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DD# 70: The “Swing”

I recently read The Boys in the Boat, a birthday gift from daughter #1, and a recent #1 NY Times Bestseller by David James Brown. If you're not familiar, it's about the University of Washington spoiling a gold medal sweep in the 1936 Olympics by Hitler's Germany. The Huskies' eight-man crew team won the gold in a three-boat photo finish, that was too close to call for many minutes. The book is set in 1920's and -30's America, reeling from not only the Great Depression, but the Dust Bowl just a few years later. That was unquestionably the most challenging, hardscrabble period that our country has ever endured. It follows a particular athlete who grew up largely alone, abandoned by his father, stepmother, and younger siblings, to fend for himself from age thirteen. What makes the book more intriguing and applicable to our construction business blog here, are the numerous back-stories involving a shared philosophy, work ethic, common goal, teamwork, and commitment to all of those. Not the smallest of those attributes is the inherent trust in one another, the belief and knowledge that you're not rowing the boat alone. Only with selfless teamwork and utter faith in each other, [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

DD# 69: Japan, Lean, Six Sigma

I spent the second week of July in Japan, providing US Cost Success Estimator training to NAVFAC engineers at the Yokosuka Naval Base.  Located on the south end of Tokyo Bay, the base is the headquarters for the US Pacific Fleet in Asia.  I had the good fortune  to work with Derek and Mark, talented civilian American expatriates currently assigned to the Navy's IT and Management operations in Yokosuka, (pronounced “Yo-kus-ka”).  Derek is the equivalent of CTO for the base, and Mark works with Derek on business / project management operations.  Over lunch one day, Mark explained his Six Sigma background and approach to projects, and the Navy's efforts to adapt industry best practices to its project management and business operations. "The problem", Mark said, "is that while we are often handed a good software system to implement, its selection based on a set of assumptions that are incorrect from the start, even irrelevant to the problem at hand. So we burn up a bunch of time and money, and never get close to fixing the problem that we set out to solve to begin with. Then, after months of effort and often hundreds of thousands of dollars, it's evident that adopting the software didn't fix the problem, and the project is canned. "The primary [...]

Digital Dryshack # 68: Scheduling Best Practices

15 Tips for Best-Practices Scheduling While discussing scheduling with a client in Hawaii recently, I found myself repeating over and over, a variation of “…scheduling best practices include…” Hearing these words repeatedly set me to thinking that I hadn’t recently seen scheduling guidelines set out in a concise, straightforward document. So here goes an attempt at that lofty goal. Rule # 1: Always maintain the best interests of the project in the schedule Rule # 2: Always maintain high ethical standards in building the project schedule That said, to paraphrase an old saying, “the hand builds the schedule, rules the project.” (You are in control over how you represent shades of gray. Represent your company’s best interests, as long as you comply with #1 & #2 above) Complete the logical network Don’t leave any open-ended activities. Every activity but the first has a predecessor, every activity but the last has a successor. Use the entire contract duration in the initial project schedule (IPS). Promising early completion carries significant legal implications, and is therefore often unwise. Be realistic with the logical network. Avoid “waterfall scheduling” (excessive Finish Start relationships where Start to Start is more accurate). Keep relationships simple. In most cases, [...]

Digital Dryshack #67: Tablets don’t take over the business world…yet

If you've been following the Digital Dryshack, you'll know we've been predicting that laptops are on the way out, with tablets taking over the portable business computing role. My favorites are the convertible models that include a detachable keyboard, offering both true tablet two-dimensional computing, with full-on laptop operability for more serious work sessions. With Rob and I due for new hardware, we started researching the specs of the different tablet models. The minimum  specs that I set for my main machine include 8gb RAM (16 preferred), modern 4-core processor, Windows 8.1 touchscreen, high-res display with dual video outputs, all in a 3 pound package. Rob's programming requires more processing power and 16 GB RAM, along with a more-forgiving 5 pound limit.  Asus, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and Samsung all have promising new convertible tablets. But with a top-end limit of only 4gb RAM and single video card output, we came to the disappointing conclusion that tablets are still not ready for prime time as a serious business-class machine. Despite my prediction that laptops would be boat anchors by sometime 2015, we each bought laptops. My new Lenovo Carbon x1 hits all my goals in 3.0 lbs, fires both my external 27" ultra-high res [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #66, “Accumulator” items for Estimating Cost Analysis

Cassell Consulting is pleased to be working with Dominick Rose on several projects.  We first met at Timberline Estimating Conferences back in the '80s, in  his various roles as a senior estimating consultant, trainer, and database administrator. As Database Administrator most recently at CDM, Dominick, Alan Watt (DPR Construction), & I started the Northwest Estimators Roundtable, an informal group with the goal of sharing ideas as to the evolution of our unique discipline, construction estimating. One of our current projects with Dominick involves building a custom ProEst estimating database for an industrial contractor in the mid-west. A key component of our estimating database is the use of "accumulators", (items that sum overall quantities for estimate analysis). For instance, we use accumulators for the primary Level 2 sections of Div 03 Concrete, as follows: Sec 03-10-00 Formwork: we build an item "Form Oil & Accessories" Sec 03-20-00 Reinforcement- we build an item "Rebar Unload, Sort, & Accessories" Sec 03-30-00 Cast in Place Concrete: we build an item "Concrete Tools & Equipment" Each of these items automatically sums all work under its numerous subsections during  assembly takeoff. That quantity is then easily visible, for evaluating total man hours and dollars. It allows [...]

Digital Dryshack #65: Timberline Estimating to ProEst Conversion Tool

Cassell Consulting has been working with ProEst Estimating for just on a year now. Recently we've been building a custom software tool, that allows existing Sage customers to convert their existing Timberline Estimating database to a ProEst database. The current release (v1.0) has been created and we have successfully converted our first database for MAPP Construction in LA. We have several other databases to convert and will be making more improvements and as we complete each one.   Version Features: (Sage 9.8.x Pervasive -> ProEst 2013 releases) - Converts Group Phases & Phases -> Divisions & Sub-Divisions - Converts Items -> Items including unit conversions, costs, cost types, & crew assignments - Converts  Assemblies -> Assemblies - Converts Formulas -> Formulas in Assemblies - Converts Crews, Resources, Rate Tables -> Creates Crews, Costs, Cost Modifiers If you've been looking for a more modern estimating platform that includes digital takeoff, a complete database library, and bid day management all in a fully integrated system, ProEst is the only choice in the marketplace. And with our Database Conversion Tool, you can now use your company's Timberline database in ProEst. Please contact Cassell Consulting or ProEst for more details.

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #64: The New Year: A look back, the present, and changes ahead

The Christmas holiday and the New Year provide us a break from our routine and time to take the opportunity assess what we've been doing. All too soon,  business demands control our hours and days, and we find ourselves trying to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of our industry's squirrel cage . With that in mind, I took a look back to see that I've been writing this blog post for over five years now, the first one back in October of 2008. Times have changed. We used to be almost exclusively a Timberline shop, with Primavera SureTrak our other offering. Our company was  a one man shop, as I did all the consulting, while traveling incessantly across the country. Now we've got Rob Mazoros, our full-time senior consultant and software engineer, adding a whole new dimension to our services. Dominick Rose has joined us as a senior consultant and database wizard after many years of database administration at Camp, Dresser, McKee, and at Black & Veatch before that. Kait Cassell has joined us to run our marketing, and in an associate consultant role. We're in our second year on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, with four offices to serve you. Our [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #63: Agile Project Mangement

I had the opportunity while on vacation in Southern Utah recently, to talk with a veteran project manager in the high-tech field. My friend has managed projects for two of the most recognizable names in tech for more than ten years. From my construction experience, I (thought) I saw an opportunity to pitch our time-tested critical path method analysis method for high tech projects, and to demonstrate its value to a young, smart person with responsibilities similar to a construction PM's. Instead of coming off as the knowledgeable old guy, I received an interesting lesson in Agile Project Management instead. "We haven't ever found conventional CPM scheduling methods applicable to what we do", she told me. "There are too many unknowns in our programming projects. We often end up with a completely different end result than we started with, as a result of the customer really not being able to articulate what they really want or need at the beginning of the project. They often find out they don't need all the stuff they asked us for when the project started. Or, once we deliver what they've asked for, it's likely to open up a whole new idea, that they want [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #62- Viewpoint User Conference 2013 Recap

Just in case you missed it, Viewpoint Construction Software recently held its annual User's Conference 9/24-9/26/2013 in Portland, Oregon. From the inspiring Keynote speech by global circumnavigator Neal Peterson to the final session on Thursday afternoon,  all three days were well worth the time invested. Sessions ran a broad variety of topics. Learning to maximize workflow proficiency using Viewpoint's latest development efforts, seeing planned future enhancements still in the pipeline, and watching users display their creative and powerful skills with V6 are to name just a few. One thing Jay Haladay, Viewpoint's CEO,  pointed out in his opening address that caught my attention is the recent trend toward "micro-apps." New, nimble, single-purpose apps are proliferating online, interacting with more complex legacy software. Additionally, these micro-apps can be developed using new tools that can compile the code to iOS, Android, and Windows, all with a single programming effort. The days of the behemoth, monolithic, do-it-all mega-apps are numbered. I think the next few years will see the "de-construction" of these legacy apps into more discreet subroutines, each with a choice of designated micro-apps that can efficiently perform its function over the Internet using laptops, tablets, and smart phones. In the four years [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|

Digital Dryshack #61 Resistance to Change in Company Culture…

Resistance to change is a given in our highly conservative industry. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is often akin to “we’ve always done it that way”, (even though it IS broke).  So the pain of change often kills a worthwhile positive initiative, making successfully implementing new processes very difficult. We spoke with the VP and the CTO of a very successful and highly-reputable $500mm GC firm recently, about adopting new, improved processes at their well-established company. Both these senior-level managers voiced frustration concerning their company's inability to overcome forty years of bad habits. (In this case trying to improve the distribution of timely job information, and the sharing that data across all departments). Old habits run deep, and in a larger company, convincing many senior managers to get on board and all row in the same direction is often difficult. A well-crafted, collaborative plan begins with a thorough review of the company's current means and methods, and includes the input of Ops, Accounting, and IT. Weaknesses are identified, and new technology tools are often chosen to help strengthen those areas. Company leaders shoulder the responsibility to make the financial decisions, with the consulting team typically in charge of implementation, configuration, and [...]

2017-01-14T08:23:28+00:00 By |Consulting, Digital Dry Shack Blog|