Construction Scheduling. Schedule Updates, Revisions and Recovery.

In my previous posts, I described some basic schedule quality validation suggestions.

This post will cover progress updates, schedule revisions and basics for recovery schedules.

When the contractor updates the schedule each reporting period, they record the actual dates for the start and finish of activities. We all know that. What about the progress for activities underway? Are they using duration percent complete to report progress? Or are they using physical percent complete? Or schedule percent complete? Or another method? There are several choices….

The project specifications often include requirements for the type of percent complete. When they do not, the easy way is to use duration percent complete, which is typically the default setting anyway. This is fine if you’re only concerned with duration.

What about work in place percent complete or cost percent complete? I personally like to track all three. On resource driven projects, I prefer to track the resource usage against the duration percent complete and work in place progress. But that is another post….

You should verify the percent complete type used in the schedule you are using. This can be done by simply showing the percent complete type column in the Gantt Chart layout.

This is important because it defines how you will compare progress performance and identify trends and foresee problems. This is also a topic for a future post.

Require the contractor to provide validation of the percent complete type setting used and ensure it meets your project schedule specifications.

That said, the update process is just that, the entry of actual dates, adjustment of remaining durations or schedule finish dates to model the plan going forward and the assignment of progress for work in place and cost of work in place.

There is a process called a bifurcated or two step progress update. This is a valuable method which is not used as much as it should be.

When the contractor updates the actual progress, the schedule shows the actual performance and completion date with total float value based on only the period performance. This is step one. I personally keep this update for record. The next step in the update process is the minor schedule revision to correct the out-of-sequence work. This could also be done during the update process, but I prefer to do this after…. This provides the “as-built” history of the project’s progress to-date and allows any revisions to model the plan going forward to be made based on valid data.

If/when the contractor needs to change the sequence of work or reduce durations to allow the remaining plan to achieve the desired finish date, a record of these changes with the reason for the revision(s) of should be provided to the owner or their agent so all parties understand and agree with what was changed and why. Simple transparency and relationship preservation.

This is the end product, (less the list of revisions with explanation) typically submitted by the contractor as the updated progress schedule.

I prefer the two step or bifurcated process and when possible I like to get the update only schedule and then get the revised schedule. It’s possible to “back into” this process but that is not the same as working as a team to manage the schedule process…. Having both pieces of the update allows the owner, and the contractor to easily see schedule slippages and then see the measures taken to recover time. Many schedule specifications require the contractor to propose the corrective revisions for approval, but that rarely happens. The owner wants the update asap and the contractor wants the invoice processed asap…. However, it is a good practice for the project team to review the update and revisions together. Owners understand the contractor will encounter problems and schedule slippage and just needs to confirm that the contractor is taking care of business…… The tricky part is the owner not taking over the schedule by directing revisions or denying revisions unless there is a justifiable reason to do so…. Again transparency and communications are key.

From time to time, the contractor may change the plan for completing the remaining project work and a true recovery schedule is called for. This could be driven by changes in their supply line, material delivery delays, changes to the contract….. This is a big step and the process for reviewing this revised schedule is the same as that used to review the baseline schedule. After all, this will become the new baseline schedule!

I will only touch on recovery schedules in this post. Recovery schedule are typically described and required in the project schedule specifications and are required by the owner when the schedule performance trips a metric for poor schedule performance.

The development of a real recovery schedule is a specialty unto itself and the contractor has many cost/benefit decisions to weigh before they can start to make any presentations to the owner. This is a subject for a future post…..

As you can see, there is a lot to a project schedule update. And as always, the schedule settings, logic, constraints all need to be verified as part of the schedule update review. It is important to maintain a high schedule quality level throughout the project cycle.

I know many of you already know this information and can offer additional guidance and support, for all of us. I welcome your comments and input. My goal, as always, is to help our industry and help the projects we support….

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP