Construction Scheduling. What Value do Schedule Professionals Bring to a Project Owner?

Many construction project owners have specifications for the project RFP which, at the very minimum, require a CPM schedule and a specific schedule progress update process. This tells me that they take the project schedule development and management very seriously.

But, do owners always have a schedule professional on their team? Perhaps in-house, with the CMa contractor, or at least as a third-party consultant?

More often than you would think, they do not.

Maybe it’s budget constraints, lack of staffing, or bad experiences with project scheduling in general, but some owners choose to receive a simple schedule Gantt Chart pdf from the contractor and call themselves managing the project schedule.

I can understand this, to a point. Some projects are simple enough and can be managed this way. Some owner-contractor relationships are strong enough that both parties trust the other will compensate them for delays or late completion.

What about the projects that really should have a schedule professional supporting the owner with schedule oversight? What value do they receive when they have that support in place?

First, they should benefit from bringing the scheduler in early, prior to issuing the RFP to review and refine the schedule specification. Many owners use the same specification over and over and have not updated to the current schedule program outputs or schedule best practices. A professional scheduler can help develop a schedule specification that will provide the requirements for the development of a quality schedule which can be used to manage the project.

Second, they can review baseline schedule submissions and verify the contractor is meeting the requirements of the schedule specifications and following best practices to produce a valid baseline schedule.

This may require multiple iterations of the development and review process, depending on the contractor’s ability and willingness to actually develop a quality schedule. But once this is accomplished, the entire project team benefits from a baseline schedule which can be trusted to provide a sound basis for change order management and work management.

That said, a schedule professional adds value to the update process as well. They review the progress update for errors in updating the schedule such as actual dates in the future and the coordination of percent complete, duration changes, calendar changes, resource changes, schedule revisions to correct out-of-sequence work and revise the contractor’s plan going forward. The schedule has to be validated each update to maintain the integrity of the schedule network.

The schedule professional also provides the owner’s analysis of delay impacts submitted by the contractor for change orders or delays by the owner. This is not possible without all of the supporting work listed above for baseline development and update validation.

What about when the contractor is not meeting the planned production rates and the scheduled activities are getting pushed back in the schedule each update without the scheduled finish date being affected? Seems like that would be obvious to the owner’s team, but often it is a slow creep of slippage that is hard to pin down. The schedule professional knows how to quantify the slippage and identify the work driving the slippage. This is handy when discussing miracle options with the contractor.

An owner can possibly manage a project without a schedule professional on their team. But, would they manage a project without a cost estimator for scope planning or change order management? What about an inspector for quality assurance? Would an owner manage a project without being able to monitor and validate the quality of the construction?

It’s tough to quantify what value a professional scheduler brings to the owner’s team, but there are definitely costs to not having one. A questionable baseline schedule, the inability to project work with confidence, and the inability to accurately quantify change order delays are only a few basic functions that would be lost.

I know many of you can offer additional comments and war stories, 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