Project management case studies - HCP analysis
HCP analysis has already been performed on more than 200 projects.
Even though the same analysis is performed in all projects – the insights that follow are different.
Here are some real-life case studies and MS project case studies told by Tal Levanon, from various projects.
The case studies make it possible to understand the different aspects and different meanings obtained from analysis by HCP-Go.
Two Projects Hidden in One - MS Project case study
I stood at the door and realized – this is a make-or-break situation. No middle ground.
I gave a lecture about HCP in front of a large group of high-ranking military officials. One of them, Yishai (pseudonym), said he has a project that he wants me to analyze using HCP and that he also has a budget. ‘But the project is classified – so in terms of security – I can’t give you the Gantt’.
‘This can be solved’, I offered, ‘send me the Gantt without the activity content column, but with WBS data only – or change the names, so you’ll render them meaningless to me – but significant to you’. The idea was accepted and the file was forwarded to me within mere days; I then started the analysis.
If you are looking for project management case studies you can view in addition this use case >> Jerusalem Chords Bridge.
Hidden Critical Path in projects and MS project case study
Short explanation (for additional explanations – visit our website , see also the HCP Body of Knowledge).
HCP (Hidden Critical Path) is an analysis of project schedule networks, Gantts, written in MS Project. The information resulting from the analysis also consists of all the technical issues in the Gantt and the Gantt structure. For any item displayed in the report, you need to ask ‘why?’ – why is it written this way, why did this happen – and the answers shine a spotlight on the project from unexpected directions, allowing you to finish projects on time with the planned contents and set budget.
MS project case study – Back to the story:
The analysis ended up being relatively odd. Though it wasn’t a large schedule – less than 200 activities – the analysis was so slim, with so few paths, as if it was a 50 tasks (activities) Gantt. However, it showed something else that is interesting – there are two ending points to the project.
Since I work alone in these analyses, I found myself talking to myself… Hmm, interesting (I said to myself). Maybe there are two projects here? Though it’s a bit more work, it’s worth a check (I encouraged myself). I conducted the analysis again but this time as two separate analyses. Much to my satisfaction, there are entirely two different results that indicate two entirely different projects: the paths in one are not similar to the paths in the other, the critical and hidden critical paths in one – are not similar to activities in the other. This way, I summed up (with myself), we have two projects in one Gantt. I printed out the results and generated two different reports.
You received a schedule (Gantt chart) with hundreds of activities and a quick answer is required: what happens inside of it and if there are problems, where are they?
Project management case studies: who is the boss?
I set a meeting with Yishai the next day and arrived on the scheduled time a few minutes earlier. I’m waiting outside his room as his secretary calls me inside. As I’m standing at the door, it suddenly hits me: though I have faith in what I’m doing, and I think I can prove everything – in black and white – I haven’t done any reality check! I haven’t made a call, haven’t asked a question or inquired, even indirectly, if this entire picture I’m painting – about two projects in one Gantt – can somehow be based in reality! This is a make-or-break situation. No middle ground.
Between you and me, at that moment, at the door, I felt my heart rate rising and my neck vein began reporting increased traffic…
I sat across from Yishai and said – ‘I’ll start from the bottom. I believe we have two projects here – and I’ll show you why.’
Yishai, surprised, leaned forward to look at the two reports placed in front of him. I presented all of the findings – the different paths, the two different ending points, the different hidden critical activities – and the implications. When I finished, I looked at him; he didn’t smile – but his eyes did. He looked at me and said: ‘would you like to know what is going on here?’
‘Sure’, I replied.
‘This project is not being done by us. We developed the project and a defense contractor is doing it. We came to them and showed them the project. They said it isn’t one project – but two.’ ‘We told them’, he said, ‘it’s one project’.
He looked at me – ‘I’ll give a similar example. We want one box with a switch for two options. They are talking about two different boxes’.
‘And then what happened?’ I asked.
‘We told the defense contractor that it has to be one project because we are ordering the project and paying for it – so it is one project’.
‘And what did they say?’
‘They said: ok.’
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MS Project case study - Critical path in management
It took me a minute to digest it. Yishai wanted one project, the defense contractor decided that these are two projects, they are doing them as two different projects – so much so that the Gantt indicates that these are two different projects, built in one Gantt – so on the surface, it appears like one project.
‘And what will you be doing now?’ I asked.
‘First, I am going to talk with them about the project today and about what you discovered. Judging by their answers, I will decide on whether to stop the project, let it continue with special restrictions or specific definitions, or move forward. I don’t know just yet, but I will surely know after meeting with them.’
Does this happen a lot – issues like the one above being found in Gantts? And the answer is: Yes. There are plenty other stories…
Jerusalem Chords Bridge
Jerusalem Chords Bridge - MS Project case study
One of our very first projects was the Chords Bridge in Jerusalem.
I met with Baruch Gover, the project manager, in his room. He looked at me with a smile, “Schedule? Look, this project is not that complicated… It’s concrete and steel. The concrete – the end columns – are not critical. The steel – the pilon and all of the chords – the steel is ‘super critical’.”
The municipal development company hired our services to analyze the schedule and assist in understanding the important aspects of such complicated project. The project schedule was a combination of the schedules of two contractors who cooperated in this project – a steel manufacturer and a concrete construction company. The final schedule had over 1,500 activities.
The Light Rail Bridge, 380 meters long and weighing 4,500 tons, is made of steel and concrete, designed by the internationally renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. It cost USD 65 million to build and is composed of 66 cables, 150 meters each, hanging from a pilon standing 119 meters tall.
Question: How can I know all of the technical rules? Isn’t there something that can check the technical aspects for me?
Answer: Today we have HCP-Go, HCP’s Project SaaS. With one click, you can analyze your schedule file – and get a free report with your results!
Project management case studies - How do I test a schedule with 1,500 activities?
With the help of the HCP (Hidden Critical Paths) analysis (For information on the method, what to use it for and how you can do it yourself, click here), it appeared that Baruch, the project manager, was right: the steel parts are definitely critical to the schedule. However, the HCP analysis revealed a surprise: some concrete activities took place on hidden critical paths with a slack time of only nine days!
Between you and me? I didn’t know what to do with these findings. My concern was that I’m presenting a tough situation with no solution. In contrast to me, Baruch saw the data in a different light. He called a meeting with all parties involved – representatives of the two contractors, the contractors’ schedule consultant, other advisers, the management team and representatives of the client, and led a process of configuring project changes: the concrete components were changed, the priority was changed and other activities were changed. The process ended with the contractor generating a new schedule.
Is that it? Are we done?
No… Not at all… 🙂
Now we need to run an HCP analysis on the new schedule, obviously! 🙂
The analysis of the new schedule revealed that steel was still critical, but the most important concrete activities had a longer time gap, two months instead of under two weeks. When I brought the analysis results to Baruch – he was pleased. It was his vision for the project!
And what happened later? A lot of things happened. There were a lot of unexpected things in the concrete activities. The gap created in the second schedule allowed concrete activities to be delayed – but they did not enter the critical path. Had they continued according to the first schedule – they would have become critical.
Project management case studies – What’s the conclusion?
Every project manager has their own vision for the project – what’s critical, what’s non-critical, what’s more important and what’s less important.
Every schedule (Gantt) contains this information – what’s critical, what’s non-critical, what’s more important and what’s less important.
To figure out whether the project manager’s vision is identical to the existing project information – you should run an HCP-Go analysis. HCP turns scheduling into plain English, allowing you to easily read and understand whether the vision and Gantt are a match.
And what happens when they are not a match? Someone needs to change something…
Either the project manager changes his/hers perspective of the project or the Gantt must be revised to represent the project like the project manager sees it.
Tal Levanon, PMI-SP, M.Sc.
Want to know more about CPM, HCP and Critical Paths? Continue to read here – What is Critical Path and What is Hidden Critical Path.
Want to read more about Project Management App? Go to – HCP App for project schedules management.
For more information about the implications of managing and building a work plan for a project see – Project work plan and schedule.
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