Is CPM Scheduling Critical in Construction?

Is CPM Scheduling Critical in Construction?

Many of our customers are looking for a quick and easy way to develop a construction schedule. There are many complex software programs on the market today (and the list keeps growing) that offer resource planning, cost-loading, s-curve reports, earned value metrics and more.  However, many of our customers in construction do not need all of those features –they are just looking for a simple, easy-to-use tool to plan out the timeline of their projects.

Yes, critical path scheduling is truly “critical” in construction so that you can see the impact of changes as they occur throughout a project’s duration. Some people do not know the steps involved with creating a CPM schedule and how easy it can be to use –especially to your advantage. I’ve outlined the steps below.

How to Develop a Critical Path Schedule

To develop a critical path schedule, you just enter tasks with their planned duration (usually in days) and establish predecessor and successor relationships between tasks in a scheduling program. Let the scheduling software work for you! So many people try to develop a schedule by entering the start and finish dates for each activity. That is NOT how you develop a CPM schedule or a good schedule! We suggest no open-ended activities except for the Project Start and Project Completion activities in your schedule. Once you hit a button to “schedule” your project plan, a value called float or slack is calculated for each task identifying how many days late it can be before impacting your project as a whole.

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Critical Path Schedule for a construction project

The critical path settings vary depending on the scheduling application that you use. Tasks are critical usually when the float or slack value is less than or equal to 0. This indicates the number of days that need to be made up to get the project back on track. For instance, if your float or slack is equal to (-2) for activities on the critical path this means that you have to make up 2 days in your schedule to meet your project finish by date. 

Use Templates to Develop a Project Plan

It does not have to be hard to create a schedule for your projects. We always recommend starting with a template so that you are not starting from scratch every time. If you have repeatable steps in your projects –even if they are generic –use them to help you with the planning process. It is much easier to edit tasks, and the process can act as a checklist to make sure you are not missing anything. In a template, you can save as much information as you know such as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), task descriptions, durations, logic and more. It can take a few minutes rather than hours to develop your project plans.

Baseline a Project Plan before Updating

Now one of the most important steps that many people skip is the baselining process. If you do not baseline a schedule, when you update your project you will overwrite your planned start and planned finish dates with actual start and actual finish dates. In fact, it will appear as if you are always “on-schedule” when you are not. By baselining you can create visual views to see where you thought you would be on the project and to where you are. Baselining in a software tool is as easy as hitting a button, so don’t skip it!

Updating a Project Plan

I was just speaking with a company who said, “We always develop a schedule but on one ever updates it.” That happens far too often for many who do not take a disciplined approach to scheduling. You need to update the schedule on a regular basis on a frequency that makes sense for your projects. It may be weekly or monthly depending on how long your projects last. Some of our customers in the energy industry managing nuclear power plant outages update their schedules hourly!

It can be a daunting task to get updates into your project plan –that is why so many people skip this step. However, it can be an easy process with a little bit of preparation. If you develop a view specific to the fields that you want to update, it makes it simple for anyone to provide the updated information. For instance, we suggest a simple view like you see in the screenshot below. We try to make it look as simple as an Excel spreadsheet (but it is not!).

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Updating View

Use Reports to Communicate with the Project Team

Throughout the duration of a project, it is important to make sure to share the information with the team.  During a team meeting, you walk through progress information and review any issues or risks on the project. You can generate simple reports to share during the meeting. Many people use a report called a look-ahead report i.e. a 2-week look ahead report. This is a report that is a filtered list of activities about the period in review. You can also use a bar chart report to view slippage in your project plan in a graphical format. In the screenshot below you can visually see the impact on the schedule as a whole when the second activity did not start on-time. All of the tasks that are dependent on it are affected. Again, the idea is to capture what’s happening so you can work as a team to resolve issues before they happen.

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Tracking View

Why use a CPM schedule?

The construction schedule is meant to be a business intelligence tool to the project team. It is intended to bring the foresight of issues before they happen. It is a communication tool to discuss what’s going on in a project with the team and stakeholders. It is a very critical component of construction projects and doesn’t have to be that hard with a little discipline and planned approach. 

If you’d like to learn more about our VPO project scheduling tools, please visit our website at http://vpocloud.com/project-scheduling/ for more information.

Any questions or comments, please email me at lnee@simplexgroup.com.

Find more time in your day.

Find more time in your day.

As project managers, we’re always trying to balance three elements: people, time, and money. If only we could find more time in a day.  Scheduling a meeting can take days or even weeks, depending on who’s invited and what their calendars look like. As the organizer, you have to propose a few dates and times, and wait for invitees to reply. Even then, there may not be a single option that works for everyone; you might have to start the whole process all over again.

Enter FindTime, from Office 365. An Outlook add-in, it can help you find workable meeting times by looking at your invitees’ available free/busy information, and creating a poll so that team members can vote on your proposed times—or even suggest new times.

 

If your company uses Office 365 you can start using it today –for free! Recipients that you invite to meetings do not require any special software. They only need Internet access and an e-mail address.

So start saving your valuable time today, and spread the word. You won’t regret it. Yet another reason to love Office 365. For installation instructions, please visit Microsoft’s website at https://findtime.microsoft.com/.

Finding the Value in a Construction Management System

Finding the Value in a Construction Management System

Many construction professionals wonder if there’s really anything they can do to help their projects run more smoothly and efficiently. To improve communication and information-sharing, to keep everybody on the ball–to trim the fat, so that their whole program of projects functions like a well oiled machine. A profitable machine. Chasing down people and paper is exhausting, and it’s effort poorly spent. If everybody on the team could use one “place” for all project talk and work, then many costly mistakes and delays could be eliminated.

Chaotic WorkflowOne of the biggest challenges is making, and sharing, decisions—wisely and quickly. While somebody’s looking for the latest information, everybody else is waiting. Everybody’s waiting for somebody else, and nobody can move forward with work on the project. But when up-to-date project data is right at the whole team’s fingertips all the time, and being routed automatically to next-in-line decision makers, then critical decisions can be made carefully and quickly. shutterstock_156525005

 

The Construction Industry Institute estimates that $15 billion is spent annually on rework—often because some project team members are accidentally referring to outdated drawings during builds. It’s a common, and expensive, problem—with an elegant and easy-to-use solution. Version control and change history give everybody a full and clear view of the whole picture. Knowing exactly what has happened helps everybody to collaborate on plans for the future, as an informed team. 

For decades, technology developers have assumed that construction teams would resist adopting new Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, so this segment of professional planners has been underserved—until now. With VPO, construction management is becoming streamlined and sleek, because project information is more than available; it’s being managed proactively.

If timely reviews and approvals of documents are critical to the success of a project, for example, then the process by which those documents are circulated should be standardized and automated—using communication methods, such as e-mail, which are already in everyday use by team members; and document formats which are familiar and intuitive. VPO provides a secure, online workspace that project stakeholders use for viewing and privately publishing up-to-date information, and measuring progress—while streamlining cumbersome processes like Bid Management, RFIs, Change Orders, and Submittals, that commonly diminish success on projects. VPO allows team members to access information on a mobile device as well –keeping everyone connected to the latest information no matter where they are working from.

Office 365 LogoBy leveraging leading Cloud-based solutions from Microsoft’s Office 365 suite like SharePoint Online, Project Online, Exchange Online, Office, and Skype for Business, and combining them with project management expertise and content, VPO packages a scalable project management system that works for small, fast-paced projects as well as for large, complex projects–and for a combination of both. 

VPO logo Small

Construction management teams deploy VPO quickly by using proven content that can be customized and enhanced over time–to develop a system that is truly built for them. And VPO takes a hands-on approach, to support our customers and the people whom they invite into their systems. We help clients focus on what they do best: managing their projects.

Manage your construction project using an iPad from anywhere.

Manage your construction project using an iPad from anywhere.

Construction professionals are always on the move. It’s critical that you have access to the latest project details—in real time. Online construction management apps are great for people in the office, but what about your team in the field?

Watch this 30-minute Webinar to learn how you can manage your entire project directly from your mobile device. You’ll learn how our iOS and Android mobile apps allow you to:

  • Access, create, and edit construction docs like RFIs, submittals, meeting minutes and more.
  • View and mark up construction drawings.
  • Easily create and upload field reports, punch lists, job site photos, and videos.
  • Share live video feeds to resolve issues in the field.
  • Work offline, and upload changes online—automatically.

 

Mobile Construction Management

Mobile Construction Management

Manage your construction project from anywhere.

Construction professionals are always on the move. It’s critical that you have access to the latest project details—in real time. Online construction management apps are great for people in the office, but what about your team in the field?

Attend a half-hour Webinar to learn how you can manage your entire project directly from your mobile device. You’ll learn how our iOS and Android mobile apps allow you to: 

  • Access, create, and edit construction docs like RFIs, submittals, meeting minutes and more.
  • View and mark up construction drawings.
  • Easily create and upload field reports, punch lists, job site photos, and videos.
  • Share live video feeds to resolve issues in the field.
  • Work offline, and upload changes online—automatically.

Register Now

Small Businesses Benefit from Office 365

Small Businesses Benefit from Office 365

  • Accessibility from anywhere with an Internet connection
  • Patches and maintenance managed by service providers such as Google and Microsoft
  • Ease of collaborating internally with Office applications now in the Cloud
  • Efficient internal communication with Lync instant message, and video conferencing
  • Flexibility for the business, as owners can pay as you go and add e-mail accounts

(more…)

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