Help Center – Analysis of HCP-Go: Report Results

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General

The report contains five parts:

A summary of data derived from the Integrity Analysis and HCP Critical Path Analysis and contains a graph for estimating project success expectation according to the schedule, work contents and budget.

Displays and details schedule errors and problems.

Details the critical and hidden critical paths, path mapping histogram and superseding path tasks.

For every item raised in the HCP report, you need to ask ‘why did this happen?’. The answer that you’ll get – whether independently or from someone else, would either satisfy you and you could explain that the finding is logical and based in reality, or it would give some insight into the schedule and the project, and especially into things that should be changed or handled.

The text complies with HCP version 4.6.0.0 .

Introduction

  • Your logo (when license purchased)
  • HCP iceberg image
  • Project manager name
  • Report generator name
  • Report generation date

A known iceberg fact is that only one-ninth of the iceberg is above sea level while the other eight-ninths are below. Ships navigating the waters can only see the tip of the iceberg and might collide with the part hidden below sea level. Such collision, as commonly known, can have destructive results.

A project schedule (Gantt) that has over 80 tasks is like an iceberg. Tons of tasks, durations, dates and links.

Only the one-ninth that is above water. What does it contain? It contains the CPM critical path and can also contain resource management if it’s detailed in the Gantt, and risk management. However, the full project is the iceberg as a whole and not just one-ninth of it, which is why as soon as we begin performing the project, the question is not whether or not we collide with the part of the iceberg that is under water level, but rather when will we collide with the iceberg below the water.

The idea of Hidden Critical Paths (HCP) is to shed light for the project manager on the dark areas of the iceberg. However, not on all of the eight-ninths that are below water level; just spotlights on the dark areas we are projected to collide with.

The introduction includes all the details starting from step 2 of the application.

Table of Contents

The report’s table of contents – includes chapter titles.

1.  Executive Summary

1.1 Key Schedule and Analysis Statistics

Key Schedule and Analysis Dates

  • Earliest start date in schedule
  • Scheduled project end date
  • Date range analyzed
  • Effective date of analysis

A table that contains the configured data.

You should examine the displayed dates and ensure that they ‘suit’ your knowledge about the project.

In any case of deviation – ask ‘what is the reason for this deviation?’ – the answer will contain important information about the project.

Task and Link Counts within Date Range

  • Number of tasks in schedule
  • Number of links in schedule
  • If the number of tasks = number of links, this would indicate that each task has only one link, i.e., a serial project.
  • If the number of tasks > number of links, this would indicate that there are tasks without links – an incorrect situation that should be repaired, unless there is an explanation to this phenomenon that satisfies the project managers.
  • If the number of tasks < number of links, this would indicate a good situation. The ratio between the number of links and the number of tasks would indicate network complexity. The larger the ratio, the more links there are per task. Examine extreme conditions (ratio > 2) and ensure that the links are correct and required.

1.2 Estimating Project Success

The following are mapping examples of the Project Success Expectation obtained in various projects:

 

 

Each project has different mapping that cannot be foreseen and changes in various points in time.

The path mapping leads to conclusions about a number of project fields through use of HCP score (see details) and other parameters. Logical conclusions can be derived about the various project fields – contents, schedule, budget – judging only by mapping results, without any cost or resource data! For instance, if a project is highly “crammed” with numerous adjacent critical and hidden critical paths – then to meet the contents – we would probably need to invest more money – on people, equipment and doubling shifts, resulting in a lower probability to meet the budget. 

The response of many project managers who have seen the mapping was: ‘it fits my intuition about the project, but I was not able to prove it!’.

Important Note: if there are errors in the project chain, the map can get very dissimilar values compared to its post-repair values.

You must first repair anything mentioned in the section 1.3 summary and in chapter 2 to get a credible overview of the probabilities of project success.

HCP Score was developed by Tal Levanon to answer the following question: what is the probability that a non-critical path would become critical (according to HCP)?

Note that the score is calculated according to the path mapping in the mapped DS range.

1.3 Schedule Integrity Analysis Highlights

A summary of all findings in the Schedule Integrity Analysis – The specification of each section can be found under ‘Schedule Integrity Analysis’. Each summary section includes reference to a section in the integrity analysis tab with all of the information.

1.4 HCP Critical Path Analysis Highlights

The summary of all test findings of the HCP critical path in the schedule – The details of each section can be found under ‘HCP Critical Path analysis’. Each summary section includes reference to a section in the HCP critical path analysis tab with all of the information.

2.  Schedule Integrity Analysis Report

2.1 Schedule Integrity Overview

HCP Application – finds all schedule errors.

 

Some errors can be found manually. For instance, whether or not there are tasks in the schedule that have no successor tasks.

 

But… Some can only be found when one searches for paths, e.g., a successor task that precedes its predecessor task!

 

The main advantage of the HCP application is not just finding ‘whether or not there are errors’, but also map them and obtain a list of tasks to repair. This allows you to improve the schedule and come up with a workplan that is based in reality!

  • Human errors – it is natural and obvious that these happen, particularly when it concerns schedules with hundreds of tasks. These are easy to repair.
  • Other errors happen for a reason. Each has its own reason – and each merits the questions: Why? Why did you write it like this? Why did you think that? The answers for these ‘why’ questions are fascinating and reveal numerous problems hidden in the Gantt or ignored in the project. Maybe they will disappear on their own? Spoiler warning – they never do…
  • Key Schedule and Analysis Dates
  • Task and Link Counts within Date Range

These details are identical to the details in section 1.1 – for reading comfort.

 

Summary Count of Schedule Integrity Issues

 

Sample graphic summary: 

The goal is:

2.2 Tasks Unlinked to Successors

When a task has no successor task, it can have several meanings – we’ll start with the easy ones:

If there is only one of these – excellent!
If there are several ending tasks, then either they are separate projects within the general project, and should each be analyzed in separate (the third step of the application allows selection of various tasks as ending tasks, resulting in different runs) or they can all be linked to the project completion milestone.

We need to add the link (reality will demand this link) and try to check how the schedule can be pushed forward.

We need to write the absent tasks and link them in the schedule.

Note: When tasks have no successor tasks, the HCP mapping sees them as path ends. If there are many like these – there would be a lot of short paths in the Gantt that distort the whole picture.

2.3 Start-to-Finish (SF) Links

These links signify that the successor task ends when the predecessor task starts. Generally, it is not recommended to use this link type as it might cause difficulties during project performance. It represents mindset flexibility – from the end to the beginning, which is excellent! However, reality only goes one way – from the past to the future – and we cannot move backwards in time (only in books and films).

 

The Gantt should describe reality – which is why this link should not be in the schedule.

 

There is another explanation why this link should not be used: after using a Start-to-Finish link in the schedule and updating schedule, suddenly the predecessor tasks of this link can be pushed forward – it can certainly be that this task, which has a SF link, will suddenly have past dates – we should have already done it in the past… We would then have a serious error! The method for solving this error is simple: Do not use a Start-to-Finish link.

Then why do schedule software give the option of a Start-to-Finish link? There are many apparent reasons that are not related to schedules.

Analysis caution: we recommend replacing all Start-to-Finish with Finish-to-Start, Finish-to-Finish or Start-to-Start links, unless the entire schedule logic is based on starting at the end of the project and finishing at its beginning.

2.4 Tasks with Predated Successors

Successor task – meaning the task that comes later.

However, there are situations in the schedule where successor tasks precede their predecessors.

The successor is ealier than the predecessor

In the example, the preceding task is later than the task that should follow it – the successor task.

Sounds complicated, right? Can it happen in real life? No!

 

For instance, when using negative delays (lags) to push the schedule forward.

Note that it is not recommended to use negative delays because they describe (similar to Start-to-Finish links) a work order that starts in the future and ends in the past – which is not based on reality.

Either change the link or change the delay to a positive one.

In schedule Gannt charts, we can encounter an interesting situation (some might even say peculiar). Consider an activity (let’s call it Task/Activity I) followed by a milestone with an SS (‘Start to Start’) link. This scenario looks like this:

The situation raises an intriguing question: What’s the story behind defining a milestone that doesn’t trigger any activity but merely created from the start of one?

In other words, it doesn’t signify the end of an activity, nor does it cause the beginning of one.

To correct this link, we need to disconnect Task/Activity I from the milestone. The predecessor of Task/Activity I should also be the predecessor of the milestone.

A detailed explanation, along with examples, can be found here.

In schedule Gannt charts, we encounter another scenario: Task/Activity II, whose completion depends on a milestone.

In this case, we want Task/Activity II to finish by the milestone’s end date.

Logical, right? 🤔 Not at all.

When do we encounter this situation? It happens when we think about the project from the end to the beginning and construct links accordingly. When we say, “I need to complete this activity by the milestone,” we link the milestone as a predecessor to the task in an FF ‘finish to finish’ link.

However, a word of caution: While mental flexibility is excellent, in reality, we can only execute the project from today onward.

Therefore, the activity must occur before the milestone, and thus, the activity needs to precede the milestone.

The fix: Change the relationship. The activity should precede the milestone in an FS “Finish to Start” link.

A detailed explanation, along with examples, can be found here.

2.5 Tasks with Calendar Inconsistencies

A certain duration is configured for a task in the schedule.

A calendar is also configured in the schedule, along other basic configurations: day start time, day end time, work hours per day, work hours per week and number of days in a month.

 

Many users change the calendar configurations but not the basic ones. This way, you can create the 25th hour or 13th month, and maybe even miss a month per year. To read more click here.

 

The HCP apps examines all configurations and maps the gaps between the time duration set for the task (Scheduled Duration) and the duration calculated according to the basic configurations (which supersede in the schedule). The difference between the Calculated Duration and the Scheduled Duration is the Discrepancy value. 

Indicates that the calculated duration is longer than the duration set for the task in the Gantt. This can be caused as a result of configuring non work days as holidays or splitting tasks.

 Each Negative Discrepancy value should be examined since it indicates that the calculated duration is smaller than the duration set for the task. This can be the result of:

  1. Using a number of different calendars.
  2. Use of calendar durations as e-days, e-weeks or e-months.
  3. Weekend days becoming workdays.
  4. Gap in the internal schedule software configurations.

It indicates that there is a gap in the internal schedule software configurations, e.g., between the number of work hours set per each day and the number of work hours that define a workday.

When there is a discrepancy in the internal settings in MS Project, there are two ways to address the issue:

  1. Fixing the Settings in the Project File: This involves modifying the project file itself by changing the calendar settings and working hours within it or altering the default settings in the file. For more details and guidance, click here.
    This change is akin to a “root treatment” for the project and is highly recommended for projects that have not yet started or before finalizing the basic schedule.

  2. Change in HCP-Go Parameters: During the execution of HCP analysis in Step 3, open the section “Project Calendar Settings.”

    Adjust the values of one or more of the following settings according to the calendar defined in the file:

    • Non Work Days Per Week: The number of non-working days per week. If Saturday and Sunday are non-working days, write 2. If working hours on Saturday are 6 hours and on a regular day are 8 hours, write 1.25. (= Sunday + 2 hours without work per week out of 8 per day).

    • Work Days Per Month: The number of working days in a month.

    • Begin Work Hour: The start time of the working day.

    • Begin Lunch Hour: The start time of the lunch break during the day.

    • End Lunch Hour: The end time of the lunch break during the day.

    • End Work Hour: The end time of the working day.

For further information, read Tal Levanon’s blog on The Mystery of Lost Time.

2.6 Overdue Tasks

All project tasks are examined relative to the project effective date (configured in step 3 of the analysis). The tasks mentioned in this section:

  • Their performance should have started –  comparing their start date to the schedule effective date – and performance percentage was not reported for them;
    or
  • Their performance should have completed – comparing their end date to the schedule effective date – and completion performance was not reported for them.

2.7 Summary Tasks with Link Issues

  • Summary tasks linked to predecessor tasks
  • Summary tasks linked to successor tasks

A summary task is not a task. Some software even prohibits writing summary tasks, but creating them in the various sorting.

Linking a summary task to a successor or a predecessor task is not recommended as it causes an overall constraint on all tasks in the summary tasks. For instance, linking a predecessor task to a summary task means that all tasks in it must start only after the task that precedes the summary task is completed. It is possible that this is correct, but in most cases, it’s incorrect and causes schedule time losses. Therefore, the links mentioned in these sections must be deleted and linked to tasks inside the summary task – not directly to it.

3. HCP Critical Path Analysis Report

3.1 HCP Critical Path Analysis Overview

General

 

This is the interesting part about HCP!

  • Key Schedule and Analysis Dates
  • Task and Link Counts within Date Range

These details are identical to those in section 1.1 .

 

Critical and Hidden Critical HCP Paths within DS of X% from project duration, found in the Schedule:

  • Total HCP paths identified
  • Redundant paths ignored
  • Unique paths analyzed

Receiving numerical data: how many paths were found within Duration Slack (which is X% of the project duration), how many of them are redundant and how many are unique.

 

For an explanation on redundant paths, see section 3.9.

 

The numbers received provide information on the project’s complexity – dozens of paths, low complexity; hundreds of paths, moderate complexity; thousands and tens of thousands of paths, high complexity.

The larger X is (up to 100%), the fuller the mapping will be. The smaller X is, the smaller the mapping and the larger the complexity will be!

  • Critical and Hidden critical HCP Paths Histogram

Path mapping generates a histogram: what is the slack of each path relative to the longest path (in days), and how many paths are there like this one? In good projects – which have good chances of being completed on schedule, the histogram looks like a Gauss curve (also called a bell curve, or normal distribution curve), or the beginning of one.

Projects with numerous errors and problems will have a schedule histogram that looks more like an EKG. What’s good for humans (living pulse) – is very bad for projects…

And what does this histogram tell us?

This project (a real construction & infrastructure project) has a lot of critical and hidden critical paths, and as slack increases – paths get fewer. In fact, it is the end of the Gauss curve – as if someone tried to cram numerous tasks in a short period. 

A Riddle:

If the project was ‘Packing a Suitcase’, which photo matches it?

The woman ‘stuffing’ the suitcase by sitting on it…😊

3.2 Tasks in the HCP Critical Paths

This section details all the tasks consists of the HCP critical paths (i.e., the longest paths in the network). It specifies the details of each task, its summary task, its (earliest) path, and whether or not it is also considered critical according to CPM.

 

This means that urgent management attention should be given to the paths created with these tasks. Without such attention, completion of the project according to schedule will be jeopardized.

 

The list is sorted according to start dates.

3.3 Opportunities for Bringing Forward the Schedule's End Date

HCP locates opportunities to push the schedule forward. There are four types of opportunities:

  • Link – there is a time slack between the completion of this task and the beginning of its successor task.
    Recommendation: search for an option to cancel the delay between such tasks and/or cancel the starting date constraint of the successor task or of another element that delays the beginning of the successor task.
  • End – there is a time slack between the completion of this task, the last one in the longest HCP path, and the completion of the project.
    Recommendation: search for an option to cancel constraints on the CPM critical path to push forward the project completion date.
  • Start – there is a time slack between the beginning of the overall schedule and the beginning of this task, the first one in the longest HCP path.
    Recommendation: search for an option to cancel the starting constraints of this task.
  • Today – there is a time slack between today and the beginning of this task, the first one in the longest HCP path. Recommendation: check whether the starting constraints of this task can be cancelled.

Only the earliest and latest tasks in the summary task linked to external tasks (tasks excluded from the summary task); check the summary task links.

Activities outside the summary task and activities within the summary task. Only the earliest activity within the summary task is linked to an external activity outside the summary task, and only the latest activity within the summary task is linked to an external activity outside the summary task.

In the example: Activities B, C, and D constitute the summary task. Only Activity B is linked to preceding activities outside the summary task, and only Activity D is linked to a subsequent activity outside the summary task.

 

It is possible that there is nothing to be done. 🤷‍♀️

However, it may be that with some creative thinking 💡, the work orders and links can be changed.
This would push forward the schedule and/or improve schedule stability, particularly in the summary tasks that contain tasks which consists of the HCP critical path, as can be seen in the table. 

👉 You can realize the potential by transferring links from the “external” tasks to other tasks in the summary task.

3.4 Risk issues (1): Overlapping Tasks in the HCP Critical Paths

In every situation described in this section, the project’s risk level of failure to complete as planned – increases.

If the probability of failing to complete a task on time is 50%, then when there are two parallel tasks, such probability increases to 75% simultaneously (1 – 0.5*0.5). If the probability of failure to complete on time is 90%, then when there are two parallel tasks, such probability increases to 99% (1 – 0.1*0.1).

Therefore, the tasks in this table must be examined carefully and be given particular management attention!

3.5 Risk issues (2): Tasks in the HCP Hidden Critical Paths

This section provides a list of tasks that make up the hidden critical paths – including all task details.

Tasks are written in a decreasing order of importance, i.e., the top tasks require the greatest management attention to guarantee successful project completion. Each task receives a duration slack value identical to the path slack value, in the first path it appears in.

The duration slack of the HCP path is the difference between the duration of the longest HCP path (the HCP critical path) and the specific HCP path in which the task is displayed.

 

In other words, the most critical tasks to manage are the ones displayed in the HCP paths with the smallest duration slack.

 

We highly recommend implementing the hidden critical paths displayed in the table (and the ones in section 3.2 above) as the basis for focusing management attention, in this manner:

  • Ensure that your estimate of the resource and timing requirements is accurate, to ensure that such tasks are not delayed due to lack of critical resources.
  • Ensure that you have included these tasks in the project’s risk management assessment.

 

HCP maps according to the range determined by the number of paths. Project managers will decide the relevant threshold and the tasks that meet such threshold, which should all be given significant attention management – almost identical to the critical path tasks!

3.6 Risk issues (3): Difficult-to-Track Tasks

This table displays all tasks identified as being difficult to track and monitor. Such tasks have a longer duration than a certain threshold.

 

This threshold is determined based on the overall schedule analysis.

 

We recommend dividing these tasks into a number of sub-tasks with a shorter duration to improve monitor and control capabilities when managing such tasks.

3.7 Unstarted (Overdue) Paths

This table displays all tasks that make up paths whose performance has not started yet – this is a large project risk.

3.8 Identified HCP Paths

This table displays the unique HCP paths identified in the HCP analysis – and the tasks included in each path.

Notes:

  • The table only contains the first 30 HCP paths identified. The full list of all HCP paths is available upon request as an appendix to this report, free of charge (with license).
  • In the ‘tasks’ column, a comma (,) between the number of tasks represents a Finish-to-Start link, while parallel lines (||) represent an Finish-to-Finish or Start-to-Start link.
  • The path duration slack is the difference between the duration of the longest HCP path (HCP critical path) and this HCP path.

3.9 Redundant HCP Paths

A redundant HCP path is a path (e.g., X) that all of its tasks make up another path that contains a greater number of tasks (e.g., Y), as follows:

Path X: A → B → E → F
Path Y: A → B → C → D → E → F
Path X is a redundant path.

 

The HCP mapping reveals redundant links. Their erasure reduces the project network’s complexity. In case the links are made up of SS or FF links or with lags, ensure that erasing them would not change task times. This section displays the redundant links table. It also displays the table of redundant HCP paths identified in the HCP analysis – and the tasks that make up each path.

 

Notes:

  • The table only contains the first 30 HCP paths identified. The full list of all HCP paths is available upon request as an appendix to this report, free of charge (with license).
  • In the ‘tasks’ column, a comma (,) between the number of tasks represents a Finish-to-Start link, while parallel lines (||) represent an Finish-to-Finish or Start-to-Start link.
  • The path duration slack is the difference between the duration of the longest HCP path (HCP critical path) and this HCP path.

3.10 Enhanced Schedule File

You can implement the following additions in your schedule (for instructions, click here)

  1. HCP task column that tags whether or not the task is included in any HCP path.
  2. HCP DS column that tags the duration slack of the HCP path in which the task is included.
  3. Graphic tagging of all tasks included in HCP paths.

3.11 Disclaimer

This report is subject to the End User License Agreement

Tal Levanon – HCP Ltd.| Tel.: +97289265475| Email: info@hcp-consulting.com| Website: www.hcp-consulting.com

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