Construction Scheduling Services. What will the Schedule Consultant Need from the General Contractor to Successfully Provide CPM Schedule Support Services?

Now that you’ve engaged your planning and CPM schedule professional, what will you need to provide this consultant for them to be able to successfully provide the construction CPM scheduling services you need?

The easy part….

First, they need to plan the basic schedule and sequencing of major work. To do this, they need to learn the basic scope of the project. They will need the IFB or RFP docs with addendums, your proposal docs, and a list of stakeholders. They need to understand what the schedule structure and quality requirements are for your specific project. Are there required milestones? What is the contract duration? Are there any interim milestones that may need to be constrained? Are specific calendars required? Is resource and cost loading required? Are there specific activity code requirements? The requirements vary greatly, and the scheduler has to start out with this information.

The planning and CPM schedule professional will develop a basic project work breakdown structure (WBS) and organizational breakdown structure (OBS). This is basically an organized list of the project deliverables broken down into work packages and a list of individuals or companies from which to assign a responsible party for each package. This is the basis for any resource assignments or responsibility activity code assignments.

You will need to work closely with the schedule consultant to assure the entire project scope is included in the WBS and all the stakeholders are included in the OBS. You can provide the sequencing of the work packages at this point. This will help with the activity logic developed later. This also a good time to assign any costs to the work packages. This can be distributed to the supporting activities once they’re developed.

At this point, you have a list of deliverables with the parties responsible for their delivery. Now it is time to add supporting activities.

Now for the hard part!

The planning and CPM schedule professional will be able to build out most of the supporting activities. But they will need continuous open communication with your project team to get the sequencing correct. A good schedule consultant can develop most of the hard logic, such as “develop submittal package-submit submittal package-review submittal package-approve submittal package” or “foundation before SOG before above slab work”. But there is also preferential logic that reflects the project team’s plan to execute the project. This must be provided by the project team. Remember, the planning and CPM schedule professional only models the execution plan. The plan is yours to communicate to the schedule consultant.

Note: If activity coding has not been assigned yet, now is the time. It is best to add the activity coding when developing the activities. It is useful for filtering and sorting the schedule for the “crashing” exercise.

Once all the activities and relationships are in place to support the work packages, you will need to work with the schedule consultant to help develop the activity durations and distribute work package costs across the activities, (if cost loading is required or desired). It is best if this information comes from the responsible parties. They also need to understand the logic for the work assigned to them and agree to the plan.

Now you have a schedule with all the work package deliverables, all the activities to support the work packages, and all the activity relationships and durations assigned to sequence the work as planned.

Now for the painful part!

Constraints have probably not been assigned yet. (I do not assign them until I’ve developed the full schedule). So, most likely, the finish date for the project schedule will not fall where you need it to. This is when you must sit down with the project team and the planning and schedule professional and work through the sequencing and durations to “crash” the schedule until the project duration meets the contract requirements. It is vital the responsible parties are involved in any reduction of duration or resequencing of work. You need them to “buy into” the finished plan.

Now is the time to analyze the schedule and prepare it for use and submission to the owner. Once approved, this schedule becomes the project baseline schedule. You will measure all progress against this schedule and track trends and slippage.  You now have a validated CPM schedule you can rely on to manage your project.

This is your critical path method, CPM schedule!

As you can see, you have a lot of input into the schedule development. You have a lot of responsibility too. Hiring a planning and CPM schedule professional is not a hire and forget it process. You will work closely with this consultant, so you need to trust them and be comfortable working with them.

If you utilize the planning and CPM schedule professional for the development of your project schedule, (as part of their construction scheduling services) you will start the project with a measurable project plan you can use to manage the execution of the project. This will allow you to spot problems early and develop the most efficient mitigation strategies.

Now all you have to do is follow the plan, update the progress periodically, and make adjustments to the remaining plan based on the actual progress each period. But this is another topic.

I have generalized the development process above for use by small to medium-sized general contractors without the planning and schedule resources in-house to develop and maintain project CPM schedules. There is much more which can be said about the process and there is also additional schedule risk analysis which can be utilized to identify schedule risk based on probability and more detailed labor, material & equipment loading to measure productivity rates and project shortfalls or trends. These are also topics for another day.

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

I’d love to hear what you think!

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Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP