DCMA 14 Point – Is perfection possible?

Spoiler

Yes and no! (Don’t you just hate it when people won’t give a straight answer?)

What is the DCMA 14 Point assessment?

DCMA 14-point Schedule Assessment is a guideline, developed by the US Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), aptly containing 14 metrics to make a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of the schedule (project plan). Originally developed for the purposes of the US defense industry, it is now a standard applied to projects across many sectors throughout the world.

Whilst the DCMA 14 Point assessment doesn’t lend itself as easily to a single weighted score as the other de facto contender, the simpler Fuse Index, it can nonetheless be assumed that an overall score of 100% is a near to perfection on all points as one is likely to get.

So, is it possible to attain a 100% score?

In short, YES it is, and we’ve done it with our own Post COVID-19 Remobilisation Blueprint (https://projectcompanions.com/homepage/) which was no mere thought exercise. BUT! It was a challenge and that level perfection will be unsustainable as clients develop our template into their real world schedule, so a NO too.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good

DCMA 14 Point is a tough standard, but it is not uncompromising. Some of the measures are rigorous but many have reasonable tolerances built in, furthermore some complement each other and some work against each other. A planner must balance a schedule quality score against the conditions of a real project which may include tough contractual constraints, lack of available detail, poor communications and questionable project controls regimes. That schedule quality score needs to be good enough to impress but also recognise the point of diminishing returns.

So, what really matters?

We’ve established that DCMA 14 Point is pragmatic, but that doesn’t mean everything can be flexed and neither does it mean that the flexibility it does allow is desirable. A few blemishes in a schedule might not be enough to trigger a red light, but they may still cost percentage points overall. The following table takes the 14 Points, out of sequence, categorises them according to severity and provides a few hints why they matter. It’s not exhaustive, but we’re happy to elaborate if asked.

Meanwhile in the real world

You can aspire to perfection and, in ideal circumstances you might even attain it, but it’s difficult and ultimately pointless. We suggest you entirely eliminate the Not negotiable flaws, minimise the Flexible deficiencies, ignore the unimportant and try to achieve a score in the 80-90% range.

Then put your remaining effort into ensuring the schedule is meaningful, realistic and well explained as discussed in our previous article What Makes a Good Project Schedule (https://projectcompanions.com/2020/06/03/what-makes-a-good-project-schedule/). That approach avoids the obvious showstoppers and should put you way ahead of most rivals; in fact, you might be shocked at how poor most schedules are, even those entered for competitive bids.

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