MASTER CLASS INTEGRATED PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE REPORT Timo Hartmann

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1 Technical Paper #5 MASTER CLASS INTEGRATED PROJECT MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE REPORT 2009 Timo Hartmann COPYRIGHT 2009 VISICO Center, University of Twente

2 Integrated Project Management Software Report (2009) Timo Hartmann From January to April 2009 I taught the class Integrated Project Management for Master students at the University of Twente. During the class, students generated a scope-cost-time integrated project plan using Building Information model based project management applications. This report summarizes the student s experiences with the used software as the students reported them weekly. The report evaluates the different software packages according to their ability to support project planning tasks, their ability to exchange information between different project management tasks (interoperability), and their ability to support team work during project planning efforts according to these reports. It is important for readers to understand that this report, therefore, does not evaluate the real functionality of the different software applications, but the functionality as it was perceived by the students of the class. Overall, the class project showed that it is possible to create integrated project plans for simple construction projects with commercially available software. However, the project also showed that there are large differences between how well the various software modules support project planning and that most of the packages the students used in the class do not support team work during the creation of project plans well. 1

3 Contents Integrated Project Management Software Report (2009)...1 Contents...2 Introduction...3 Software Packages...6 Evaluation of Project Management Functionality...7 Building Modeling...7 Cost Estimating...9 Scheduling and 4D...10 Resource Balancing and Cash Flow...11 Conclusion...11 References

4 Introduction In the master class Integrated Project Management I teach how to integrate the different project management aspects of time, cost, and scope into an overall project plan. The class assumes that project managers require information and communication technologies to achieve a seamless integration between these three aspects. Therefore, one of the major focuses of the class is on how to best apply building information model (BIM) based project management software to generate such integrated project plans. During the class students have to explore the current technological possibilities to integrate project management data by learning the functionality of BIM based applications and applying them to establish an integrated project plan for a real world project. In 2009 the students developed an integrated project plan for a two storey mixed used building for a local theater company in Hengelo, the Netherlands. The functions of the planned building comprise the storage of the group s theater props, the hosting of the group s offices, and the provision of a recital room. From a technical and managerial standpoint this project is very small and simple and, thus, it represents a great case to learn and understand the possibilities that BIM based applications offer to establish integrated project plans. This would not have been possible in the scope of a Master class if the class had used a more complicated project. I taught the class from February-2, 2009 to March-30, 2009 to 14 Construction Management and Engineering students. I divided these 14 students in three groups of five, five, and four students. In the first week of the class I introduced the class to the students. In the second week, I then introduced the students to the concept of BIM and gave them the task to evaluate a number of BIM project management applications and choose an initial application suite for establishing an integrated project plan in the rest of the class. At the beginning of every consecutive week I then conducted one lecture that theoretically introduced one project management concept and how project managers can theoretically integrate the concept into an overall project plan. In the rest of the week, each of the groups was then responsible to integrate the concept I taught in the lecture in their overall project plan. The groups had to choose an overall group work strategy, the BIM based software applications for the integration task, learn these software applications, and, finally, generate and integrate the week s required part of the project plan. To show their achievements, the students had to report their week s work within a weekly report that outlines the strategy they used during the week, summarizes the new part of the integrated project plan, and evaluates the usefulness of the BIM based software they chose to support them in the generation of the project plan part. Table 1 outlines the overall structure of the class. 3

5 Table 1 - Weekly outline of the class Week Project Management Concept Student Group Task 1 Introduction 2 Preliminary Evaluation and Choice of BIM software. 3 Product Management Generate a 3D BIM model of the project. 4 5 Cost Estimating Develop a detailed cost estimate of the project. 6 Scheduling Create a critical path schedule of how to realize the project. 7 Schedule Evaluation 8 Resource Balancing Visualize the schedule using a 4D model. Use the 4D visualization to optimize the schedule from week 3. Create a line of balance diagram to assign and level resources to the schedule tasks. Evaluate the relations of several allocation alternatives on the initial estimate. Also consider the cash flow across your planned project duration. Optimize schedule, cash flow, and resource allocation. 4

6 During the final exam week of the project the students then had to integrate a number of changes into their final integrated project plan. The main objective of this last assignment was to test how well the students integrated each of the project management sub-concepts into their overall project plan. Figure 1 shows the final class assignment. Figure 1 - Final class assignment: Change order management This report summarizes the findings from this class with respect to how well the different BIM based software products that the students chose supported their integrated project management efforts. The report is structured as follows: I start with a general overview about the software packages the students 5

7 chose to use throughout the class. I then provide an overview about how well the different packages supported the creation of each of the project plan parts, including an assessment of the interoperability between the applications. Each section also summarizes the main points of critic of the students that can serve as recommendations for software developers. The report also quickly evaluates how the different software packages supported group team work activities Software Packages Before the students started with their direct work on the integrated project plan, they had to evaluate and choose a number of BIM based applications that they planned to use for the rest of the course. I conducted this exercise so that the students learn how to quickly evaluate and choose different software applications for a given task. I supported them with this task by giving them a list of possible applications (Figure 2). I made clear that this list is not complete and that they can choose other applications if they intend to do so and if they have access to a license of the other application. During this exercise the three student groups developed the following criteria to evaluate the different applications: Group 1: applicability and interoperability Group 2: interoperability and user-friendliness Group 3: modeled level of detail, practical utilization, and interoperability After their evaluations the three groups decided to use the following BIM based applications in the class: Group 1 & 2: VICO software suite (Constructor, Estimator, 5D Presenter, Control) Group 3: Autodesk Revit as a BIM authoring tool, Tocoman BIM solutions for cost estimation, Microsoft Project for scheduling, Navisworks for 4D visualization, and Vico Control for line of balance scheduling The main reasons for group 1 and 2 to choose the VICO software suite were: VICO software offers a complete product suite, The programs seem to work quite intuitively, Data exchange seemed to be easy, The existence of easy to use training guides. The main reasons for group 3 to choose the combination of Revit, Tocoman, MS Project, Navisworks, and Control were: Good user reviews for the Tocoman software, and The interoperability of Autodesk Revit with the Tocoman software. 6

8 Figure 2 - Initial list of possible BIM applications for use within the class Evaluation of Project Management Functionality Building Modeling All three student groups chose for a hierarchical modeling approach by dividing the different components of the building into a Product Breakdown Structure (PBS). The groups then assigned the 7

9 responsibility to model the different components of the PBS to different group members. During modeling, all groups reported struggles with missing detail in the 2D drawings. This might point to a general problem of existing BIM authoring tools: Currently, users of authoring tools need to enter building information in a very high level of detail and little functionality to hierarchically organize a building information model exists. Such functionality, however, is needed to support the process of how engineers design facilities by carefully balancing the level of detail of information according to the design decisions they plan to make in a specific planning stage. To support this process, BIM authoring tools need to offer functionality to enable a flexible and hierarchical modeling approach allowing engineers to switch between different levels of detail easily. Overall, the two groups that used VICO Constructor did not report about their use of the software in detail. The group that used Revit as a BIM authoring tools reported three problems they encountered during modeling: Revit, by default, creates automated links between building components, such as, for example, links between doors, walls, and foundations. These links then allow the software to automatically adjust the dimensions of one building component according to changes in the dimensions of another linked building component. However, the logic behind these updates was often not consistent with the logic of the design of the building. The group, for example, reported that Revit automatically cut gaps into foundation elements of a wall according to the position of a door in that wall. However, the design of the building assumed that wall foundations run continuous under the planned doors within the wall. The group was not able to couple structural Revit elements with information about loading conditions and materials and non-structural elements without a warning. It was not clear from the group report how such a warning influenced the modeling work of the group in detail. The group was not able to use either of the two team work functions, work sharing and linked models that Revit offers. In particular, the use of the work sharing functionality requires access to a shared network drive, which was not available to the students. It remains questionable whether shared network drives are always available in practice and whether this is the most convenient and safest method to organize teamwork. The group was also not able to leverage the linked models functionality, as this functionality would require that the group can subdivide the overall building system into sub-systems with little interferences between the chosen subsystems. Due to the complexity of such a subdivision the group decided that it was not feasible to see the linked model function as well and decided to organize the modeling work sequentially. The accumulated overall times required to model the project in the respective BIM authoring tool vary significantly between the groups. Group 1 (Vico) reported 22.3 hours of modeling and learning the software, group 2 (Vico) reported 34 hours, and Group 3 (Revit) reported 56.5 hours. From these times it seems that learning the and modeling in the Vico Constructor software is easier and less time consuming 8

10 than learning the and modeling in Revit software. However, as the class only provides three data points this claim requires further validation. Cost Estimating The possibility to create cost estimates using quantities extracted automatically from the 3D BIM model worked for all three groups. Within one week all groups were able to produce a cost estimate using either the VICO Estimator tool or the Tocoman software. This shows that it is feasible to use BIM during cost estimation processes. However, we were not able to assess the overall accuracy of the automated quantity take-off in detail. During the class the students also encountered a number of problems while using the two applications with respect to user interface and data input. One inherent problem occurred with the creation of so called recipes. Such recipes define the required construction steps and resources that allow the calculation of costs based on BIM objects quantities that are extracted from the model (Eastman et al. 2008: 220). The two student groups that used the Vico Estimator software reported that it is not an easy process to create new recipes for specific BIM objects. It is necessary to follow many steps in the process and students suggested that a better user interface to define new recipes might have been helpful. The student group that used the Tocoman software was not available to create or manipulate estimates themselves. This was due to the setup of the Tocoman software that linked to recipes on a central server. To this server only staff at Tocoman had access. The missing possibility to alter existing or create new recipes significantly hindered the work of this group. Additionally, this group criticized the large number of steps that were necessary to link recipes with 3D model objects. In the area of interoperability between scope and cost VICO Estimator and Tocoman showed some problems. It took the two student groups that used VICO Estimator quite some time to set up an initial Estimator project that allowed them to import quantities. VICO Estimator requires that specific project settings are set up in the right way at the initial generation of a new estimation project. If the settings are not set up right, an automated quantity take off is not possible. One of the groups did not set up the project in the right way at the outset and lost much time till it discovered this error. Further, students reported that VICO Estimator produced some unclear warnings upon the change of a link to a specific Estimator project within VICO Constructor. Next to VICO Constructor, the Tocoman software also showed some problems with its interoperability with Autodesk Revit and Microsoft project. The main problem with Revit interoperability was that Tocoman did not recognize certain Revit objects during its quantity take-off, such as foundation objects. This required the student group to model their building with a limited number of building components in Revit. It seems like this work around might be a big barrier for the adoption of the Tocoman software in practice. In summary, the experiences of the student groups are that it is possible to link 3D BIM objects with recipes to establish cost estimates. However, the functionality of the BIM cost estimating software still needs to be improved further. It is still cumbersome to link 3D model objects with estimating recipes and the possibilities to visualize the resulting cost estimates are limited. Further, it seems to be of uttermost importance during the estimating process that estimators are able to quickly and easily adjust recipes and in some cases create completely new estimates from scratch. 9

11 Scheduling and 4D To create a construction schedule, the VICO software suite exports recipe and quantity information directly from VICO estimator into VICO control that automatically established construction activities from this information. Similar, it is possible for users to export this information from Tocoman to Microsoft project. Afterward the students had to manually add relations between these different activities to arrive at a critical path schedule. Overall, all groups were able to develop a construction schedule, however, both groups reported a number of problems during this process. The two groups that used the VICO software reported that they had problems to get accustomed to the user interface of VICO Control because Control s interface differs much from the other VICO modules. Further, the huge amount of functionality that VICO Control offers is confusing and makes it hard to learn the software. Again, the group struggled with the fact that VICO does not allow multiple database users and thus team work, by for example, at the same time changing estimate information in VICO Estimator and working on a schedule in VICO Control was not possible for two different students at the same time. Finally, the group reported that VICO Control did not import some items from VICO Estimator and the project managers should be careful with respect to the automated exchange function between these two parts of the VICO suite. The group that used the link between the Tocoman software and Microsoft Project also reported a number of problems with the process. The main problem was that the total time for each activity is calculated by Tocoman under the assumption of the use of one resource unit for every task. The students had to manually adjust this number to accelerate the schedule by using more than one resource unit using the resource functionality in Microsoft Project. Thus, students could simply use the scheduling functionality of Microsoft Project in conjunction with Tocoman. Additionally, the group was never able to establish an automated data exchange between Tocoman and Microsoft Project on all of their computers. Due to a bug in the Tocoman software they only managed to connect Tocoman and Microsoft project on the laptop of one group members. The group contacted the Tocoman support group who informed the students that this is a known problem and that at the moment no workaround exists for this problem. After the students created the construction schedule they then visualized this schedule using 4D animations. The students that used the VICO suite reported that there was only a very small amount of work necessary to arrive at the 4D visualization of their schedule as all information that they needed to create was already stored in one central database. The students only needed to open this database in the VICO 5D Presenter software. In contrary, the group that used the Tocoman software had to do a number of additional work steps. First, this group had to manually import the Microsoft Project schedule and the Revit model into the Autodesk Navisworks software. Then, in Navisworks, the students had to manually relink each of the 3D building components with the respective schedule activities. Using the 4D simulation the students then optimized the duration of their initial schedule by changing relations between tasks and by accelerating other tasks. However, this optimization through the concurrent adjustment of construction sequence and through the acceleration of single activities was not easily possible for the two groups that used the VICO suite because it required that students added 10

12 additional resources for an acceleration within the cost estimate of VICO Estimator, while they had to update of the construction sequence within VICO Control. Further, once updated a re-import of the updated information was necessary in VICO 5D Presenter. Overall, it seems like both chosen application suites showed some problems with the interoperability between the cost estimate and the schedule. While MS Project allowed the adjustment of both resource loading of a schedule and the sequences in one application, it could not communicate resource loading with the Tocoman estimate. Contrarily, VICO control allowed interoperability between the estimate and the schedule, however, students had to adjust resource loading and sequence information in two different applications of the VICO suite. Resource Balancing and Cash Flow To balance the resource allocation of the project schedule all three groups used the line of balance functionality within VICO Control. To do so, the group that created the schedule in Microsoft Project, started with their line of balance schedule in VICO from scratch and was able to meaningfully analyze the resource requirements of their schedule. Surprisingly, the two groups that used the VICO suite throughout the class struggled with creating a sound and meaningful line of balance schedule. This was mainly due to the fact that line of balance schedules to balance resource allocations are only meaningful for schedule tasks that repeat at different project locations over time. Most of the activities that VICO Control imported automatically from the estimate in VICO Estimator did not represent such repetitive activities. In the end, ironically, only the group that had to manually recreate a completely new Line of Balance schedule next to their critical path schedule in Microsoft Project was able to make meaningful resource balancing decisions using the VICO Control software. This episode might point to a general trade off that project managers have to make when planning with integrated project management software. On one hand, a completely integrated project plan can save much time and effort during the planning phase and allows for quick adjustment of specific information. On the other hand, there are situations where an integrated project plan cannot display information in a meaningful way to enable sound project management decisions and project managers are advised to recreate some information using another format that is not directly interoperable with the rest of the project plan. Surprisingly, none of the groups was able to optimize their schedule under considering of project cash flow. The students did not find meaningful functionality to do so neither in VICO Control nor in Microsoft project. One group manually created a cash flow diagram within Microsoft Excel. However, the group s approach did not lend itself well to iteratively improve the planned schedule as after every change in the schedule or to assigned resources the group had to manually update the cash flow diagram in Microsoft Excel. Due to this labor intensive process, the group was not able to evaluate many different schedule options. The missing functionality to evaluate cash flow activities within an integrated project plan comes as a surprise because cash flow management is one of the most important activities of overall project management. Conclusion This report summarizes the effort of three student groups to create an integrated project plan for a small mix used building during the class Integrated Project Management that I taught at the Twente 11

13 University in Two student groups used the VICO application suite and one group chose to use a combination of Revit, Tocoman, Microsoft Project, and VICO Control to generate the integrated project plan. Overall, all student groups succeeded to establish an integrated project plan using their chosen software solutions. However, the students were not able to meaningfully use advanced project management functionality, such as, line of balance schedules or cash flow analyzes, to optimize the project plan after its first generation. While this is partly a problem of missing experience on the student side, better functionality within the used BIM applications was also a barrier for the students. In light of the main advantage of having an integrated project plan the ability to evaluate different plan alternatives quickly through an integration of scope, cost, and time the practical applicability of the chosen software applications remains currently questionable. In particular, the following problems that the students in the class encountered seem to be major barriers for the practical use of the used software applications: It was not easily possible for the students to work in parallel by distributing sub-tasks among team members. While most of the software offers some functionality to work in parallel, this functionality was either limited to some of the necessary tasks or it required a sophisticated server environment that was not available for the students and might not always be available in practical contexts. The tendency of the software vendors to integrate functionality within relatively closed application suites made it hard for the students to balance integration of project data with the functionality that different applications offer. A good example for this shortcoming is the struggle of the VICO groups to meaningfully use the line of balance scheduling application. It might have been a better strategy to manually reenter project data into VICO Control that specifically lend itself to a line of balance analysis, similar to what the group did that did not apply the VICO suite for integrating the project plan. Only when applications enable project managers meaningfully to use the more advanced schedule analysis functionality, project managers will be able to fully leverage the potential of integrated project planning. Overall, project managers who wish to use the software applications the students applied during the class should make an informed and balanced judgment about the level of integration that is required for their project management tasks at hand and how well the existing software applications can support such an integration. Acknowledgements I thank Forest Olaf Peterson from Stanford University's CIFE for his valuabel input to a preliminary draft of this report. Obviously, this report would not have been possible without the hard and enthusiastic work of the students that took my class in 2009 thanks again for the great time I had with you throughout the class. 12

14 References Eastman, C.M., Eastman, C., Teicholz, P., Sacks, R., & Liston, K BIM Handbook: A Guide to Building Information Modeling for Owners, Managers, Designers, Engineers and Contractors. Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, New Jersey. Appendix A Summary of Results from Group C This appendix presents parts of the project plan of group C to give the reader a better understanding of the work of the students during the class. 3D Models of the Building 13

15 14

16 Cost Estimate Cost estimate basic Name Quantity Unit EUR total Window, Wood 70 M Steel Beam 695 M Stair, Steel 98 EA Roof, Light Beam + Steel Sheet 1394 M Internal Wall, Sandlime Brick 449 M Internal Wall, Gypsumboard 905 M Internal Door, Wood 43 EA Handrail, Steel 14 M Garage Door, Steel Sheet 2 EA Floor Slab, Hollow Core Slab Concrete 1359 M Floor Slab, 150 mm 1009 M External Wall, Timber Frame + Steel Sheet Cassette 1277 M External Entrance Door, Wood 7 EA Edge Beam, Precast 226 M Subtotal Cost driver Percentage Mark up EUR total More detailing 5% Site costs 5% General costs 7% Profit and risk 4% Insurances 0,40% Total

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