Construction Scheduling. Schedule Revisions and the Reality Check.

When we finish updating Actual Progress for the Schedule Update, (See previous post), how do we revise the schedule to maintain the contract completion date or whatever period of performance is required?

How do we get the Project Schedule back on-track?

More often than not, the Schedule Update models actual performance which does not support an on-time project completion. Work slips, production isn’t what was planned, deliveries are late…..

The Project Team usually has to make Schedule Revisions to “recover” the lost time. This is sometimes called “crashing” the schedule.

This is an exercise based in future failure.

When most schedules are developed, they are already overly optimistic because the Project Team had to “crash” the schedule to even create the Project Baseline Schedule. Once the work starts and progress slips, the work starts to stack. Even if the Critical path work is completed sufficiently to maintain the Critical Path, all the other work activities have to maintain or beat their dates. If not, that work pushes out and soon stacks up to double the resources necessary to complete the work later. If we couldn’t complete the work as-planned, why will we be able to complete it later, when we have fewer resources to work with? What is going to change?

Back to the Schedule Revision process. The process is basically looking at the current Critical Path and deciding which activity duration can be shortened cost-effectively or which logic for sequential activities can be changed to have them run concurrently, with a slight bit of lag time. Then the schedule is calculated again and this process is repeated until the schedule is “on-track”.

Unfortunately, this is also when contractors are pressured into completing work in less time than they may have budgeted or have the resources to support. But, this is often exactly what happens.

Now we have a schedule for the remaining project work which is most certainly impossible to execute. Sure, the owner will issue change orders which may provide some concurrent delay the contractor can attach their lack of progress to. But most likely, there will not be enough changes to cover all the time lost.

It is my opinion that the best thing the Project Team can do, is establish the most realistic expected Finish Date for incomplete work. This also applies to establishing the most realistic delay (lag) in concurrent work planned to recover time. If these revisions are not realistic, the contractor can’t support the shortened duration or additional resources necessary, then we are just kicking the proverbial can down the road.

We should, as Schedule Professionals, provide the “reality” of the project performance and the realistic plan to execute the remaining project work and let the Project Stakeholders know sooner than later that the project cannot, under the current cost or resource constraints maintain the contract completion date or period of performance.

I’m sure many of you have comments or additional insight into this subject. Please share!

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. Do you Really Need a Scheduler to Develop and Manage the Schedule?

Does an experienced contractor really need a professional scheduler to create the baseline schedule and manage the update and revision process? Not necessarily, many projects can be scheduled using a worksheet or a simple program to model the activities and bars against a timeline.

But, does that typically provide the best schedule for managing the project? Can the contractor benefit from having a schedule professional on their team? Or at least as a third-party consultant?

Budget constraints, lack of staffing, or bad experiences with project scheduling can be some of the reasons a contractor will not have a scheduler on the project team. And, make no mistake, there is cost to this

I can understand why a contractor may be reluctant to use a professional scheduler, 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 contractor with schedule development techniques, best practices and an understanding of what the schedule specifications actually require? What value do they receive when they have that support in place?

First, they should benefit from having the scheduler review the RFP specifications, prior to submitting the proposal, to review and quantify what the schedule specifications require and assist with the budget for schedule development and management. Many contractors see the specification requirement for a “CPM” schedule and assume it means a “P6” schedule or a fully resource and cost loaded schedule. A professional scheduler can interpret the schedule specification and explain the requirements for the development of the baseline schedule and schedule updates. There is much more to it than most people think there is.

Almost all contractors pride themselves on knowing how they can and will build the project, better than their competitors and for less cost than they budget for. I do not doubt this. I’ve met some great Project Managers and Superintendents and they know how to do amazing things when it comes to coordinating work and managing subcontractors.

But, they are great in their area of expertise. They are not necessarily project controls experts or professional schedulers or cost estimators. Those are specific “trades”, just like being a Carpenter or an Electrician. Most of us in the construction industry can do a little of several “trades”, but we cannot be a specialist in many trades. A few can, but I’m not one of them.

That said, a schedule professional can work with the contractor to put their plan in the program, correctly utilizing the program settings and schedule best practices, to model the plan for use by the entire project team. If done correctly, with input from all the trades and the owner, the schedule becomes a map to the completion of the project.

The schedule professional provides this map with the quality and integrity to be accepted by the owner and used to manage the subcontractors, submittals, procurement, deliveries, mobilization, and the coordination of work. The schedule also provides the Project Manager the ability to manage change order impacts to the schedule and measure performance of the various project team players.

Often, owners require the schedule to be updated and maintained as part of the invoice process. The professional scheduler supports this process by applying the actual progress to the schedule and helping the project team with identifying production slippage and schedule impacts as well as modeling revisions as necessary to revise the plan going forward.

A contractor can possibly manage a project without a schedule professional on their team. But, would they manage a project without field superintendence or materials coordination, or subcontractors for specialized work?

It’s tough to quantify what value a professional scheduler brings to the contractor’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!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. Do You Manage Your Project with the Project Schedule?

QuestionWhy would you not use the schedule to manage the project?

If you put the effort into developing a detailed CPM schedule with input from the project team members, isn’t the schedule the best road map you have?

One of the great opportunities development of the baseline schedule offers is the project team’s review and input into the analysis of the scope of work for the project.

Depending on how your company estimates and proposes on projects, the people charged with executing the project after the award of the project to your company may have had limited to no involvement or exposure to the project requirements and the basic plan to execute the project based on the proposal.

The schedule development process encourages the project team to review the requirements, understand the sequencing of the work and sometimes even uncover an opportunity to improve on the initial proposed plan.

Assuming the project team has developed a great detailed baseline CPM schedule. I can’t imagine why anyone would not use the schedule to plan and manage work. Management likes to use the schedule to track and measure performance, but I consider the project schedule to be the project team’s best tool for executing the project.

Unfortunately, I run into projects that only produced the baseline schedule because it was required. The progress updates were used for invoice backup only and no effort was put into accurately updating and correcting out-of-sequence work and revising the plan to complete the remaining work in the project. Sadly, these projects do not have a valid schedule to base change order and delay impacts on. They also do not have an accurate idea of if or when the project will complete, much less what is required to get there.

There are many reasons to develop and use a detailed CPM schedule to manage the project. I can’t think of a good reason not to.

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. Reviewing a Time Impact Analyses, TIA or Change Order Fragnet. Or, “Is this for real??”

SurpriseI am sometimes bewildered by the reaction some owners have when they review the Time Impact Analyses, (TIA) or change order time extension request they receive from the contractor.

What I see, sometimes, is the owner being completely surprised that the contractor believes there was any time impact by the change order or delay. We all know that many change orders do not affect the project schedule critical (longest) path. But when they do, it gets interesting….

Let’s say the owner has delayed some part of the project in some way, but only for 3 days. When the contractor submits their TIA or change order time extension request for 5 days, the immediate reaction is usually not so good.

I find this happens more often than not because the owner does not understand how work days and calendar days work and their effect on the contract finish date.

If the 3 days happen to be 3 work days delay to the start of work on a 5 day work week calendar, it is most likely going to push the work out to include a weekend “non-work” period, perhaps even a holiday. If this happens, it will most likely push the scheduled finish date out 5 calendar days. (Most contracts have the liquidated damages based on calendar days.) In this particular case, the impact to the schedule is 5 calendar days, not 3 days.

This is can also the case when weather-sensitive work is pushed into time periods with more expected and accounted for weather days. As it should be.

How can we, as professional planning and schedule consultants help owners better understand the TIA’s and change order time extension fragnets they receive?

There are best practices and white papers devoted to the development of “fragnets”. As professional planning and schedule consultants, we should follow these best practices. But, we also need to review TIA and time extension requests to verify the “fragnet” correctly models the impact and is inserted into the most recent updated or revised schedule with reasonable logic.

Then we need to explain that to the owner to refute or validate the request. I find that once the owner understands what is driving the time from “behind the scene” in the schedule network, they tend to be more comfortable with the request. Then the negotiations can start!

None of this is possible, of course, unless there has been a disciplined process of managing the schedule development and update/revision process to maintain a valid schedule for use in validating the requests.

What other methods have you found to help with this issue?

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. How do we, as Schedule Consultants, “Value” our Services?

QuestionDo you provide proposals to contractors or owners for your schedule development and management services? Do you provide a lump sum hard bid based on the project? Or, do you provide an hourly rate for your services? Which is best? Are there circumstances that make one the better choice?

I still struggle with this issue.

At some point, all of us are asked to propose on a project.

So, what do you do? What do you use as your guide for setting a lump sum price proposal?  Do you estimate your hours based on past, similar projects? How do you account for relying on a new project team for input and reviews?

Do you provide an hourly billable rate? How does your client budget for you services? Do you provide a budget estimate of hours and your rate for their use?

I typically provide a budget estimate based on my estimated hours and billable rate. But even then, coming up with the hours for a new client and team, and hoping for proactive input for development and updates/revisions is very subjective. But I do my best to provide a budget estimate they can have confidence in.

There must be a better way to go about pricing our work based on the value we bring to the project.

What works for you? Have you figured out a “safer” way to price the project scheduling services you will provide?

I believe that we, as planning and scheduling professional consultants, should strive to provide the best possible schedule support to assist the project team with providing a successful project.

The question is: As consultants, how do we “value” this?

We must always maintain our integrity and be honest with our client.

What has your experience been?

Real scheduling is messy. But we all deal with issues all the time…..

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. Why are there no schedule requirements in the RFP?

person-question-300x300Are you ever asked to develop the project baseline schedule and find out there are not any requirements for the schedule in the contract documents. It could happen…..

Or the requirements are “fuzzy” at best or so limited as to be of little value.

At some point, all of us have come across this scenario, or soon will.

So, what do you do? What do you use as your guide for setting the critical path, activity and duration types, and resource and cost loading? Does your company have guidelines for this situation? Do you have a preferred method you fall back on in these situations?

I have a couple of guidelines based on useful schedule specifications I’ve worked with in the past. But I have to find out what the project team wants from the schedule before I can decide which requirements to employ.

Does your client want to project and track progress using resources? Does the owner? Does your client want to use cost loading? If so, by unit cost or lump sum? What does your client expect or understand about setting the critical path? Will the project be resource driven? Or will durations and logic rule with resources handled via logic? What about constraints? Calendars and weather days?

There are many more variables we work with every day. Without schedule requirements for the project, we are left deciding which settings and approaches are best for the specific project. With experience, we can become comfortable with this situation. But what if the project is a new industry or contract type for you?

How do you approach these situations in your company?

I believe that we, as planning and scheduling professional consultants, should strive to provide the best possible schedule support to assist the project team with providing a successful project.

The question is: As consultants, how do we accomplish this?

We must always maintain our integrity and be honest with our client.

What has your experience been?

Do you just default to the simplest methods and settings?

Do you advise your client to convene a team meeting with the owner to see if they can agree on some basic requirements?

Do you just pull one of you favored specifications out of the drawer and run with that?

Real scheduling is messy. But we all deal with issues all the time…..

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. How do we, as Schedule Consultants, Best Serve the Client?

schedule1As I start working with new clients, I seek to understand how I can best help them?

What do they expect to gain from me? I know they want a project schedule developed and approved for use on the project. That’s only part of it…….

A large part of what we do, as a planning and scheduling professional consultant, is add to our clients’ knowledge base. We teach the importance of using schedule best practices, ways to better manage and use the schedule, and how to better understand what the schedule update is telling us.

I enjoy all of it.

I believe that we, as planning and scheduling professional consultants, should also improve the clients’ understanding of scheduling in general. We should improve the clients’ ability to deliver the project. We should help the client understand better how the project schedule integrates with their cost and resource management.

What has your experience been?

Do most of your clients already integrate their project schedules with their resource and cost control practice? Do they only need your expertise with the software and schedule techniques?

Or, do you sometimes find your efforts resisted due to your clients’ lack of schedule knowledge or project management maturity? If so, how? And how do you deal with that?

Do you often feel pressured to develop the schedule based completely on best case scenarios? If so, how do you deal with that?

What client management techniques have you developed to better manage and help your clients with their schedule development and management?

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Construction Scheduling. Time Extensions and Delays. How do we best work through these with less mature Project Teams?

Delay outputsAll projects run into change orders with time extensions and just plain old delay claims.

But, how do we manage these on smaller projects with teams that are not well versed in CPM schedule methodology and analysis?

Typically, these projects manage change order time extensions or delays by marking off days on a calendar or looking at daily reports for days worked and deciding that if the contractor worked, he must not have been delayed…..

Part of what we do, as a planning and scheduling professional consultant, is to help the contractor support their case for a time extension for additional work, if it drives the longest path. We also help the owner defend against frivolous time extension requests or delay claims.

If the change order or the delay impacted the longest path, we need to quantify the impact to the completion date. But, even if the impact does not push the completion date, there is still an impact to the sequencing of work, delivery of materials, efficiency of work resources, and the consuming of total float from the near critical paths.

I believe that we, as planning and scheduling professional consultants, should strive to improve the clients’ understanding of change order insertion into the schedule and the analysis of the impact. We should improve the clients’ ability substantiate their impact or defend against the unsubstantiated claims. Sometimes this means telling our clients that there is no impact to the longest path. Sometimes it means helping our clients model the disruption to their work or the increased cost of resequencing their work. Sometimes it means telling the owner that the contractor is entitled to the time extension request.

We must always maintain our integrity and be honest with our client.

But sometimes, our clients demand we support their position, regardless of our analysis and advice against pursuing time for the change order or delay.

What has your experience been?

Do most of your clients understand how the inserted “fragnet” may or may not impact the completion date? Do they understand how the near critical paths can be impacted to become the longest path and even push the completion date?

Or, do you sometimes find your efforts resisted due to your clients’ lack of schedule knowledge or project management maturity? If so, how? And how do you deal with that?

Do you often feel pressured to support your client’s preconceived belief, rather than what the analysis shows? If so, how do you deal with that?

What client management techniques have you developed to better manage and help your clients with their schedule impacts and change order management?

I’d love to hear what you think!

Please visit https://conschmanservices.com to learn more about Construction and Schedule Management Services, LLC

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Schedule Management. How should a Non-Schedule Savvy PM or Superintendent Develop and Manage a “Recovery Schedule”?

Struct SteelYou have a baseline schedule, with a few periodic updates completed, and now you need to make a revision to the schedule to dramatically re-sequence work, add/delete work to/from the project, or provide a required “Recovery Schedule”. What do you do?

This is one of the more difficult schedule management tasks. In some ways, it is almost more difficult than creating the baseline schedule.

Depending on the amount of time you need to “recover”, you will need to find the root causation for the schedule slippage and get that under control.  This could mean anything from having the party responsible for the slippage work additional hours to maintain the daily scheduled productivity, adding resources to increase the daily scheduled productivity, or resequencing of work to mitigate the lack of daily scheduled productivity or model concurrent work.

Next you will need to develop the most cost-effective means of accelerating work on the current longest path. This is tricky. Your schedule may have a near critical path which is very close to the scheduled longest path. As you shave days off the longest path, it will shift to the near critical path making that path the longest path. You will need to keep working at accelerating activities on the longest path, as it shifts until you reach the point of “recovery”.

That’s the easy part.

Now you have to obtain support for this plan from the project team. Subcontractors have to agree to provide what is needed to achieve this revised plan. Deliveries must be verified. Resource availability must be verified. There is probably additional cost involved. This must be managed a well.

In summary, any “recovery plan” will most likely involve concurrent work and/or acceleration of work. In any case, submitting a “recovery schedule” without the support of the project team for execution of the revised plan is a disservice to the owner, the project team and the project. You must be able to gain the commitment of the project team.

Schedule management includes many tasks and processes. Developing the “recovery schedule” is one of the more difficult tasks. The Project Manager should always be intimately involved with the planning of the revised work plan and “buy-in” from the project team is necessary for the successful execution of the “recovery plan”.

You may be able to manage the development of the recovery schedule without any problems.

However, when in doubt, seek out the advice of a professional planner and scheduler.

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

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP

Schedule Consultants. What should a Project Owner Consider when Deciding which Planning and Schedule Consultant to Choose?

How does a project owner, working in an organization without an in-house planning and schedule professional, know what to look for in a planning and schedule consultant? You are going to trust this person to monitor and report on the contractor’s schedule development and updates and revisions for your project. How do you know which schedule consultant from the multitude of schedule consultants to choose?

Cost should definitely not be the deciding factor.

Cost is not indicative of the quality of service you will receive.

Should you go to a large multi-disciplined construction management (CM) firm or an independent expert (schedule consultants) in the field of scheduling?

If you have other work you need assistance with and the CM firm has the expertise to provide it, then it makes sense to use the CM firm, if you don’t mind the markup on the services. If all you need is assistance with the project’s schedule management, then it may be a better idea to go with the consultant.

There are many consultants providing schedule oversight and management services. Most are very good and it is really a matter of how comfortable you are with the individual. However, there are schedule consultants that specialize in software operation, but not so much in understanding construction sequencing and methodologies. It’s hard to find an old project or construction manager that became a scheduler. That would be the best, provided they learned all the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACEi) and other industry best practices. Unfortunately, many of the old project and construction managers knew how to manage the project but didn’t understand how the schedule was developed or how to recognize the application of the AACEi and industry best practices in their schedules. If you can find a Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) Certified Construction Manager (CCM) or Project Management Institute (PMI) certified Project Management Professional (PMP) with an Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International (AACEi) Planning and Schedule Professional (PSP) certification or PMI-SP certification, you have found someone with proven project management and schedule development skills. This would be a great choice.

A few of the things you should consider when deciding which schedule consultants to use are:

  • Has the consultant scheduled or managed work similar to the project you need help with?
  • Has the consultant scheduled or managed projects of the size project you plan to have them help you with?
  • Does the consultant have the time to devote to the development phase of the planning and scheduling process?
  • Is the consultant approachable? Ethical? Going to look after your best interests?

Once you have decided on which consultant to go with, you will need to provide them with some contract information and will also want to be involved with the schedule review and analyzation process. This will help you understand what construction schedule consultants are looking at and why. Schedule consultants will analyze the software calculation settings, types of activities used, calendars, resource loading, use of lags, total float values and the reasons for anomalies, and many more detailed items that work behind the scenes in a critical path method (CPM) schedule. You really need to stay involved in order to understand what is being found and the impact it has on the schedule. Professional planning and schedule consultants will produce a report that lists any problems in the schedule construction or settings or approach that in their professional opinion is a concern which should be reviewed with the contractor. The schedule consultant does not want to cut corners or create strained relationships that will undermine the project team’s effectiveness. Listen to what they recommend. Schedule consultants only want to provide you with their analysis of the schedule, based on AACEi and industry best practice and your contract requirements.

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

Please visit my LinkedIn account to learn more about me.

Please visit my “The Blue Book” ProView.

Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP