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 software. 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 a 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. If any activity is delayed on the critical path, it affects the end date. An inaccurate CPM schedule can detract projects from areas with 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 a laggard in achieving benefits from digitization.

Furthermore, SmartPM’s analysis of over 20,000 schedules found data that makes the challenges with current CPM scheduling crystal clear. 


SmartPM Analyzed 20,000+ Schedules & Found: 



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 allow for the CPM schedule to be effective and useful for achieving the best outcomes across construction project portfolios. 


Curious about your schedule quality?  Analyze it!

Schedule Quality Analysis


Why Schedule Quality is the Top Project Control


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.

Schedule quality: 1) ensures that all the data 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. 

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.





What is Schedule Quality?


Schedule quality refers to the structural integrity of the schedule, or, the level at which best practices have been incorporated into the CPM scheduling program when developing and updating the schedule.

A construction schedule not only lays out a plan over time but also calculates a prioritization plan for managing your project to an end date. It is important to remember that schedule analysis is a constant cycle of planning, scheduling, optimizing, and repeating. 




The DCMA-14 Point Check

The DCMA methodology outlines 14 steps, or items, that should be assessed to ensure the schedule is of a high-quality level.




However, this methodology does not consider only construction scheduling. In fact, different items can be missing or added to this list to help create an effective and realistic project plan. Furthermore, projects differ in size & scope. Using only this methodology might give a project a "low" quality schedule grade when the points deducted don't apply to its scope. 


Best Practices for Creating a High-Quality Schedule


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.

Total float (or slack) is the number of days an activity can be delayed before it impacts the project's end date. It 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 quick steps to develop a high-quality project schedule: 




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 any more time creating a sub-par schedule. Analyze your schedule quality automatically through SmartPM’s automated project controls platform today.


Author: Michael Pink

Mike Pink is the CEO of SmartPM. With over 20 years of construction analytics experience, his passion lies in transforming the industry through data.

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