CPM Consultants. How does the CPM Schedule Progress Update Process Work for the Project Owner? What should the Owner be Concerned with?

CP PertYou have an approved baseline project schedule, and now you are ready to receive the first periodic schedule progress update from your contractor. That is great, progress is good. You are sharing a valid tool with your contractor to proactively managing the project. But, you still need to monitor the actual work progress and ensure the contractor is realistically updating the progress and taking corrective action as necessary to maintain the project’s scheduled plan to execute the project. How do CPM consultants approach this task?

Best practice, for most projects, is for the contractor to update the project schedule progress weekly. This allows the early identification of schedule slippage. Most contracts require monthly schedule updating and reporting to the owner or Construction Manager Agent, CMa. You contractor should really do both. Complete weekly progress updates for their own use and provide monthly or periodic reporting to you as required.

What progress information do CPM consultants need to be provided for the verification of the CPM schedule update process?

Before you actually begin the update process, the frequency of reporting and report requirements needs to be established and planned for in the CPM schedule development process. There are activity coding and resource loading, (which was hopefully specified in the contract documents) that help CPM consultants review the schedule submission.

CPM consultants review several key pieces of information for each activity, in order to determine if the schedule progress update is acceptable. All of this information must be verified using the schedule progress update’s schedule file and the submission narrative and other supporting documentation. A few of the items CPM consultants look at are:

  1. CPM consultants verify the data date, (as-of date) for the update has been set correctly. (If the correct data date is not selected, the schedule calculations will not produce the correct remaining start and finish dates for the scheduled work).
  2. They review the actual durations against the original durations for activities completed this period and look for actual durations much larger than the original duration. (This shows which activities did not progress as planned. Of course, activities with actual durations much smaller than the original duration made much better progress than scheduled. Sometimes it balances out)!
  3. CPM Consultants look for changes to the schedule “logic” which are usually necessary to correct relationships for activities which progressed out-of-sequence (OOS) from the original schedule. (More on “logic” in a future post…). This is acceptable and desirable. What the CPM consultant is looking for is changes to the logic which have been made by the contractor to “accelerate” the schedule to recover time due to lack of adequate progress. (Hopefully, your schedule specifications require the contractor to include a narrative listing these changes with the submission of the schedule update). There are several ways the contractor can accomplish this.
    • First, and most common, is shortening the remaining duration of activities on the longest path. This is an iterative process as each time an activity duration is reduced, it is probable that the longest path will shift. (More on the longest “critical” path in a future post).
    • Second is changing finish-to-start, FS relationships to start-to-start, SS relationships, with or without “lags”. (More on “lags” in a future post). This allows activities to run concurrent and is acceptable if this is how the contractor now plans to execute the work. That’s one reason this type of change should be listed in the schedule update narrative. You, as the owner need to understand and accept this revised plan.
    • Third, the activity calendar can be changed to a different calendar allowing the schedule calculations to allow the work to include what were non-workdays as workdays which reduce the calendar day duration without showing a change in the duration value.
    • Finally, the contractor can run the schedule calculation for the update using “progress override” instead of “retained logic”. (Hopefully, you require the use of “retained logic” in your schedule specifications, and more on “progress override” and “retained logic” in future posts). “Progress override” has acceptable uses in schedule analysis, but updating the schedule for submission as the periodic schedule progress update is not the best use unless the owner understands and accepts the practice.
  4. CPM consultants look at the schedule settings for percent complete to determine if the cost percent complete is a calculation of duration percent complete or physical percent complete. (Hopefully, your schedule specifications require the use of physical percent complete. This way the contractor can establish the scheduled finish date for in-progress activities and enter the physical percent complete. This allows the duration percent complete to show the percentage of work in place and the duration percent complete shows the time used for the activity. This is an indicator of productivity rates).
  5. Depending on the requirement for “resource and cost loading”, CPM consultants look at the percent complete for cost and verify it is in agreement with the agreed upon percent for the activity. (I prefer to use physical percent complete).
  6. Finally, CPM consultants verify that activities have not been deleted, revised or added and that any changes are listed in the schedule update narrative.

All the above schedule and calculation settings should have been included in your schedule specifications and verified in the acceptance review for the project baseline schedule. But they have to be verified again, each periodic progress update. It’s not uncommon for a contractor to update a schedule and forget to set the current data date, or forget to list relationship changes.

Once this analysis is completed, CPM consultants provide owners with  written summaries of review findings and narratives recommending revisions, if required, and a recommendation for acceptance or not.

As you can see, there is much more that CPM consultants look at, to protect your interest, than a printed Gantt Chart of the schedule update. Unless the schedule is analyzed for the schedule and calculation settings listed above, you have no idea what your project schedule is telling you and if it is valid as a tool for managing the remaining execution of work.

Again, this post is part of a series of basic schedule development and management education pieces intended for use by contractors, CMa’s and owners who do not have a planning and scheduling professional in-house or detailed knowledge of schedule management. This is what CPM consultants provide. Talk to a planning and scheduling professional. Find out what they can do to help your project management and ultimately your bottom line.

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about basic schedule concepts.

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Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP