Updated: Aug 24
In the construction industry, there’s always a focus on meeting deadlines and maximizing profit margins. In order to keep everything on schedule and within budget (and maximizing returns), we have to put in the effort to create and control a good schedule.
Hence, the importance of Schedule Analysis!
What is Schedule Analysis?
Schedule analysis is a deep look into the details of a project schedule at the beginning of the project and at each schedule update. What we are looking for in schedule analysis are any variations from the plan, which might translate into cost overruns or it's risk.
A schedule analysis identifies anomalies, facts, and issues that might happen throughout the project due to intentional or unintentional actions. This is used to verify how we are complying with the client’s contract specification, overall schedule coherence, and logical sequence between activities.
Why do Schedule Analysis?!
There are many benefits to schedule analysis (more than would fit in a nice length article!) However, here are just a few to give us a brief idea:
Ensure Realistic Completion Timeline
Every construction project is different – the design, the location, and more importantly – the entities involved. The reality is that every single project starts the same – with an estimated schedule and budget – based on no actual, real data. For this reason, it is very important to study the data as it turns from hypothetical to actual – i.e. as the project progresses.
Project Management should update the estimated plan with real data, to produce an accurate depiction of the project plan – with better deadlines.
Having achievable deadlines is one of the most important parts of schedule analysis. By trying to spot and identify issues that may impact the timeline of the project, we look to ensure profitability.
You should develop a well-planned and realistic schedule by questioning the duration of the work, the logic of the program, and the order in which the work is undertaken. Thereby offering timely and efficient project execution.
Construction Projects typically come with a lot of uncertainty and risk, which turn into delays and dollars. One of the greatest challenges in construction is to identify potential risk issues, their short and long-term effects, and develop a risk mitigation strategy.
This may be carried out by analyzing the schedule - and in particular, looking at historical delays and inefficiencies - all of which may be seen through the schedule. By focusing on potential project risks, you look to ensure that all of the known risks are accounted for and reduce vulnerability to these risks having a major effect on the project’s completion.
Delay is one of the largest root causes for overruns. When a delay occurs, it may either result in extended overhead or inefficiencies – and more often than not, both. Delay can only be studied through the schedules (and various updates), and for that reason, it should be used to document the history of the project.
But often it doesn't end with the delay!
Someone has to foot the bill for the increased costs that come with a delayed project. Just think of all the resources that have time-based costs in a project (rent of machines and tools, labor cost for workers to stand around, spoilt materials, etc.)
This is where delay claims come into the picture. We may well have had a good contract in place at the start of the project, but how do we show who was responsible for a delay and who should pay for the extra charges?
Hence, schedule analysis!
So not only might we use schedule analysis to avoid claims altogether, but also once a delay has occurred we will want to analyze schedules to see where it came from, and who has to put up the cash!
Hopefully, we can see the millions of dollars that might be won or lost on the back of good or bad schedule analysis!
Something greatly beneficial to projects is analyzing the schedule for historical and potential changes while trying to understand the effects these changes may have.
If you understand how much a program is reliant on efficiency and accuracy, you will be eager to have a successful change management system in place. Construction projects with a good change management system are more prone to stay on schedule, on budget, and to meet project objectives.
While there are many things that happen during the construction process that cannot be controlled, there are ways to “control” these types of mishaps using schedule analysis. By being more prepared, having a plan of action before issues arise, and analyzing the schedule to catch issues as they arise - you may have a tighter grip on the process and ensure a more accurate timeline for the construction process.
The Levels of Schedule Analysis?
Schedule analysis may be performed by the contractor or the owner’s representative.
It should be performed on at least two levels of the following with a recommended third level:
At this level, a number of schedule metrics are derived to ensure its soundness and adherence to the project contract specifications. Baseline schedule and schedule updates must be analyzed to identify facts and anomalies. Schedule analysis should include metrics for basic information in the schedule, in addition to detailed information.
Basic information such as project name and number of activities should be checked.
More detailed information can be reviewed, such as constraints, critical activities, milestone activities, budgeted cost (for cost loaded schedules), completion date, and any specific contract requirements such as maximum allowed duration for activities.
For schedule updates, the second level of analysis should be performed. Comparing the schedule update with a previous one or with the baseline schedule to help identify changes, anomalies, errors, and mistakes.
Systematic change identification helps in enhancing the quality of the schedule.
Basic changes such as added actual start or actual finish in addition to other advanced findings such as increased cost without an increase of earned value are expected at this level of schedule analysis.
This involves investigating schedule performance over a period of time. That may be achieved by analyzing the trend of key values of the project such as: lowest total float, number of activities, and earned value analysis measures.
Analyzing the trends of key project performance measures can be invaluable in realizing the project’s future outlook.
Okay, How Should I Do it?
As with all business/construction processes - you need skills.
Schedule analysis is no different and requires skills to be able to peer into these schedule files and draw out actual meaningful, actionable data.
In the past, we were limited to either learning, hiring, or partnering with other people who had these skills.
However, today with the continually increasing list of software made to literally *do this job for you* - providing you this info at the click of a button - I don't know that it has ever been easier to see exactly what is going on with your projects.
So this the fourth option - buy.
As for the best option, then no doubt this is still hiring. In construction, this means hiring a consultant or scheduling a professional to analyze your schedules and provide you meaningful data.
No matter how good the technology out there (and this is coming from someone who sells this technology!) they still don't beat an actual consultant.
That said, you should be using both. Using one of the commonly used scheduling software (such as Primavera P6) to do your scheduling will hopefully make your life easier on the input end at the very least.
Also, should you look to hire a consultant in the future, this may greatly reduce the billable hours you have to pay as the software does some of the work for them.
This may also open you up to a world of plugin technologies also which are catered to solve particular problems.
For example, our Claim Cracker software is made to review Schedule Submittals at a click of a button - even for beginners.
This is a task that used to take an experienced consultant around 8-10 hours in the past.
With this we provide Expert Recommendations automatically also, helping contractors and owners reach their goals.
So, in summary, schedule analysis is very important to increase profit, keep you on track, and learn from our mistakes.
And really - how can we tell if we are achieving what we set out to without checking how things are progressing?!
There are also many additional benefits, we listed only a few.
How should you do this?
Look at your budget.
If you can afford a skilled and trustworthy consultant then save yourself time and hire them and/or their team.
If you can't quite afford them, then buy a technology to do that for you!
Thanks a lot for reading - if you are interested in finding out more about plug-in and play technologies to do schedule analysis for you then Click Here!
The Project Cracker Team