Man typing on his keyboard with a notebook and a cup of coffee. The title "Importance of Schedule Update Review" by Sean Vermaak.

Importance of a Schedule Update Review

by Sean Vermaak

I have been involved in planning and scheduling for many years and have found that a proper review of the schedule is one of the elements of an update that is neglected, forgotten or just simply ignored. During this paper I will attempt to explain why I believe it is the most important part of a schedule update and highlight what are the key elements that need to be reviewed, whom is responsible for performing the schedule update review and possible actions that need to be taken. In this paper I will use the term schedule which relates to the project CPM schedule.

I have seen all too often schedules submitted without a proper review being performed. So, the question may be, why does one need to do a schedule update review when the project team members supposedly have given accurate input to the update and can substantiate the progress? The answer is very simple, the updated schedule is your record of what has happened in the past period, what works are to be performed in the upcoming period, and most importantly, what is driving the project to completion and who is responsible for the delays, should there be any.

So, if you submit the schedule without reviewing the critical path/s, either to sectional completion dates or project completion dates, suggests you are satisfied that;

  1. The future activities and logical relationships that form the critical path/s are realistic and credible.
  2. The underlying causes that may be driving those path/s, may it be induced by the owner or yourself, have been identified and understood.

If no update review is performed, you could be submitting a schedule that indicates that you are the reason for delay when in fact it could be due to something as simple as incorrect logic between activities that have created this incorrect picture, or you simply forgot to include an owner delay event that impacts the schedule. Also, it is just as important for the owner to perform a similar review to satisfy himself that the schedule is true and reflective of the current status, the future intent and who is responsible for driving the project’s completion dates. It is in both party’s best interest to resolve and agree to all dates and statuses so as to reduce ambiguity and potential future conflicts.

Once the schedule has been updated with the current period progress it is deemed to be the contractor’s contemporaneous record. This is a record that will most definitely be used in a dispute situation to prove (demonstrate) or challenge (repudiate) entitlement to EOT, and prolongation if applicable.

So, what is it that needs to be reviewed to ensure that the schedule to be submitted is acceptable to both the owner and the contractor?

Critical Path or Longest Path to Completion

I personally think that reviewing the credibility of the critical path/s, or longest path to completion, is of utmost importance and possibly the most important check to perform. Reason being that, once the schedule is submitted to the owner it gets filed by both parties as your contemporaneous record, and as I mentioned earlier this is a record that will most certainly be used in the event of disputes relating to an extension of time claim.

So, if the schedule indicates that in a specific period you are the cause for the delay to the project completion, or sectional completion, then it will be recorded as such, and similarly if the delay is due to the owner it will be recorded as such. If you are responsible for the delay, then you are obligated to mitigate the delay and recover where possible. If you don’t analyse these paths you could submit a schedule that indicates that you are the cause of delay when in fact it may not be.

Additionally, it may be that the situation on the ground has changed thereby no longer making the logical path/s to completion realistic or credible, therefore requiring a schedule change that may result in completely different critical or longest path/s and completion dates.

Changes (VO’s, CE’s, Acceleration, Optimisation, Sequencing, etc.)

All changes, may it be due to instructions by the owner or your own, need to be in the schedule. I have seen all too often project managers not wanting to put own delay events into the schedule because the client must not see that they are underperforming or had to perform rework due to their own fault. Changes made to activities, logic changes, calendar changes, resource changes all need to be documented, and reasons provided.

Remaining Units

If schedules have been resource loaded, and I am an advocate for this practise, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the remaining labour or non-labour units are correctly updated in the schedule. Similar to the best practise of updating activity remaining durations rather than purely activity percent completes, remaining units must be representative of those quantities or effort that are required to complete the outstanding portion of activities. If this is not done it may result in activity duration overruns following on from understating the remaining resource quantities or effort.

Resources

As resources are the backbone of any project it is important to continually monitor resource availability and utilisation. This check can be performed by simply utilising the facility within the planning software to provide the relevant resource histograms. Where there are indications of extensive resource over-allocation should be resolved so as not to over commit resources for the remaining works. This can be achieved by either assigning additional resources, should it be practicable, or by extending the durations of the activity/s, or by re-sequencing works.

Schedule Quality

After all the activities have been updated and the schedule has been statused, there are several common checks that need to be performed to ensure that the schedule conforms to that which is required for a quality schedule. Some of these checks can be done by using the software to perform these checks, if the software has the functionality, else it will have to be performed manually or outside of the software. The DCMA 14-Point check is a good check to subject your schedules to, and if followed, can ensure that your schedule meets the minimum requirements of a quality schedule.

What must be checked as a minimum, but not limited to, are the following:

  • Open ended activities, i.e. activities without driving predecessors or successors
  • Remaining work in the past, i.e. earlier than the status date
  • Actual dates in the future, i.e. later than the status date
  • Activities with external early and late dates, i.e. activities that have relationships with activities in other projects
  • Activities with constraints
  • Calendars

Responsibility

Prior to the update review, it is the planner’s responsibility to review the schedule and make notes regarding the various topics just discussed. This will ensure that key resources are not tied down in a lengthy review. It is the project managers responsibility to ensure that this review takes place and signs off the schedule to be submitted as reviewed and accepted.

Recommendation

AACE’s 53R-06 Schedule Update Review – As Applied in Engineering, Procurement, and Construction, provides for good structured means to perform schedule update reviews and I recommend that all who are involved with schedule updates, and that includes the project manager to get a copy of this document.

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