If you are a schedule builder or you maintain a schedule as revisions become necessary, you can do this exercise. Try to keep track of the types of decisions you are making; my hunch is that you’ll probably come up with a list something like this:
- Decide how to define the activities that are to be scheduled. Consider things like how long it is, what resources are required to do it, and how critical it is.
- Determine the order in which to schedule each activity (aka, the “processing sequence”).
- Select a start time for each activity.
- Select the resources needed to schedule each activity. (Hint: there are usually several alternatives.)
- Finally, figure out how to rearrange things to resolve any conflicts.
It turns out that virtually all logical approaches to scheduling can be characterized by these five steps. It makes sense, therefore, to design scheduling tools around this, right? The FAST system by Unique Scheduling Solutions is built with this in mind. Each of the decisions is assisted by an “agent” which is just a set of logical rules that can be tailored to the user’s environment. Hence the name “Five-Agent Scheduling Technique.” Although there is automation available, the user is allowed access to each of the decisions the software makes. This allows a great synergy between manual and automated processing, keeping the logic fully under the user’s control.
If the five “Agents” are smart, i.e. the rules are good, the resulting schedule is not only feasible but also optimal or near-optimal. And you understand how it was built.
With some applications, the solution logic is obscure or complicated. If a schedule generated by one of those applications isn’t one that you wanted and you don’t understand how it was built, then you probably can’t figure out what to change in order to get the desired result. Your work effort becomes focused on tricking the application software rather than building a schedule.
What good is that, really?