Updated: Aug 18, 2020
As with any business process, there are three ways that you might go about it: hiring, partnering or learning it.
The thing with CPM Submittal Reviews is that there a such a base of knowledge and experience that is required, the number of people who should actually go and learn this are few (i.e. people who wish to pursue this as a career).
As for you and me, the answer depends on how much money do we have to play with?
The best, without doubt, is to hire an experienced, knowledgeable, able person to do this for us - i.e. a consultant or in house CPM professional.
Falling short of that, like with many things now, people are introducing more and more technologies that take these sorts of tasks and do them for us in a few clicks.
CPM Schedule Reviews are no exception to this.
There is now intelligent technology made to take Schedule files and produce full, advanced CPM Schedule reviews at the click of a button.
This really is a no brainer for any and every construction project (and even consultants to massively free up their time!).
To show you just how much there is to learn (just in case you need more proof as to why you should automate or delegate this as soon as you can), here is a brief idea of some of the things CPM Schedule Consultants might consider when doing reviews, which may now be done completely using software:
What do Consultants Normally Look at?
There is normally an approved baseline project schedule, and the team are waiting to receive the first periodic schedule progress update from the contractor.
That is great, progress is good. You may be sharing a valid tool with your contractor to proactively manage the project.
But, you still need to monitor the actual progress and make sure the contractor is updating the stakeholders and taking necessary action, sticking to the project’s scheduled plan to execute the project.
How do CPM Consultants Approach this Task?
The best practice, for most projects, is for the contractor to update the project schedule progress weekly. This helps in the early identification of schedule slippage.
Most contracts require monthly schedule updating and reporting to the owner or their team.
Your contractor should do both weekly progress updates for their own use and provide monthly or periodic reporting to the owner's side as required.
What progress information do CPM consultants use for the CPM Schedule Submittal Review process?
Before you actually begin the update process, the frequency of reporting and report requirements need to be established and planned for in the CPM Schedule Development process.
There are activity coding and resource loading (hopefully specified in the contract documents) that help CPM consultants review the schedule submission.
CPM consultants review several key pieces of information for each activity, in order to determine if the schedule progress update is acceptable.
All of this information must be verified using the schedule progress update’s schedule file and the submission narrative and other supporting documentation.
A few of the items CPM consultants look at are:
Has the data date for the update has been set correctly?
(If the correct data date is not selected, the schedule calculations will not produce the
correct remaining start and finish dates for the scheduled work).
Actual durations Vs the original durations for activities.
Look for actual durations much larger than the original duration.
(This shows which activities did not progress as planned. Of course, activities with actual durations much smaller than the original duration made much better progress than scheduled.
Sometimes it might balance out).
Changes to the schedule “logic”
Usually it is necessary to correct relationships for activities that progressed "out-of-sequence" from the original schedule.
This is acceptable and may even be desirable.
What the CPM consultant is looking for is changes to the logic which have been made by the contractor to “speed up” the schedule and recover time due to lack of progress.
There are several ways the contractor may do this that you need to look out for:
1. Most common, is shortening the remaining duration of activities on the longest path.
This is an iterative process as each time an activity duration is reduced, it may shift the longest path of activities.
2. Changing finish-to-start relationships between activities to start-to-start.
This means activities running concurrently and is acceptable if this is how the contractor now plans to execute the work.
The owner's side need to understand why this has been done before accepting this revised plan.
3. Thirdly, the activity calendar may be changed to a different calendar to allow the work to include what were non-workdays as workdays.
This may be done to reduce the calendar day duration without showing a change in the duration value masking real performance.
4. CPM consultants look at the schedule settings for percent complete to determine if the cost percent complete is a calculation of duration percent complete or physical percent complete.
Your schedule specifications should require the use of physical percent complete.
This way the contractor may establish the scheduled finish date for in-progress activities and enter the physical percent complete.
This helps the duration percent complete to show the percentage of work in place and the duration percent complete shows the time used for the activity.
This is an indicator of productivity rates.
Depending on the requirement for “resource and cost loading”, CPM consultants look at the percent complete for cost and verify it is in agreement with the agreed-upon percent for the activity.
5. Finally, CPM consultants verify that activities have not been deleted, revised, or added and that any changes are have been explained to the owner's side.
All the above schedule and calculation settings should have been included in your schedule specifications and verified in the review of the project baseline schedule.
But they have to be verified again, each periodic progress update.
It’s not uncommon for a contractor to update a schedule and forget to set the current data date, or forget to list relationship changes.
Once this analysis is completed, CPM consultants provide owners with written summaries of review findings and narratives recommending revisions, if required, and a recommendation for acceptance or not.
How to Do a CPM Submittal Review?
As you can see, there is much more than CPM consultants look at - to protect your interests - than just a Gantt Chart of the schedule update.
Unless the schedule is analyzed for what we listed above and more, you have no idea what your project schedule is actually telling you and if it is a valid tool for staying on track and under budget.
If you are not already automating or delegating this routine construction task - now may very well be that time.
For anyone who can't afford to hire (really think carefully, as if you can't afford a few thousand to avoid losing millions then you may be on a very bad path!)
At the very least protect yourself and your business (from delays, claims and inefficiency) with software.
Thanks a lot for reading and take care,
The Project Cracker Team