Data Entry and Editing - Introduction
When a cost item is first created, it is an empty container waiting for data. Data entry and editing consists of the creation and subsequent maintenance of that data.
The data contained within each cost item includes not only cost-related data but also large amounts of supporting information.
With one or two exceptions, data is entered via a single, multi-page form known as the Cost Data Entry form.
Cost data within each cost item is specified in terms of discrete cost elements, where an element is the smallest cost subdivision that can be independently defined. Each cost item can contain up to 256 cost elements.
There are two types of cost elements: direct and defined. A direct cost is specified directly as a cost value, e.g. subcontract X will be $10,000. A defined cost is specified in non-cost units such as labor hours, e.g. 50 hours of labor. Direct and defined costs are entered separately.
If a cost allocation system has been set up, each direct and defined cost element will normally be divided into separate sub-elements, one for each allocation block. Different cost values can be entered for each sub-element. However, allocation may be switched off if it is not required. For example, if your allocation system is time-based and a particular cost item is not time-sensitive, you can switch allocation off for that item.
Mandrel provides two different ways in which you can express cost uncertainty when you enter cost data: Base+Contingency mode or High/Mid/Low mode.
Cost variances may be entered in either mode as percentages or as the actual cost values. Alternatively, you can specify a cost variance in terms of a pre-defined confidence level.
Any cost element, whether direct or defined, can be in any currency. Cost elements within the same cost item can be in different currencies.
Direct cost currencies are specified when the cost data is entered. Defined cost currencies are determined when the corresponding unit price is specified. If a currency is not specified in either case, the base currency will be used by default.
Any cost element can have one or more taxes applied to it. Different cost elements within the same cost item can have different taxes applied, provided that no more than 8 taxes are referenced in total within that cost item.
Cost items can contain general descriptive data. This includes the Cost Item Description itself, which can be up to about 1500 words of text, plus General Comments. The latter is designed as an ongoing, date-stamped series of comments which can be added to at any time. Alternatively, it can be used to contain large amounts of explanatory text, such as technical specifications. The General Comments area for each cost item can hold about 20,000 words of text.
Every cost item also contains an audit trail which records the initial cost data and any subsequent changes. Cost history comments can be attached to record the reasons for a particular change. Revision numbers and the date of the last update are also tracked.
Identification fields are user-definable fields which can be attached to individual cost items. They are best thought of as identifying labels. Up to 16 such fields are available for use. Identification fields can have drop-down lists of possible entries attached to them.
Probability and Risk Data
Any cost item can be defined to be a risk item by assigning a probability to it of less than 1.
Risks are defined not only by probability levels but also by the impacts they will have if they occur. Risks in Mandrel are automatically assumed to have a cost impact, although this may be zero in a particular case. You can also define non-cost impacts such as safety or quality or schedule. Non-cost impact are not automatically attached to a risk but must be selected by you for each risk item.
Cost Performance Data
Cost item data can include the percentage of work completed in that cost item and the cost incurred to date. This data can then be used to make predictions of cost to completion and cost at completion for the cost item, and for the project as a whole.
Each cost item can have associated with it up to 32 actions plus supporting data.
Mandrel provides a front end to Palisade Corporation’s @Risk Monte Carlo software. (N.B. Mandrel does not include @Risk software - you have to supply this yourself.) @Risk requires that special formulas be inserted into cost spreadsheets in order to analyze them, and Mandrel provides a capability to generate those formulas. Once a formula has been created for a particular cost item it is stored as part of the cost item so that successive Monte Carlo analyses can be made as the budget development process proceeds. These formulas are created via a special-purpose form, accessed via the Tools menu.