construction meeting

Schedule Quality Analysis: a Function of Project Controls

For over 30 years, the construction industry has generated Critical Path Method (CPM) project schedules through computer-based scheduling softwares. A CPM schedule contains the central data set needed to help project teams manage projects in a timely manner. 

However, the majority of schedules created and utilized in commercial construction are at a heightened risk of containing data inaccuracies that can lead to mismanagement. As a result, schedules of poor quality make data-driven decisions quite the hassle. 

The Challenge with CPM Scheduling

The critical path is the path that extends from the current day to the end date of a project. On the critical path, if any activity is delayed, it affects the end date. An inaccurate CPM schedule can detract projects from the areas that have the highest probability of delaying a project. These inaccuracies make the true critical path completely invisible to project managers.  

The future of the construction industry depends on CPM scheduling being leveraged properly, which, if you are familiar with construction at all, may come with some challenges. For instance, a recent KPMG Survey identified the Construction/Engineering Industry to be laggard in achieving benefits from digitization.

Furthermore, SmartPM’s analysis of over 15,000 schedules found data that makes the challenges with current CPM scheduling crystal clear. 

Four circular graphs with data relating analysis of 15,000 project schedules: 88% low quality, 70% did not keep up with original plan, 86% delayed, 64% compressed

If the overwhelming majority of the construction schedules analyzed had such poor metrics, then most of the companies leveraging CPM technology are unaware of the importance of schedule quality and other value metrics embedded within properly built construction schedules. 

This article takes a deeper dive into the importance of ensuring a high quality construction schedule because quality schedules are what allows for the CPM schedule to be effective and useful towards achieving the best outcomes across construction project portfolios. 

Schedule Quality as the Top Project Control

Kicking off our series on project controls, schedule quality: 1) ensures that all data being calculated in the schedule program itself is accurate, useful, and supports the decision making process, and (2), arguably more important, ensures project controls can be used to their fullest potential.

Project Controls allow project management to systematically and accurately measure project performance throughout the whole project by putting metrics and checkpoints in place to ensure intended progress and performance levels are being met. Good schedules following best practices, then, are what allow project controls to leverage the rich data pulled from a construction schedule to gauge performance, risk, delays, impacts, and inefficiencies.

lightbulb graphic with gears in the center, surrounded by red graphic with arrows, green graph depicting forecasting, red clock with exclamation point, yellow hour glass, and a green check markWhat is Schedule Quality?

Schedule quality refers to the structural integrity of the schedule, or, the level in which best practices have been incorporated into the CPM scheduling program when developing and updating the schedule.  The DCMA methodology outlines 14 steps, or items, that should be assessed for ensuring that the level of quality is high.

green cycle of schedule analysis with plan--> schedule--> optimize

Far too many people who utilize CPM scheduling programs do not understand all of the items that must be in place to truly create a schedule that is integral for optimizing project performance. Rather, many schedules are created by unsuspecting folks that focus on durations or top level sequencing.

However, in doing so, these unsuspecting folks miss a big piece of the scheduling puzzle. A construction schedule not only lays out a plan over time, but also calculates a prioritization plan for managing to an end date. 

Best Practices for Creating a High Quality Schedule

lightbulb with schedule data and magnifying glass indicating schedule data enlightens project controls

Constructing a high quality schedule requires attentive input from all levels of a project, particularly around trade flow, resource constraints, and logic. Most importantly, high quality schedules must have accurate float calculations. Float–sometimes referred to as slack–is the number of days an activity can be delayed before it impacts the end date of the project. Float is what enables project teams to prioritize resources, hence the necessity of crew logic to be embedded into all project schedules.

Essentially, when creating and updating a schedule, all logic needs to be accurate, all durations need to be estimated correctly, and best practices need to be followed. Take a look at five best practices for ensuring schedule quality is maintained: 

five best practices for high quality schedules

If any given construction schedule has a wealth of data behind it that is often overlooked and the construction industry is reluctant to implement technical solutions into daily practices, then schedule data is not being leveraged to extract meaningful performance data. Not leveraging this data properly is what keeps commercial construction projects from gaining full visibility, optimal project delivery, and increased return-on-investments (ROIs). 

The bottom line is, developing a high-quality schedule upfront guarantees reduced risk for all stakeholders–the better the quality of the schedule, the better the decisions that can be made for project management risk solutions. If the schedule is maintained and analyzed routinely, construction schedules will no longer be stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

Don’t waste anymore time creating a sub-par schedule. Analyze your schedule quality automatically through SmartPM’s automated project controls platform today.

Author: Michael Pink

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