An accurate construction schedule will help keep a project on-time and on-budget. The scheduling process forces the team to envision in detail how they will complete the project. In doing this a scheduler must fully understand the proposed scope of work, the sequence of the work and the details affecting each work element. When completed the schedule should provide a clear plan of the project that can be shared with everyone involved.
If a schedule is flawed it can actually do more harm than good. When implementing a project schedule a project manager must insure the schedule is accurate and that the tool is not being manipulated to tell a different story. The following are some of the ways a project schedule maybe spreading project misinformation if left unchecked.
Project teams that use constraints to change the start or finish dates for tasks to overwrite the calculated schedule values defeat the purpose of a project schedule. Constraints can be used to ignore activity relationships and project logic and essentially override the schedule logic to obtain a favorable completion date. This schedule will visually appear to meet completion targets while ignoring actual sequences and activity relationships. The excessive use of constraints will be hidden to the observer and may mislead project teams to make uninformed decisions.
Forcing scheduled activities to complete on a specific data dates result in negative float for preceding scheduled activities, these activities must finish ahead of schedule in order to meet project completion targets. If you encounter a schedule containing multiple constraints it should be regarded with caution as it may be overriding the schedule logic and portraying a different project scenario than what is actually occurring.
Flawed project logic:
Project logic must reflect the schedule plan and be updated with changes to accurately reflect the manner in which the work is executed on the project. Analyzing schedule logic requires the correct tools; a schedule might look fine on the surface when looking at a Gantt chart but may be hiding flawed logic that does not reflect the project execution plan. Flawed logic such as inappropriate relationship types for activities can change the schedule drastically altering the planned sequence of work, deployment of resources, and forecasted completion dates. If the planned sequence of work is illogical, the schedule will contain inaccurate work flows, hindering work execution and resource deployment in respect to actual project requirements. A schedule with flawed logic may fail to warn project teams of conflicts and activities on the critical path that should not be overlooked. A project management team working with a schedule that has logic flaws will lose confidence in the schedule and will be less efficient at controlling their project.
Missing activities / inaccurate level of project detail:
A project schedule should be created with the level of detail necessary to effectively monitor and control the work. Schedules made needlessly complex or too generic become difficult for project teams to manage. Building a schedule with adequate activity detail will assist project teams in following the plan as well as making the best decisions to control the project. When schedules are not well developed, activities may be erroneously omitted or the work not clearly defined and hidden in high level simplified activities.
If you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. As activities become unmeasurable, progress reporting fails to reflect what is actually occurring, and omits complex inter-activity relationships. Activities which are too simplified may not have realistic durations to encompass the all the work involved to complete them. The schedule will not reflect reality and will not provide the information needed to control the project or accurately forecast completion. Project management teams using over simplified schedules will lack certainty of project status, or be able to identify construction problems that need to be controlled and managed to keep the project on track.
Latest data/poor schedule management:
A schedule must be kept up-to-date to accurately reflect the current state of the project. Schedules generated at the early stages of a project rarely reflect actual construction after execution. A schedule that is not current is a departure from reality; unforeseen delays and changes in work that are not captured in the current schedule make it a liability for decision making. Project teams that are required to make decisions using outdated schedule data risk mismanagement of resources and materials. Unrecorded completed activities may drive forecasted completion dates back; and mistakenly present the appearance of a struggling project. In reaction project teams using schedules with outdated progress data may mistakenly deploy more resources on the project than necessary and may unnecessarily adjust contractor work scope in reaction to resolve apparent slipping deadlines. A schedule that does not reflect current project status provides inaccurate project information to the management team and stakeholders which hinders their ability to make good decisions.
The role of project controls:
For a number of reasons, construction projects can deviate from the approved baseline schedule. Project controls teams manage the details of how projects are monitored analyzed and reported. Project controls play a critical role when it comes to anticipating and analyzing problems. In large construction projects, it is essential to monitor and measure performance against the project performance baseline. In order to guarantee a successful project, project management teams require complete and detailed construction planning and scheduling. The owners and stakeholders need to be on the same page with data they can trust. A detailed schedule built in cooperation with contractors free of manual constraints that is continuously maintained in alignment with changing project conditions is a vital tool for forecasting, monitoring and controlling projects. If unchecked a project schedule can become a liability and a source of misinformation that will hinder project success.
Specialty Plant Services is an industry leader in project controls providing a number of industries with the right tools and information to help them keep projects on track. We use integrated project controls data and 4D construction simulation tools to improve schedules and help you streamline your project. Feel free to schedule a free consultation!