Original Post Date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 

Introduction

Cost estimate models are developed for many reasons: bids and proposals, should cost analysis, or measuring the state of a project already underway. Frequently many estimates are created using the same sources of data in an organization. By creating a custom integration solution based on the TruePlanning COM API repeated model creation can be automated. This can save considerable time, significantly increase the quality of the estimates by removing hand typed data errors, and speed up the time it takes to produce and gain value from cost estimate models.

By example, this blog will discuss the custom integration solution that was created for a specific PRICE customer in order to automate a process that had been a very time consuming and error prone manual process. The actual work being done will most likely not be something any other customer would need, but it does highlight the potential in creating custom solutions tailored to a custom’s specific needs.

Manual Process

The customer being highlighted produced many estimates through the year as part of their bid and proposal process. In order to maintain a high degree of quality in their estimates they were refining parameters of the estimates based on actual data being processed by their accounting system and then calibrating estimates on that actual data. There was some automation already in place to gather the actual data to be used, but once gathered, a user at the customer site had to perform multiple calibrations per project using the actual data. The process was always the same, but it was error prone due to the need to type in the actual data, and it was very time consuming.

Solution

PRICE Systems L.L.C. worked with the customer to develop an Excel based solution that uses the TruePlanning COM API to automate the creation and calibration of cost estimates based on the data already gathered at the customer.

The solution was created in Excel because the “actuals” data is provided in an Excel file so it made sense to simply create a custom TruePlanning integration solution that could feed off of the already produced Excel file.

The Excel file contained the data needed to create the projects, but in addition to creating the projects, two sets of calibrations needs to be performed as well.

 

To start the process users simply click the “Run Calibration” button in the TruePlanning ribbon.

 

This will launch the Calibration Tool dialog.

 


Most of the data seen in the above dialog is gleaned from the actuals data and pre-populated in the calibration dialog, so most of the time the user simply provides a name for the project and clicks the “Run” button.

Once started the Excel solution will examine the acutals data and then produce a TruePlanning project based on that data. After the project has been created and calculated, the first of two calibration processes is initiated.  Because this is a custom solution the customer was able to specify a more complex calibration process than what is available through the TruePlanning tool out of the box. In this case the customer wanted to calibrate multiple Cost Objects at the same time. This was possible using the TruePlanning COM API. Notice one of the above text boxes in the “Calibration One” section lists “Cost Object Type”. This allows the customer to specify which type of Cost Object they would like to target in the calibration. As the customer has a very specific process they are following, they will not change from the default, but the tool was written to be as flexible as possible in case they would like to alter the process in the future.

After the first calibration is complete, a second calibration is performed. This process is also more complex that the standard calibration process found in the TruePlanning application. In this case the customer calibrates against specific activity values at a specific point in the PBS.

Once the second calibration is complete, the TruePlanning project is saved and data from the project is harvested and placed in a summary Excel sheet that contains data from all previous runs allowing the customer to quickly compare all the projects that have been processed.

Summary

What was a long, tedious, error prone process has been made simple, fast and reliable through the development of a custom integration with TruePlanning. The customer is able to leverage the power of TruePlanning to get at the information they need to be competitive and successful.