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Project Scheduling

Benefits of Outsourcing Schedule Development in Construction Projects

benefits-of-outstanding-schedule-development

A construction project schedule is a roadmap to successful project delivery. It details the activities and subtasks for every phase of the project ranging from project initiation until project closeout, along with the time required for the completion of individual tasks, the resources that will be assigned for completion and the various types of dependencies (Start-Start, Finish-Start, Finish-Finish, etc.,). This clear timeline acts as a confident tool to track the project and ultimately, on-time project completion.

This article will touch base on the benefits of outsourcing schedule development from a perspective of a construction project owner.

Understanding the challenges faced by construction project owners

As an owner, the project elements that one needs to handle are countless. An owner needs to develop the project objectives, scope, budget, procurement, report, compliance, contracts, safety, etc., and the list goes on. So, in these cases, an owner may not find sufficient period to detail a construction project schedule on their own but can provide inputs to another team of schedule detailers who will be able to document the thought process and timelines into tasks and sub-tasks.

Complexities of construction project scheduling

Scheduling projects in the construction industry is а complex process as it involves multiple stakeholders, resources, and dependencies.

Multiple stakeholders can cause conflict in priorities, communication issues and decision-making delays.

  • Conflict in Priorities: The various stakeholders in the project may have different priorities which can impact the overall project schedule. E.g., during the design phase, the architect proposes a unique, curved design for the roof, which conflicts with the structural engineer’s preferred flat roof for ease of construction. This might call for delays in re-design and final sign-off.
  • Communication issues: When the number of stakeholders is greater, clear communication is crucial. E.g. a weekly design review meeting or PCG (project control group) meeting has to be scheduled where all the stakeholders come together either virtually or in-person to discuss the agenda points.
  • Decision-making delays: Reaching consensus among stakeholders can be a real challenge, especially when there are changes from the original design which can impact project deadlines.

Resource constraints can be present due to labor and equipment availability, and material shortage.

  • Labor Availability: Deploying the required skilled workers at the right time and in required numbers is a difficult task, especially for specialized trades. This may lead to delays if workers are not available or different projects require specialized trade workmen at some other sites.
  • Material Shortages: Material plays a major role in project deliveries and if there are shortages, that can lead to the disruption of the general flow of construction.
  • Equipment Availability: Ensuring the right equipment is available at the right time can be challenging. Breakdowns of the equipment and locating reserve equipment is a tedious task and may cause delays.

Dependencies between tasks can cause domino effects, and unforeseen challenges.

  • Domino Effect: The sequencing of activities plays a major role in construction projects. When one of the activities gets delayed for some reason, it can cause a ripple effect on the subsequent tasks, causing delays. E.g., delays in design phase signoff can delay procurement and construction.
  • Unforeseen Issues: Unexpected events like bad weather, worker strikes, the performance of subcontractors, etc., can affect the progress of the project.
  • Unrealistic Initial estimates: There may be at times, during the bidding stage itself, aggressive project timelines may be worked out for bagging the project and once the project is awarded, there is no option to re-work the timelines, but to follow them. This can cause issues causing the project to inevitably fall behind the schedule.

In summary, the owner is mostly impacted by cost overruns and project delays contributed by the different imposed challenges. Time is money and hence when there are delays in projects, these lead to cost overruns as labor costs accrue, contracts go into penalty periods, material prices fluctuate, and indirect costs accumulate. Delays in project completion also mean there is delayed occupancy to the building, coupled with delayed rental income, business openings, etc., thereby reducing revenue.

The impact of ineffective scheduling on project outcomes and overall success

Ineffective scheduling can cause the tasks and subtasks and their dependencies to be not correctly linked to each other, leading to delays that would not be reflected on the project schedule. This includes poor resource allocation, underestimated task duration or overlooked dependencies. This will not be understood until the project has physically reached that level. This will create unnecessary delays to the actual site activities leading to delayed overall project delivery.

Ineffective schedules can cause cost overruns and budgetary discrepancies that can result in the financial viability of construction projects. There might be instances when there are multiple reworks at the project site due to a design change and if sufficient lead time is not included in the schedule for the design review period, that may warrant delayed phases of procurement and construction.

Ineffective scheduling can compromise the quality of construction work, leading to defects, errors, and rework. Rushed schedules, inadequate planning, or poor coordination may result in subpar workmanship, safety hazards, and compliance issues.

Schedules that are poorly developed can adversely affect the reputation of construction project owners negatively impacting their credibility and competitiveness in the industry. The various delays on account of project delivery, cost overruns or quality issues may lead to a loss of business opportunities in the future.

As the well created project schedule is the pilar of successful projects, the following benefits can be expected when the creating the schedule is outsourced to professionals.

Benefits of outsourcing schedule development

Access to specialized expertise: Leveraging the skills and experience of professional schedulers.

  • Benefit: The in-house team of owners may not have the specific skillset or the required experience for developing such schedules. When outsourced, we can tap into the potential of a pool of experienced professional schedulers with in-depth knowledge of scheduling methodologies (like Critical Path Method – CPM) and scheduling best practices. They can develop detailed project schedules and anticipate and mitigate potential risks.
  • Example: For a large-scale oil and gas exploration project, the schedule needs to account not only for the logistic challenges or deploying equipment and personnel but also factor in unpredictable weather patterns and potential permit delays. A scheduling firm with similar experience can not only detail a realistic schedule but also contribute to the success of the project.

Time and cost savings: Streamlining the schedule development process and reducing overhead costs.

  • Benefit: Detailing and developing an accurate schedule in-house can be time-consuming and will require dedicated scheduling personnel, training, and the required software – Primavera P6 or Microsoft Project. The concept of outsourcing eliminates the use of valuable internal resources and investment in the purchase of this software. The owner representatives can focus of on other project management elements, while the outsourced schedulers can handle the intricacies in the preparation and detailing of the schedule.
  • Example: A rapidly growing tech startup needs to develop a detailed schedule for its new design and build office. Outsourcing allows them to avoid the time and cost of hiring an experienced scheduler and reduce the upfront cost of purchasing the software. This frees up the internal resources to focus on other core project management functions like product development and recruitment, expediting the overall project timeline.

Improved accuracy and reliability: Ensuring comprehensive and well-structured project schedules.

  • Benefit: Outsourced scheduling firms are experienced in the field of schedule management and are always updated on the latest scheduling tools and techniques, which ensures the creation of a detailed and comprehensive schedule. The chances of errors or omissions are very minimal. Once the schedules are developed, they also aid in the maintenance and providing updates to the schedule to get a grip on tracking the overall project.
  • Example: An IT major plans to develop a campus in an SEZ (special economic zone). An outsourced scheduling firm can utilize its expertise in handling SEZ requirements and associated delays on account of SEZ rules and regulations in the schedule thereby providing sufficient additional durations on the timeline. This proactive approach improves project predictability and allows for risk mitigation.

Enhanced focus on core competencies: Allowing project owners to focus on strategic decision-making and project management.

  • Benefits: By outsourcing schedule management and development, the owners can devote their internal resources to focus on other core areas such as project management, procurement, decision making and overall project oversight. This enables them to leverage their unique expertise while ensuring the project adheres to a well-defined roadmap.
  • Example: A manufacturing company is launching a new product line. As the schedule development is being outsourced, the internal owner team can focus on marketing campaigns, quality assurance, and production planning that are essential for product launch. The project managers can continue to oversee the timeline while allowing the outsourced company responsibility for the technical components, guaranteeing a more streamlined and effective workflow.

ScheduleReader – Review and validate project schedules created in Primavera P6

ScheduleReader is a software tool that offers advanced viewing capabilities for project schedules created in Primavera P6. It provides users with a comprehensive platform to visualize, analyze, and interact with project schedules in the XER and XML file formats.

Here’s an overview of ScheduleReader and its viewing capabilities:

ScheduleReader provides an interactive Gantt chart view that helps users visualize project schedules in a much better view, as opposed to viewing Gantt chart on static PDF. The software also enables PM to visualize project schedules dynamically, allowing for a comprehensive understanding of the critical path and potential areas of delay. It can be used to view critical paths, working calendars, activity details, resource assignments and other project data with ease.

The ability to filter and sort the scheduled data based on our required filters enables also to track the specific project aspects and perform granular analysis.

As ScheduleReader functions as a standalone application, it can enable project stakeholders view access to schedules without the need for Primavera P6. This enables easy sharing of information in basic formats with improved communication and collaboration.

In the PRO version, ScheduleReader additionally features a unique DCMA 14 schedule report that allows users to analyze the schedule logic and validate the quality of the created schedule. This feature is extremely useful when the creation of schedule is outsourced, as it helps ensure a delivery of a qualitive schedule. The DCMA 14-point schedule assessment report gives a brief overview of the 14 project categories that determine the project’s finish date. See how project activities are scheduled, which activities are missing resources or analyze the critical path length index.

In the sample schedule provided above, 6 of the 14 metrics are passed. A detailed review of the other metrics needs to be conducted to understand the potential issues that are present in the overall construction program. 

The ScheduleReader software is available for download in a 15-day free trial period. 

The importance of strategic decision-making and effective project management in achieving construction project success 

Strategic decision-making and effective project management are important management phases of construction projects. One key aspect here is the schedule integration. Strategic decision-making and effective project management ensure that outsourced schedules are integrated into the project management framework. Stakeholders can maintain consistency, visibility, and control over the project’s overall schedule by aligning outsourced schedules with other project activities, milestones, and dependencies. 

Some of the important considerations under strategic decision-making includes: 

  • Strategic Alignment: Strategic decision-making ensures that outsourcing schedule development helps in aligning with the objectives and vision of the construction projects. By analyzing the project’s requirements, constraints, and goals, stakeholders can make decisions about outsourcing the strategic priorities, such as cost efficiency, schedule adherence, and quality improvement. 
  • Vendor Selection: Strategic decision-making helps in deciding on outsourcing partners for schedule development. Vendors are selected by stakeholders based on criteria such as expertise, experience, reliability, and cost-effectiveness, to meet the scheduling needs and contribute to its overall success. 
  • Risk Management: Strategic decision-making helps to assess and mitigate risks associated with outsourcing schedule development. By identifying potential risks, such as communication challenges, quality issues, or schedule delays, stakeholders can identify strategies to solve them or at least reduce the impact on outcomes. 

Below are the important considerations under effective project management: 

  • Resource Optimization: Effective project management ensures that resources are allocated to support outsourced schedule development. Project managers can use resources, manage dependencies, and maintain project speed by coordinating with external vendors and internal teams utilizing the process of outsourcing schedule development. 
  • Quality Assurance: Effective project management involves establishing good standards and monitoring the performance of outsourced schedule development. Project stakeholders ensure that schedules meet quality requirements and contribute to project success by defining the requirements, providing feedback, and conducting regular reviews. 
  • Communication and Collaboration: Effective project management helps in communication and collaboration between internal teams and external vendors in schedule development. Project managers ensure that the project goes in proper alignment, minimize misunderstandings between teams, and facilitate knowledge sharing by establishing channels for communication, clarifying roles and responsibilities, and fostering a collaborative environment. 
  • Performance Monitoring: Effective project management monitors the performance of outsourced schedule development to ensure that it meets the project objectives and requirements. Project stakeholders identify areas of improvement and take appropriate actions to optimize outsourcing outcomes by tracking key performance indicators, such as schedule accuracy, timeliness, and adherence to quality standards.