The standard was originally developed by the US Defense Contract Management Agencyas part of earned value management. It was later separated from this and is now an independent standard. It assesses the condition of a schedule in terms of its structure, standardizes the methodology for schedule analysis and identifies problem areas. It is also particularly useful for defining the quality requirements of project programs.

With this standard, every project participant along the supply chain has the opportunity to improve the quality of their own schedules. This means that a well-prepared schedule that has passed the DCMA analysis can be incorporated into an integrated project schedule.

The analysis starts with the first draft schedule and can be applied at each regular schedule update to maintain quality throughout the project phases.

Based on mathematical calculations, the 14-point assessment can be performed manually or automatically via applications or macros. Based on preset thresholds, the DCMA metrics can be adjusted to achieve the required schedule quality.

The individual points are presented in detail below.

1. logic:

This assessment ensures that all activities have links to other predecessors and successors. Activities that lack one or both of these are considered planning errors.

Missing links have a significant impact on the project completion date, lead to incorrect calculations of the schedule or cause the schedule to show an incorrect critical path.

The DCMA threshold for this metric is that no more than 5% of incomplete tasks should have no predecessor and/or successor, with the exception of start/end milestones and summary bars.

2. lead/leads:

A lead is a period between two activities in which a process starts a few days before the end date of its predecessor. This means that it can start before its predecessor has finished.

The use of leads can have a negative impact on the overall schedule and critical path as they affect resource requirements, delivery dates, etc.

One option for resolving this lead is to break down the processes in more detail so that links can be displayed without leads.

The DCMA threshold of this metric is zero.

3. delays/lags:

Lags (delays) occur when a process starts a few days after the end date of its predecessor.

They can also have a negative impact on the critical path analysis and can be confusing if the reason for their use is not explained.

Lags are sometimes mistakenly used to add contingencies to a schedule. One option to resolve the lag is to replace a delay with a separate process.

DCMA is more flexible with this metric, with a threshold of 5% for the total links.

4. relationship types:

This metric counts existing links.

The preferred link to operations is the end-to-start relationship (EA link): Once the predecessor is complete, the successor can begin. This provides a logical path through the schedule and should be used for at least 90% of link types. EA links provide clearer critical paths.

Start-to-start, start-to-end and end-to-end links should be avoided.

Links should not be used to plan processes that are not dependent on each other.

The aim of DCMA is to ensure that at least 90% of all links should be end-to-end.

5. hard constraints:

Hard constraints are constraints such as "Start no later than", "Finish no later than", "Must start on" and "Must finish on". This prevents tasks from being postponed due to their dependencies, which prevents the schedule from being controlled logically.

They influence the risk assessment and lead to dubious results. Hard constraints can also hide the critical path of the schedule and the impact of delayed operations. Constraints should be used carefully and dates should be derived from EA dependencies and activity duration.

The DCMA threshold for hard restrictions is no more than 5% of the incomplete processes in the schedule.

6. high buffer/high float:

This check looks for activities with total buffer values over 44 days. A high buffer value usually occurs due to missing dependencies and has similar consequences, such as disruptions on the critical path or effects on the project completion date.

The aim is for less than 5% of open transactions to have total buffer values of 44 days or more.

7. negative buffer/ negative float:

The negative float is determined by a hard constraint and is one of the more critical key figures, as it calls into question the validity of the schedule. With a negative float, it is likely that future key dates will not be met. The assessment examines events that delay the completion of one or more milestones.

The schedule should not include a negative buffer and all related transactions should include an explanation and corrective action plan to resolve the negative buffer.

8. Duration:

A DCMA process with a long duration has a length of more than 44 working days.

One way of successfully resolving this criterion is to break down the activity into individual processes that are short enough to be tracked and managed.

Processes that extend beyond this period make it difficult to calculate resources and assess progress.

For processes with a long duration, there should be a strategy for determining progress (outside the schedule if necessary).

The DCMA threshold for a long duration is 5% of all open activities.

9. Invalid dates:

This review takes place after the start of the project.

Forecast data from uncompleted activities in the past or actual data in the future are invalid data, whereby the project status date is used as a reference.

Activities that have not been started should be after the status date and activities that have been started or completed prematurely must be recorded with actual start/end dates. The progress of the project and the forecast must be regularly reviewed and adjusted.

The threshold value for this metric is zero.

10. resources:

Costs or resources should be assigned to all schedule processes. If the schedule is not assigned resources, problems such as over- or under-allocation cannot be identified. This applies to all tasks except summary tasks or milestones. Resources should have a clear breakdown by resource type.

If the schedule is resource overloaded, there should be a clear resource management strategy where resource requirements and availability can be analyzed to manage efficiency.

The standard for resource allocation is 100%

11. missed tasks/ Missed tasks:

The evaluation of missed tasks provides information about the performance of the schedule compared to the baseline schedule. It only takes into account the tasks whose planned end date is on or before the status date and extracts a percentage of the tasks that were completed later than their planned end date.

The DCMA threshold for missed tasks is 5% of the planned tasks.

12. Critical Path Test/ Critical Path Test:

The critical path test evaluates the integrity of the schedule logic by identifying the critical path and extending the first activity on the path. This is a manually calculated test. To pass, the deviation of the final milestone must be equal to the added duration.

13. Critical Path Length Index:

The Critical Path Length Index (CPLI) measures how realistic the planned end date is in relation to the base schedule end date.

This is the duration from the status date to the base schedule end date plus/minus the smallest total buffer in the critical path, divided by the same duration without the total buffer.

CPLI = (CPL +/- Total Float) / CPL

A CPLI of 1 means that the project will meet the deadline. A CPLI above 1 means that there is still room for maneuver, and a CPLI below 1 means that the team must exceed its targets in order to meet the planned deadline.

DCMA sets a CPLI target value of over 0.95.

14 Baseline Execution Index:

The Baseline Execution Index (BEI) measures the number of tasks completed on or before their baseline completion and also indicates the number of tasks without a baseline.

The BEI divides the total number of completed tasks by the sum of the tasks without a base date and the tasks with a base end date on or before the current reporting period (status date).

A BEI of 1.00 indicates that the project team is adhering to the plan.