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14 May 2018

Top Tips for Planning Success

by Phil Durrant, Director, Planning - UK, Europe - Planning - UK, Europe

Introduction
Over the last 40 years, construction projects may have become more complex; they have certainly become more time-constrained. This has sometimes resulted in time over-runs, followed by the proverbial bunfight as everyone blames someone else.

The introduction of the NEC suite of contracts has gone some way towards remedying this. Change is dealt with as it happens, resulting in more reasonable – and earlier – decisions.

Despite this, there is still a tendency to view project planning as an expensive irrelevance. In Systech’s experience, all contracts benefit from an approach of ‘Do the basics – properly’.

The planning ‘basics’ are:

Plan the Work
As soon as possible, develop the programme for the works. This will become the baseline programme, or the first Accepted Programme under NEC. Use the tender programme as a starting point. This programme should:

  • Be contract compliant, including all contract dates and time periods and showing how Contract Completion will be achieved
  • Cover the full project scope including: design, preconstruction, manufacture, subcontractors, commissioning
  • Be in sufficient detail for clarity and reporting. Each activity should be continuously worked by one trade or subcontractor. So, for example, ‘joinery’ may need to be separated into 1st and 2nd fixes if there is a significant break between the two
  • Be a Critical Path Network – even if it looks like a bar chart. Each activity should be fully logic-linked, with NO hanging ends, negative logic or mandatory constraints. Doing this properly really does pay for itself when the effects of progress or change come to be assessed
  • Have ‘buy-in’ from the internal project team including subcontractors, as well as from the client team

Work the Plan

  • Report progress against the programme and review regularly (usually monthly), again using critical path analysis. Assess any delays and reasonable mitigation measures. Start this process straight away and do not wait for a problem to arise
  • As a minimum,
    • Progress reporting should follow a Contract compliant methodology
    • Requirements for a ‘dropline’ should be supplemented with critical path analysis. (A dropline does not measure the effect on completion)
    • Each activity should have an actual start date and % complete, followed later by an actual finish date. This data will build up to form the contemporaneous ‘As Built’ programme
    • Pressure to suppress unpopular information should be resisted where delay is ‘reasonably apparent’. It is a contractual obligation to record it.
  • Ensure the progress information is as reliable as possible, coming from staff who are knowledgeable about the activities concerned and from written records (drawings issue logs, for example). Avoid guesswork. Care should be taken not to record one thing in the programme, another in site diaries and yet another in meeting minutes. Stick to the facts without exaggeration or under-reporting
  • Notify Early Warnings, Compensation Events, apparent delays and so on as required by the Contract. Too late, and any EOT application can be time-barred.
  • Keep all the records in a central location, not hidden away on individual laptops. Keep each programme computer update separately or data will be lost.
  • Manage change: redesign, variations and delay events can all affect project progress. Progressed programmes give advance warning of impending delays so the need for ‘crisis management’ can be reduced.
  • Do not stop reporting even if there is a problem of your own making, because there may also be concurrent delays by others which can work in your favour. The requirements of NEC are helpful here.

Systech International provides a full range of planning services to support clients through all phases of the project life cycle.

More information about our planning and scheduling services can be found here. 

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