I graduated college about 20 years ago, and my immediate job out of college was more or less as a “delay analyst” in the commercial construction industry. You know, the guy who collects a ton of schedule data, locks themselves in an office for a long time and comes out with a report to help people settle time extensions or delay claims. Yeah, that was my job. It took some time to get pretty good at it and I quickly learned that this skill set could make a lot of money in the construction industry – it was just tedious, monotonous, time consuming and difficult to be quite honest. But that is why I automated it – more on that later : )
To be clear, “I want to be a construction delay analyst when I grow up” are words that never ever left my mouth growing up. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know that job existed until I had it. Interestingly enough, this is actually a very lucrative job in construction – one that is in very high demand and common in today’s Real Estate and Construction Industry. 20 years ago this position was just starting to be a thing, but these days it seems like every major project could use or is using a consultant to analyze schedule or delay.
In the years that I did this work and up until now, nothing has changed much except it seems like there are more people doing this type of work on more projects. So, the industry is growing! However, it is still very costly to do this work and results in most delay analyses being performed at the tail end of a job as a means to “settling up” the final cost. In other words, the status quo is construction teams not taking the time to oversee delay along the way, rather waiting until the end to play the tape and settle the bill – where “playing the tape” is essentially building a complex delay analysis and assigning responsibility for the delays identified. This forensic approach just seems backwards to me (no pun intended!).
PLEASE NOTE: I am sure 90% of the people reading this right now are thinking: “There are always time extensions being granted throughout all of construction”. My response to this is: Of course, that is right, in most projects there are periodic extensions of the time granted. BUT, again, people like me, with the delay analyst title, are still pretty busy with work. But seriously, in my experience there is always much more critical path delay on projects than time that’s been granted. And half the time, the time extensions are granted for things that actually don’t appear to have delayed the project!!!!
What I have learned is the following: It is far more powerful to have a running analysis that is built in real time throughout the duration of the project. Having been intimately involved in these types of analyses, critical path delays seem to always span the entire job and seem to have a compounding effect on budget. Coming in after the fact to assess the damage seems a little late to me, particularly because there is no opportunity for avoidance, the money has already spent, the time has already been lost and someone had to pay for it. After which, they had to pay the consultant and legal fees. So, based on my experience, it’s pretty clear to me that being proactive is MUCH more effective than some last minute finger pointing and shoulda-coulda-woulda at the 11th hour. So, my best recommendation to alleviate what I perceive to be the industry’s largest problem has always been to keep an eye on your project schedules through intense ongoing analytics, and do it regularly for the entire duration of construction. Managing projects like this will allow stakeholders to get on common ground and work together to fix problems early and often.
I don’t think this is concept is rocket science, but clearly the industry is challenged in getting it done. Why? I am not 100% sure, but I have a couple thoughts. First off, it’s expensive to hire a consultant of any kind – and let’s just say the industry overall has an issue on being proactive with its spending, rather it is reactive (quite possibly due to the low margins). Not to mention, it takes a lot of time and time is always scarce I construction, forcing one to outsource – which, again, is expensive. I would also venture to say that overconfidence, self-pride and fear of litigation are other underlying factors as to why delay discussions do not happen regularly, and why this gets swept under the rug until the end.
So, what’s the answer? In short, this problem would go away if everyone in the industry could analyze a schedule (and series of updates) regularly and know exactly what they needed to know when they needed to know it – regarding delays, inefficiencies and resultant overruns. The reality is that to do this effectively, technology would have to do the legwork of a consultant to generate reports that could be understood by industry professionals - both in real time or forensically if necessary. That is what we have created at SmartPM. Check us out at www.smartpmtech.com .