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Best Practices for Keeping a Project on Schedule

Creating and maintaining an accurate project schedule is key to any successful design or construction project. At a high level, a schedule lets stakeholders know when they can expect construction to impact their business operations and react accordingly. An accurate schedule starts with a solid understanding of all activities required and who is going to complete each task. A schedule is an ever-changing tool and must be monitored and updated throughout the duration of the project.

First, it is important that a project has a real and achievable schedule from the beginning. This requires stakeholders, design professionals, and the general contractor to work together in identifying:

  • What needs to be done.

  • When it needs to be done.

  • The time necessary to complete each step.

This can include creating a project charter, understanding owner and project goals, reviewing lead times, and weighing budgets and alternative options.

Creating the schedule

Popular tools or software that are used for creating schedules are Gantt charts and work breakdown structures. These allow project managers to stay organized and understand the succession of tasks as well as who is performing them. Having a clear understanding of sequencing events helps all parties involved complete their task and allows individual teams to work together within the allotted times for each phase of a project.

Managing the schedule

Project managers must constantly evaluate start dates, delivery/ordering dates, completion dates and much more to understand impacts on the overall project schedule. If specific materials are delayed or tasks are not completed, it may affect future tasks by other parties. Flexibility can be built into a project schedule allowing project managers to react and adapt to unexpected delays on a job. Communication from the project manager to all stakeholders involved is critical in maintaining a clear understanding of the project schedule and key milestones. Project managers typically host OAC (owner-architect-contractor) meetings regularly so that each project stakeholder can provide updates and stay informed of all project activities.

Evaluating the schedule

When a project is complete it is important to look back and evaluate how accurate the schedule was and how it may have impacted the budget. If a project runs longer than expected, it typically leads to excess costs incurred. A post-project analysis allows project managers to identify which areas specifically may have taken longer or less time than anticipated. Historical data can be one of the best ways to create more accurate future schedules!

Schedule management is critical to keeping everyone on a project informed and working toward the same goal. It is the project manager’s job to create a schedule that meets the owner’s needs and is attainable by all contractors involved.

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