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.

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Paul Epperson CCM, PMP, PSP, PMI-SP