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Project Planning and Schedule Management

  • Can we deliver on time?
  • Do I have the right information?
  • Am I profitable?
  • Have I covered my risks?
  • Can I answer my boss’s questions?

These are the issues that keep you awake while managing your project. And we can do something about those.

Many organizations do not manage the project schedule well. When the schedule is managed well, other factors are much easier to handle, and projects are more effective and efficient. Lack of schedule management probably typically results in failure of the project. A good dynamic schedule management is, therefore, crucial to project success.

Moreover, to avoid claims, change orders must be signed off. The problem is that many change order requests (COR) stay unresolved for months because the parties do not agree on the need for a time extension. The contractor is too busy building the project to keep a good dynamic schedule and follow up on every potential schedule impact. Thus, the official end date of the project is disputed because the schedule has not been accepted. Looks familiar? We know it does.

Why do you need a good dynamic schedule anyway? Saleh Mubarak in his book Construction Project Scheduling and Control present eight reasons why contractors need project scheduling. They include:

  1. Calculate the project completion date;
  2. Calculate the start or end of a particular activity;
  3. Coordinate among trades and subcontractors, and expose and adjust conflicts;
  4. Predict and calculate the cash flow;
  5. Improve work efficiency;
  6. Serve as an effective project control tool;
  7. Evaluate the effect of changes;
  8. Prove delay claims.

Having been around construction projects for two (2) decades, we know that over 80% of project schedules do not deliver their intended benefits because many project managers are not knowledgeable about managing project schedules. Managing schedules all start with project planning, and Ekton can help you plan your project.


If you have received any theoretical training on project scheduling, you may already know that project planning and scheduling are allied disciplines but are not the same. Unfortunately, we still encounter project professionals with years of experience using the term planner for what is supposed to be scheduler.

Question #1: What is the leading cause of capital projects cost and schedule overruns?

Answer: Poor scope definition.

Question #2: What are the reasons for poor scope definition?


  1. Pressure to have construction project delivered so it can start to be used, and therefore start to return its investment.
  2. Restricting key resource involvement. The top executive does not want to involve the right resources until the contract gets signed, ignoring by this the cost of opportunity.
  3. Lack of in-house design/planning capability.
  4. Overly optimistic leadership. “This is going to be simple. We’ve built this kind of structures a hundred times!”
  5. Financial pressure to decrease planning costs. As usual, we always shoot the wrong duck. You do not want to decrease planning cost. You want to decrease the overall construction cost.

To help ensure success for your construction project, Ekton defines the front-end planning process, ensures adequate scope definition and alignment of the project team.

Our scope definition occurs in front end planning. Achieving enough scope definition allows discussing risks and deciding on committing resources to maximize the potential for project success. With this regards, Ekton uses the so-called “Project Definition Rating Index” (PDRI) to measure the level of scope definition. The PDRI is one of our risk management tools.

Did you know this?

When the industrial project has a PDRI
Performance <200 >200
Cost is 4% below budget 6% over budget
Schedule is 3% behind schedule 11% behind schedule
Change Orders are 6% of the budget 8% of the budget

Example:  $55 Million Industrial Project, 24-Month Schedule

When the industrial project has a PDRI
Performance <200 >200
Cost $53 million $58 million
Schedule 25 months 27 months

Here is the case of a building project.

When the building project has a PDRI
Performance <200 >200
Cost 1% over budget 10% over budget
Schedule On schedule 21% behind schedule
Change Orders 7% of the budget 11% of the budget

Contact us in the very early phase of your project to discuss how we are going to help lower the PDRI of your construction project, to ensure that the cost, schedule, and volume change orders meet your requirements.

It is not good practice to plan the work while trying to schedule it. Our project planning involves the scheduler working with the project leadership to make decisions concerning:

  1. deciding the policies, procedures, and documentation needed for planning, developing, managing, and controlling the project schedule;
  2. developing the overall strategy of how the work process is to be broken down for control;
  3. how the control is to be managed;
  4. what methods are to be used for design, procurement, and execution;
  5. the strategy for subcontracting and procurement;
  6. the interface between the various participants;
  7. the zones of operation and their interface;
  8. maximizing the efficiency of the project strategy on cost and time;
  9. risk and opportunity management.


Did you know that your construction project schedule needs specific planning and design in the same way every project deliverable is planned and designed? If you are reading this section, the chances are that you have never formally planned and managed your scheduling approach in your past projects. Not doing so has led you to leave a lot of money on the table.

The purpose of the project schedule is to offer a ‘road map’ that is used by the project manager and the project team to complete the project successfully.

A well-developed project schedule model is a dynamic tool that predicts when the project work that is still to be completed can be expected to be done. Simultaneously, it allows the project team to look at the performance of the project to date, and use that data to make correct projections about their intended work and actions in the future.

To create a useful tool for controlling the progress of the project and communicating information regarding the planned work and progress, the project team needs to consider some factors and seek to optimize the outcome. Some of the key questions to consider are:

  1. Figure out if ‘one schedule’ is adequate or if some ‘Levels’ are needed to facilitate the schedule development and management processes. Then for each schedule determine:
  2. What is a right level of detail to use for the activities?
  3. What is the preferred scheduling process to use; deterministic or probabilistic?
  4. What is an appropriate cycle for status-ing and updating the Project Schedule Model?
  5. What ‘time scale’ should be used for durations: hours, days, weeks or even months?
  6. What reporting requirements will the schedule need to fulfill? Understanding the types of reports needed from the project schedule at each update offers guidance on the optimum coding structures that need to be built into the project schedule.

Here is a brief overview of our methodology for developing predictable schedules.

Developing the scheduling framework

  1. Figure out how the project schedule model will be developed;
  2. Understand the full scope of the project;
  3. Assign Identifiers to the project and schedule;
  4. Set up project calendars and work periods;
  5. Set up the optimum project update cycle;
  6. Define the reporting structure:
    • Figure out the information needs of the key stakeholders:
      1. Summary, detailed, comparative, etc.
      2. Timeframe - full project or short term?
    • Figure out the best report type to communicate the information:
      1. Tabulations, charts, network diagrams?
      2. Summary milestones or bar charts?
      3. Detailed information for a section of the work, long or short term reports?
      4. How should the information be sorted for ease of use?
    • Design the schedule data to allow the easy extraction of the reports;
    • Develop a standard ‘batch process’ for producing the required reports;
  7. Develop an efficient activity coding structure (to support schedule data usage);
  8. Determine resource planning requirements;
  9. Determine Integration Requirements.

Developing the Baseline Schedule

  1. Define project milestones;
  2. Design the project’s activities;
  3. Design the project’s logic;
  4. Determine the duration of each activity;
  5. Analyzing the schedule output;
  6. Baselining the schedule.

Maintaining the Schedule

Status, update and change control.