Lack of Planning Skills Costing you Money in Claims?

In today’s fast paced world more and more projects are under extremely tight timelines. In some cases, it could be almost impossible to complete within the prescribed timeline. However, many contractors are grabbing up these projects to survive. The approach is to land the project that is under tight timelines and then deal with the risks and delays as they occur, and at the same time hope to get additional scope by way of variation orders / compensation events which would then provide the much-needed breathing space as the projects timeline extends as a result thereof.

This being said, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the schedule is updated and maintained to the highest of standards ensuring that it will be able to support you should you find yourself in a claim or dispute situation requiring you to fall back on to schedule to substantiate your claim.

The key to ensuring that you can always rely on the schedule is to ensure you have a suitably qualified, experienced and skilled planner / scheduler. When I say suitably qualified, I don’t mean an engineer as many companies’ call for, or a software jockey, but rather an individual that has been provided the proper foundation and upskilling related to planning and scheduling first principles and understands what is essential to providing a sound contemporaneous schedule update.

Many organizations I know of will rather employ a junior level planner in order to keep the overhead costs down or opt for the project manager to perform this function. This is possible but I believe when one is executing a complex, high value project the need for a seasoned planner is highly recommended. Personally, I think that some organizations are not aware of the service and support a planner is supposed to provide the project.

Now you may be asking yourself, why would we need this? I have heard all too often, anyone can update the schedule, or after all, it’s only there to keep the client happy.

I am going to attempt to explain the importance through a scenario that is based on actual events on a project I was involved in. This project had 74 sectional completion dates, each one having liquidated damages linked to it. The project was initially planned to take just over four years to complete but due to many changes and delays it ended up taking close on 15 years to complete. As a result of all the changes, we found ourselves in a claim situation where we were claiming for additional time and money. The client believed both parties were responsible for the delay, which was true, and it left us having to prove our entitlement. Many of the claims we had submitted had not been dealt with timeously and the effect thereof was that it ended up with the client performing the assessment of our claims retrospectively rather than when the events occurred.

This being the case, the client requested that we provide 23 months of contemporaneous schedule updates which they in turn used to assess our individual claims. The client had contracted in a group of forensic experts to assist them with evaluating and verifying, or rejecting, our claims. Initially we weren’t intimidated by this as we thought our schedules would stand up against challenges. To our dismay it turned out to be the opposite. The forensic experts didn’t even look at our submitted claims but rather started at reviewing our schedules updates as submitted contemporaneously, which by the way is the right place to start., notwithstanding that the contract would also need to be read and understood.

After 13 months of having to provide explanations to why certain things documented in our claim submittals were not evident in the schedules, it became clear that our schedules were in a very poor state. There were many attempts from the forensic experts to discredit our schedules all together, but we managed to provide documented proof for some of the claimed events. We were very fortunate to conclude the claims settlement and walk away with only a couple of scrapes and bruises, but a lot of money had to be left on the table because our schedules were in bad shape.

The reason for the schedules being in bad shape was a combination of poor project management from both the client and the contractor, poor client interface management and inexperience of the planner. And because the planner is responsible for the schedule, he was ultimately responsible for the failure of many claims.

So, ask yourself this

  1. Are you sure that the planner / scheduler you have in your employment is suitably experienced and skilled?

  • How do you determine the level of skill your planner / scheduler has?

  • Are your schedules your ultimate get-out-of-jail free card?

Not sure how to answer these questions?

Well, here is the good news, Profactaplan has developed a method to provide your organization with the answers to the 3 questions.

Sean Vermaak