How easy is it to format our existing Excel based data sets so it can be imported into TrueFindings®?
Formatting your existing Excel-based data sets is very easy. Most of us set up our spreadsheets such that each row in your spreadsheet represents a data point and each column identifies a variable applicable to that data point. The three minimum formatting requirements are as follows:
- The tab containing the data you wish to analyze should be named ‘Cost Objects’. You may have other tabs within the workbook. TrueFindings will import and display data from the tab named ‘Cost Objects’ only, ignoring any data in any other tabs.
- Column A must be titled “Name.” Column A will be used by TrueFindings to assign a name or identifier to each row of data that will be imported. Names for each data point are left up to the user.
- For each column after Column A, the user must identify the type of variable that is contained within that column. For example, if Column B was titled “Quantity,” it is very likely that Column B will contain numeric data. As such, the user must inform TrueFindings that the data within Column B contains numbers by adding parentheses and the variable type directly after the column name. The resulting column heading for Column B will be “Quantity (Number).” While there are multiple ways to identify the type of variable in any given column, the three most common and easiest approaches are listed below:
- (Number): used to identify numeric data
- (Text): used to identify text or string data
- (Date): used to identify dates
TrueFindings validates the dataset upon importing and will advise users if they need to correct any column headings prior to their analysis.
What if I can’t get all the technical details (inputs?) required for a TruePlanning® estimate? How do I approach the estimate?
This is a common challenge for estimators, particularly early on in a program where requirements may be undefined. TruePlanning offers a wide range of onboard help and guidance that can get the user started. There are hardware and software data points and input values available to the user, representing a wide range of applications and operating environments. From commercial ground-based software and hardware all the way to space platforms, you will find numerous data points to leverage as a starting position until further programmatic details become available.
How much work is required to create a custom mapping structure in TrueMapper®?
TrueMapper provides standard mapping templates aligned to the MIL-STD 881 work breakdown structure. To create your own custom mapping template, simply use one of the MIL-STD 881 templates as a guide. The templates are Excel-based, with only two columns of information needed. Column A contains the numbering structure. Levels of indentation are noted by a period. For example, 1.1.1 would be a subordinate folder to 1.1. Column B contains the naming structure and is completely at the discretion of the user.
What kind of interoperability exists between TrueFindings/TruePlanning/TrueMapper and typical office applications like Excel?
Because Excel is so widely used within the cost and data analysis environment, TrueFindings, TruePlanning, and TrueMapper all interface directly with Excel. In TrueFindings, the data analyzed within the application is based upon your data contained in an Excel spreadsheet. The resulting analysis and findings may be exported back to Excel for other analysis. In TruePlanning, there is an Excel interface called TPXL that provides full TruePlanning framework functionality directly from an Excel spreadsheet. This interface is dynamic and allows data and calculations to seamlessly move between TruePlanning and Excel. In TrueMapper, the mapping template is Excel based, and all resultant mapping may be exported back to Excel for further analysis.
Is it possible to create custom interfaces with other software applications?
Approximately 90%-95% of the functionality of TruePlanning is exposed through a robust Application Programming Interface (API). This provides ample opportunity for users to create custom interfaces with other software applications. For common software applications that target a wide user base, PRICE® Systems may explore creating the interface to assist multiple organizations with a consistent, reliable experience.
How intertwined are the contracting/pricing and cost estimating functions in most government organizations?
Contracting/pricing and cost estimating personnel have many of the same end goals, such as creating credible, defendable, accurate assessments of resource requirements. Typically, cost estimators determine resource requirements early on and facilitate establishing adequate budget authority for the life of the program. Contracting/pricing personnel determine the resources required to fund contract deliverables through negotiations and detailed review of all requirements. Each persona has a unique skill set, unique challenges, and unique tools to do the job. There are more similarities than differences, however. More collaboration and communication between cost estimators and contracting officers would benefit the customer and improve the credibility, defendability, and accuracy for both personas.