What’s the Difference Between a Project Scheduler and a Scheduling Expert?

Whether you believe it or not, the project schedule is probably the most important document in all of construction. Not only is it important to plan and manage the job, but it also facilitates better decisions through data analytics of the information contained. Most construction projects have what is called a “project scheduler”, that is one who plans construction on behalf of the project management team.

This is not to be confused with the “scheduling expert”, who can do all that and much, much more with the data contained in the schedule. While I may be biased, I think the schedulers who have a high level of expertise in data analytics will ultimately promote better outcomes.

The difference between the two is generally cost —where project schedulers make far less than the scheduling experts —but it’s usually for good reason. In the paragraphs below, I have done my best to explain what a project scheduler is usually capable of, followed by capabilities that scheduling experts have that go above and beyond that project schedulers.

The Project Scheduler

A project scheduler understands the basics of schedule management, which includes generating activities with durations and applying logic to create a plan. They also know how to update a schedule with information over time and understand the mechanics behind total float, critical path management, etc. They have a pretty decent understanding of earned value management as well, and —in most cases— have had enough experience to build schedules of high quality and best practices.

The one thing that they can typically do that far surpassess the capabilities of everyone else on the entire site, including the “schedule expert”, is their ability to manage and navigate through a scheduling software. However and unfortunately, most dedicated project schedulers know a lot about schedule management and the scheduling programs they are built in, but usually know very little about actually building a construction project. They don’t question schedule feasibility, rather just use the program the way they are told to by the PM. This reality usually causes a lot of problems.

The Scheduling Expert

Enter the scheduling expert. An easy way to distinguish between the scheduler and the scheduling expert is that the scheduler is hired at the start of the project while a scheduling expert is usually only brought in when a claim is filed or a dispute arises. This is generally because of the cost differential between the two, which is very unfortunate.

Scheduling experts are capable of seeing data beyond what is printed on the .pdf schedule and thus have skills that can actually control outcomes of projects —therefore reducing overall delay and overruns. Scheduling experts generally know a lot about the construction process as well, because they have been a part of so many more projects in their career and studied the schedules so intensely. They seem to have a better grasp on the actual construction side of the equation.

The various skills that a scheduling expert possesses that surpasses that of the project scheduler is the following:

1. They are capable of assessing risk of schedules, whether it be through the general logic and sequencing, to the durations, to assessing the various changes from one update to the next.

2. They have the ability to analyze true critical path delay, a skill set that is crucial for assessing why projects are late and who caused it.

3. They have the ability to study compression and feasibility of the various schedule updates —which is crucial in determining whether the go forward plan is even reasonable.

4. They have the ability to use historic information embedded in the schedule and use it to plan forward and even predict future critical paths and hit the nail on the head on expected completion date.

I recommend hiring a scheduling expert on every single project if it were up to me. Although they are easily twice as expensive, it is worth the investment. Of course there is always the option of utilizing a technology platform, like SmartPM, to perform the function of a “scheduling expert” alongside the project scheduler.

SmartPM is a fully automated construction project intelligence solution that analyzes every bit of data embedded in the schedule. It picks up where regular PM software ends. Schedule a demo and learn how it will help take your business to the next level.



Author: Michael Pink

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