Analyzer 2018.5 Release is Live

We are excited to announce the availability of Steelray Project Analyzer 2018.5, a major release of Analyzer!  This is the biggest release of Analyzer in many years.

What’s new in 2018.5?

DoD DCMA EVAS Metrics

Analyzer 2018.5 includes support for all of the latest schedule metrics that DCMA is using on their EVAS schedule assessments.

DCMA 14-Point Enhancements

Analyzer’s DCMA 14 Point Assessment is enhanced as well.  With the 2018.5 release, all 14 tests are executed without changing the source schedules, including schedules with master and subproject files.

As always, we include two versions of the report: one which runs strictly according to DCMA guidelines and one that can be customized and configured to suit your needs.  The custom report is renamed to “Configurable DCMA Assessment” in this version.

Our Entirely New Project Data Extractor for Microsoft Project

With Microsoft Project files, when you click the Analyze button, the longest part of the processing is extracting the necessary data from Project. When the extraction takes a while, the whole analysis takes a while.  There are generally two technologies used for this, and both come with technical baggage (i.e. compromises): accuracy and speed.

Speed + Accuracy

We’ve written a new project data extractor optimized for blazing speed with perfect accuracy, giving you the best of both worlds, and Analyzer is our first product to use this technology.  The extractor is called Steelray Project Add-In and (as the name implies) it installs as a very lightweight add-In to Microsoft Project.  Once installed, Steelray Project Analyzer connects to the add-in to grab the data it needs, in less time than ever before.  But that’s not all it does.

Better Error Handling

Because Analyzer and the Project Add-In can talk to each other, we’re better able to detect when something goes wrong with Project.  This allows us to better communicate and handle the issue.

Support for Future Products

Future products that Steelray will build may use Steelray Project Add-In as well, reducing their installation footprint.

Improved User Interface

In 2018.5, we addressed dozens of usability items to make for a better user experience.

Settings Where They Belong

In previous versions, some reports would have a sidebar which would allow you to change settings related to the project or the report.  You could only access those settings after running the report, which was clunky.  We’ve moved those settings out of the report to where they belong:  project settings and report settings.

The old DCMA 14 Point Assessment, with settings to the right.
The new DCMA 14 Point Assessment. Settings have been moved.

New Project Settings

There’s a stark difference between the old and new project settings.  With the new settings, you make changes in one place and the changes apply wherever used in a report.  For Microsoft Project files, there is a new link which allows you to open the project file directly from Analyzer.

The old project settings screen.
In the new project settings, you’re able to change settings for this project across all reports.

New Report Settings

Similarly, we’ve taken settings out of the output of some reports and added them to our enhanced report settings.

This is an example of the old Schedule Compare Graph report. The settings are included in the output.
In the new version, the report settings are where they belong — in Report Settings.

Direct Editing of Criteria From the Scorecard

The first generation of Analyzer had a feature where you could edit any criteria on a scorecard with one click; a great shortcut that we missed when it went away in the next version.

We’re happy to announce that it’s back in 2018.5!  Simply click on the criteria name and you’ll be in the Criteria Manager with the criteria loaded and ready to edit.  An example:

You can edit criteria in the scorecard with one click.

Enhanced Project Sets Make Comparing Schedules a Breeze

We’ve greatly enhanced project sets in Analyzer 2018.5 with a new feature called snapshot sets.  Before, to select two or more schedules for a comparison report, you had to load and select them individually.  You may have had 12 schedules, one for each reporting period, cluttering up your Projects list.

In 2018.5, a project set has a checkbox setting that tells Analyzer that the list of projects in the set are snapshots of the same schedule — a snapshot set.  For reports like Schedule Comparison that required you to select all of the projects to be compared, the process is much easier,  Select the snapshot set and you’re good.

Creating snapshot sets is easy!

Enhanced Connection Diagnostics for Microsoft Project Server, Project Online, and Oracle Primavera P6

We’ve added features to make it much easier to diagnose connection problems with Microsoft Project Server, Project Online, and Oracle Primavera P6.  For P6, we check to make sure the necessary permissions are correct after the connection.

You can download the latest version at: www.steelray.com/ProjectAnalyzer/Analyzer.php#trial

Alan – The Artifically Intelligent PM Assistant

Alan - Artificially Intelligent PM Assistant

Dateline: December, 2024 — Steelray launches Alan, our (fictional) Artificially Intelligent Assistant Project Manager.

Let’s follow along as Alan takes on the day.

Alan begins early by checking his news feed, noting that dock workers in Brazil are threatening to strike in January. He sends an alert to the risk analyst, checking to see if the strike has been accounted for, how the risk would be mitigated, and whether a “Plan B” exists.

In other market news, new oil industry projections indicate a price dip in the coming months. Alan assesses near-term projects and calculates some schedule shifts to take advantage of lower prices before they go back up. He pings the PMs via email and highlights the schedule changes.

Later that morning a PM named Beth checks a Slack feed from Alan; he’s cross- referenced her project data with HR and reports that a key assigned resource has scheduled vacation during a critical activity. He also notes that a small shift in the project path will avoid overtime rates. Beth adjusts accordingly.

Near lunch, Alan reports back to Stephen, who’s looking to update forecasts for the OmniCorp project. Alan has been anonymously polling the participants on activities and projections, and informs Stephen that their sentiments, combined with previous project data and external factors, indicate the project will complete two weeks later than the original projection.

That afternoon, Alan detects an unusual materials charge expensed to the DOT project. The items are appropriate for the job, and the total fits into the budget, but a high one-time cost is an anomaly. He shoots a text message to Purchasing and the PM?might this be a red flag?

Before close of day, Travis, director of sales, has Alan weigh in on a new project proposal, since Alan’s access to almost unlimited data points, coupled with his machine learning capabilities, allow him to eliminate much of the guesswork in cost and timeline estimation. Travis reviews the three project scenarios offered by Alan and feels prepared for tomorrow morning’s sales meeting.

Sound like fantasy?

For the moment, it is. But not as far from reality as you might think.

Some people are hesitant about the role of AI in the future, but we see a landscape of neural nets, algorithms and bots that enable people to reach higher degrees of excellence.

And, as we continue to experience a revolution in AI?in medical diagnosis, driverless cars, stock trading, marketing, business strategy?project management won’t be far behind.

In fact, we’re planning on it.

Steelray is incorporating AI into our flagship products?to continue providing greater depth of knowledge and actionability so our clients know the truth in their data and can do something about it.

Stay tuned…

Seven Business Practices that Need a Second Look

According to this recent article on Nautilus, there’s a long-held belief in educational systems around the world:

Cursive handwriting is an important and valuable skill that should be learned by all children at an early age.

The thinking is:

  • It’s faster than manuscript
  • It helps with spelling
  • It helps with dyslexia

So, cursive is taught early and heavily promoted over manuscript (the simple, unconnected method we learn first).

But, according to research, there is no real benefit to cursive. On the contrary, manuscript may be?superior in most respects.

And, in today’s device-driven world where almost nothing is written by hand,?we hardly even read anything in cursive.

It seems like the notion to continue using it is, well, dumb ? a classic case of tradition trumping evidence.

This got me thinking about parallels in the business world. About?initiatives, programs and policies we continue to embrace that have little merit. Here’s a short list:

business?Practices that Need a Second Look

1. Rewards programs to boost performance

Performance programs are thought to boost morale and incentivize employees, but they often benefit only a few while disenfranchising those who don?t make it to the top.

2. Yearly and quarterly employee performance reviews

Ongoing checkins, properly done, can be much more effective at giving employees?and management?the insight they need to be more effective at their jobs day-to-day.

3. ?No meetings? policies, because meetings are boring and unproductive.

Meetings are critical for strategic planning and communication, so perhaps the solution is not to ditch them, but to learn how to have better meetings. Conversely, not all meetings are created equal. Are you swamped with ?status? meetings that are better served by reports and emails? Is the meeting actually serving a goal?

4. Corporate communication and knowledge sharing via an intranet.

Do people use it? Does it integrate into daily workflow? Intranets are hard to do.

5. Hiring people we ?like” during the interview

Research shows that the interview process is laden with personal, subconscious bias. Many interviews are highly unstructured and ineffective.

6. 360? feedback programs

Employee feedback initiatives easily fail, unless they’re ongoing, driven from the top, and result in tangible responses by management.

7. Customer-first policies

According to Richard Branson, putting your employees first results in the best customer experience possible (which, in a way, actually puts your customers first).

What’s on your list?

The Four Stages of Team Competence

Recently a recruiter reached out to me about a three-month Scrum Master role. Was I interested? No, I love my job at Steelray. Did I know of anybody? Well, maybe, but…three months?

A Scrum Master’s core objective is to foster highly aligned, high-performing development teams, which takes time?certainly longer than a few months. Here’s why:

The Team Competency Model

I?d invite you to consider that the specific skill sets of teamwork are acquired through the ?Four Stages of Competence? ? a learning model that applies to teams just as much as individuals:

  1. Unconscious incompetence
    The team doesn?t understand team skills and doesn?t recognize the deficit.
  2. Conscious incompetence
    They don’t understand team skills, but know they need them and want to do something about it.
  3. Conscious competence
    The team is actively acquiring skills, but it takes a lot of attention and intention to apply them.
  4. Unconscious competence
    The team has had so much practice together that?being?a team has become “second nature.”

It?s been my experience that most teams are Stage Two, some are Stage Three, many (too many) are Stage One, and a rare few make it to Stage Four.

How About You?

Considering the huge benefits of great teamwork, it’s worth taking stock to and looking at your own competencies. Where are you on the model? Not just your developers, but sales, marketing and operations? Even senior management?

The litmus test is pretty simple:

  1. To what degree is everyone on the same page with the work?
  2. To what degree is everyone on the same page with how they work together?

You may find there?s room for improvement. Even if you?re at stage four, it?s worth being intentional and devoting ongoing time and energy.

Just give yourself longer than a few months. 🙂