project control plan implementation.” 
The term, ‘Baseline’ typically refers to the accepted as-planned schedule submitted at project inception. Primavera defines a baseline as a “snapshot” of the project plan against which the project’s cost, schedule, and performance can be measured. A baseline can be the project’s as-planned schedule, a statused or periodic as-built schedule, a ‘what-if’ scenario, a time impact analysis, etc. (For users familiar with Primavera P3, ‘targets’ are synonymous with ‘baselines’ in Primavera P6™.)
Primavera P6™ allows for the creation of ‘infinite’ baselines for comparison to the current schedule and gives each user the ability to assign up to three baselines to the current schedule for data comparisons. The maximum number of baselines per project is established by the Administrator (Admin, Preferences, Data Limits); this setting is Global and applies to all projects in the database. The Administrator can also provide users the right to copy a specified number of baselines when copying the project.
Assign Responsibility to each activity
“One aspect of planning includes assigning specific roles and responsibilities for measuring the progress and performance of each work package” . During the schedule development process, the Planner / Scheduler should assign responsibility to each activity in the schedule. In Primavera P6™, this is easily accomplished through the use of an Activity Code (i.e. Responsibility). Using a responsibility Activity Code allows the scheduler to breakdown activity progress by the trade or crew or individual performing or responsible for the work. Each responsible party can (through the use of filters and layouts) review a report of work progress and effectively plan for near term activities. The scheduler can also more easily identify potential issues and mitigate risks based on performance factors.
Activity Codes may be Global (across the Enterprise) or Project (Specific to the individual project). It is recommended to use project specific activity codes to avoid corruption of any other Projects in the Enterprise database. Only one Activity Code value can be assigned to an activity (i.e. one responsibility per activity).
Another option of tracking responsibility is to assign a Resource to each activity based on trade or crew or individual (as shown in Figure 1); however it must be noted that Resources are always Global. Unlike Activity Code values, multiple resources can be assigned to an activity.
It should be noted that an activity listing grouped by Activity Code (View menu, Group and Sort by) is an option in the Activity window. However, grouping by Resources is not as functional in the Activity window but available in the Assignments window.
The Planner / Scheduler should provide training to each responsible party to ensure all parties understand their role in the update process. Training should include details on how to update the schedule, how to review the schedule, and how to add fragnets for change management. “The schedule basis should also include a description of how project control performance will be measured and assessed in respect to the schedule including rules for earning progress and the procedures for evaluating progress and forecasting remaining durations”. 
Training should provide an understanding of the update reports (i.e. short interval schedules based on previous update) and what information is required of each individual to complete these reports (i.e. activity remaining duration/percent complete and impacts and mitigation).
The first step in the update process, prior to any data input, is to gather the data. The Planner / Scheduler should provide the update report or layout to the team and responsible parties at regularly scheduled intervals based on the frequency of the update process. Suggested information to provide in the update report or layout is: Activity ID, Activity Name, Original Duration, Remaining Duration, Total Float, Start, Finish, Actual Start, Actual Finish, Blank column for remarks. It is also helpful to include columns for Predecessor and Successors.
A useful feature in Primavera P6™ is the Progress Spotlight Option in the Activities window. By selecting Progress Spotlight, the schedule layout is highlighted to a specific time period (based on the Timescale minimum time increment. For monthly updates, it is useful to highlight two months; for weekly updates, it is useful to highlight two weeks (as shown in Figure 2). This will provide the Planner / Scheduler with data for one time-period of actual dates plus one time-period of forecasted dates / logic.
Each of the responsible parties should fill out their respective scope of work on the update sheet. In the Activities window, the layout can be sorted by responsible party using Group, Sort options (located under the View menu) and selecting the appropriate Responsibility activity code. In the Activity Assignments view, the layout can be sorted by resource using Group, Sort options.
Hold a Job site visit / update meeting and validate data
It is extremely important to hold an update meeting, preferably at the jobsite to review and validate the dates and documentation given. This ‘walk through’ should be conducted prior to or during the update process to validate information provided by the responsible parties. “…those with project control responsibility should spot check the work progress and performance measurements to some extent (i.e., informal work sampling, questioning responsible leaders, etc.) to ensure that the data being received and reviewed are reliable, appropriate, and understood.”  The Planner / Scheduler should walk the project site to ensure the dates provided match progress in the field and clarify any questions they may have with the responsible team member(s).
“A risk to be aware of with progress measurements and schedules for payment based on progress is that contractors responsible for work packages can benefit financially by over-reporting progress and/or assigning too much money for payment for work that is performed early in the project.” 
Any critical slippage should be noted and plans (if applicable) of mitigation should be documented.
Understand Primavera P6™ settings that affect updates
With the data in hand and validated, the Planner / Scheduler is now ready to update the schedule in P6™. At this point it is important to have an understanding of the various software settings. These settings include security access settings, percent complete types, duration types, calculation settings, resource settings, multiple projects, layouts (reports), and filters.
Security access settings
“At implementation, information security mechanisms must be established to control who may enter, change, delete, view, or otherwise use data and information in and from the database. In addition, the interaction/interface of owner, supplier, and contractor systems must be considered and resolved.” 
Based on the Organizational Breakdown Structure (the hierarchical structure used to establish project responsibility/security) read/write access can be defined down to the WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) level. Security settings are established by the Administrator (Admin, Security Profiles).
Percent complete types
Activity progress is measured based on an activity’s remaining duration and/or its percent complete. By default P6™ calculates one from the other using the Duration percent option or (Original Duration – Remaining Duration)/Original Duration. However based on project type and/or contract restrictions an activity’s duration may not be allowed to calculate the activity’s percent complete. In these cases, P6™ provides the option of Physical percent or manually entered percentage of work complete. These settings should be defined as default to all activities at the project level (Project Details, Defaults tab).
Defining the activity percent complete type determines the role of percent complete at the activity level.
- Duration percent complete – direct correlation/calculation with Original and Remaining Durations.
- Units percent complete – direct correlation/calculation with Budgeted and Actual Units.
- Physical percent complete – no correlation with either Original and Remaining Durations nor Budgeted and Actual Units.
Regardless of the percent complete type, P6™ assigns 100% complete when an activity has an assigned Actual Finish date.
Typically, a project can be subdivided into four phases: Initial Phase, Planning Phase, Execution Phase, and Closeout Phase. The level of incorporating estimated work durations based on production factors may change dependent on the phase of the project. As scope of work is being defined, production rates and durations are estimated. Duration can then be based on these estimates. However, once the scope has been clearly defined and the project duration established, production rates are typically monitored in order to maintain successful project completion.
Defining the activity Duration type determines the use of production rates and how they affect progressed durations. There are three Duration Types to consider:
- Fixed Units and Duration – established Budgeted Units and Duration calculate the Units/Time production rate. Typically used after contract award and during execution phases.
- Fixed Units/Time and Duration – established Units/Time production rates and Duration calculate the projected Budgeted Units. This Duration Type is used when established Budgeted Quantities are not assigned but are secondary to the Duration and the Production Rate (i.e. Time and Material Schedule).
The last two Duration Types are typically used during the Initial Phase or constructability phase to calculate durations based on either Budgeted Units or Units per Time.
- Fixed Units – established Budgeted Units calculate the Duration based on defined Units/Time production rates.
- Fixed Units/Time – established Units/Time production rates calculate Duration based on desired Budgeted Units.
These settings are based on resource definition and settings both at the resource and project levels. The last two options, Fixed Units and Fixed Units/Time (typically used to prepare a ‘constructability’ schedule) calculate Duration based on the settings within the Project Details.
Activity types within P6™
There are six activity types within P6™ that define the role of the activity:
- Task Dependent – the activity’s duration over time is calculated using the activity’s base calendar. Most activities in the typical construction schedule are task dependent.
- Resource Dependent – the activity’s duration over time is calculated using the resources’ calendars.
- Start Milestone – a starting event with no duration and no finish date.
- Finish Milestone – a finishing event with no duration and no start date.
Most contracts will define a Start Milestone (example: Notice to Proceed) and a Finish Milestone (example: Substantial Completion).
- Level of Effort – the activity’s duration is calculated based on the relationship with its predecessor and successor activities. Typical usage of a Level of Effort type of activity is similar to that of what was a ‘Hammock’ in P3™ and SureTrak™.
- WBS Summary – the activity’s duration is calculated based on the level of WBS within which the activity is located.
When calculating actual dates and project progress, P6™ applies certain rules which affect the process outcome (Tools menu, Schedule, Options). When external relationships exist to and from other projects, the option to ignore these ‘external’ relationships will determine whether those relationships affect the currently opened schedule. (Note: If this option is not selected when importing/exporting files from other databases, P6™ preserves External dates based on the external relationships.)
P6™ has an option to apply Expected Finish dates to activities to calculate activity completions. This can be used for long lead procurement items or when a completion date determines the activity’s duration.
In P6™ there are three options available when scheduling progressed activities: retained logic, progress override, and actual dates. Each of these settings affects the way the scheduled dates are calculated in an update and are important for the Scheduler to understand. The Retained Logic setting maintains the as-built sequence of activities regardless of actual work. With the Progress Override setting the activity logic sequence can be overridden based on actual work. The direct predecessor activity’s dates (Remaining Early) drive those successor activities which have not started. When the predecessor is assigned an Actual Finish, the activity’s dates (Remaining Early) are driven by the Data Date. When the activity has an Actual Start, its Remaining Duration drives the Remaining Early Finish. The Actual Dates setting allows for future actualized activity dates to calculate sequence.
P6™ calculates resource actuals (units/cost) based on the settings defined at the Resource level (Resource Details) and Project level (Project Details).
That is the first step of the schedule update process. Keep an eye out for the next step which is “Review/Analyze”. Should you have questions about this article, please feel free to leave an email or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No. 1 , AACE International 2006
Chapter 7.2 Schedule Planning and Development
Chapter 8.1 Project Control Plan Implementation
Chapter 9.2 Progress and Performance Management
Chapter 10.1 Project Performance Assessment
Chapter 10.2 Forecasting
Chapter 10.3 Change Management