Construction projects represent investments at risk for Owners and Contractors, who invest massive amounts of money and resources.
Although some investors resort to evaluations (e.g., appraisals by mortgage investors), to gain a level of confidence in the outcome, validation processes are not a common practice in construction.
There are many advantages in engaging Owners and Contractors in performing a realistic, rational, and feasible independent Validation of the work plan and planned schedule, as well as periodic Audits of the performance achieved.
Planning and scheduling practices have become more complex as they have matured and can now produce a greater degree of management and control. However they are also vulnerable to incorrect procedures, illogical logic, abuse, misuse, and outright manipulation.
Schedule Validation and Audit can be used to minimize the impact of conflicts by detecting issues and anticipating problems. Reasons for implementing Schedule Validation and Audits, benefits, methodology, deliverables, and steps towards a standard practice and procedure are presented herein.
WHY ARE SCHEDULE VALIDATION AND AUDITING NEEDED?
It is undeniable that construction projects represent substantial investments-at-risk both for Owners and Contractors. The Owners, a category which includes but is not limited to private companies, government agencies, real estate developers and funding agents, invest massive amounts of money to get a final product of acceptable quality, whereas the Contractors invest huge amounts of resources in their efforts to deliver a profitable product.
Today’s construction operations rely on each contributor performing to the agreed upon Work Plan and Schedule. And the Work Plan and Schedule must be valid, reasonable, rational, and achievable if the Project is to be successfully and profitably completed.
In construction projects, scheduling has become progressively more common in the past 20+ years as more and more tools have been put at the reach of planners and schedulers. More affordable hardware and software, broader access to information and better understanding of principles have made scheduling a highly rewarded engineering specialty. In this evolution over the last two decades or so, old practices have been replaced by sophisticated and complex practices and techniques. Nowadays it is not uncommon to find schedules with thousands of activities which generate a wide range of reports and graphs.
All these factors contribute to create today’s delicate situation in which construction schedule practices contain many misuses, or omissions of basic principles, processes, and tools. For instance:
- Illogical activity logic and relationships are common;
- Resources [the basis of all schedules] are either not considered or, if they are, then are either not scheduled ‘forward’ to reduce usage peaks and valleys, or ‘backwards’ to prevent end of project buildups (only 1 in 8 Contractors even consider resources to develop their schedules);
- Earned Value and Earned Schedule concepts are infrequently used to monitor performance and progress;
- Date constraints are overused; effectively forcing a workplan into a preconceived schedule.
- Work calendars are inappropriately used;
- Linear scheduling for specific trades is not considered; and
- Outright abuses so as to set the stage and conditions for future claims.
This means all of the underlying aspects of the scheduling technique need to be checked and validated for the sake of transparency and contractual balance between the parties involved.
In a world of increasing complexity of construction projects, progressively tighter deadlines and shortage of available resources, Validation and Auditing are important tools to ensure the proper management of the schedule, and in increasing its transparency.
If today’s construction schedules are properly prepared, Construction Managers, Owners, Suppliers, and Subcontractors have an efficient and effective management tool to control complex construction projects accomplished by a diverse array of designers, engineers, suppliers, and specialty subcontractors.
Planning, coordination, and communication of the Work Plan, Schedule, performance, and control are then greatly facilitated in the efforts to achieve projects successfully and profitably.
However, the if needs to become when. And this means all of the underlying aspects need to be checked by an independent, qualified and experienced Master Construction Scheduler’s Validation-Auditing team.
Before you begin on your construction journey, it is better to know where you are going, rather than later learning where you were [and wish you weren’t].
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM SCHEDULE VALIDATION AND AUDITS?
Owners and Contractors will both benefit from Schedule Validations and Audits.
From the Owners point of view, it is necessary to know that the Contractor’s plan and schedules are realistic and achievable as these documents also indicate what actions the Owner must accomplish in order not to delay the Contractor’s progress while avoiding submittal review and approval overload.
A valid, reasonable, and rational Work Plan and Schedule minimizes the inherent risks of budget overruns and late delivery of the Project’s product.
For Owners, some of the benefits are:
- Schedule Validation and Auditing can be used to minimize the impact of construction conflicts because it can detect the issues at the beginning or in due time to allow corrections and negotiations.
- Assurance of a valid, reasonable, rational and feasible schedule;
- Assurance of adequate timing and phasing of the project ;
- Minimization of schedule manipulation by claim-oriented Contractors;
- Assurance of proper project progress status and reviews;
- Assurance of proper documentation and traceability;
- Better information for contemporaneous project analysis;
- Immediate detection of delays, deviations, trends;
- Issues raised in due time to allow for corrective and preventive measures, analysis of alternatives, scope adjustments, etc;
- Less susceptibility to late claims by Contractors;
- Less need of arbitration as a last resource to solve disputes.
Contractors also need to know that their subcontractors and suppliers can perform as needed and promised, and also that the Contractor’s own forces can function effectively and efficiently.
The bottom line objective of work planning, scheduling, and project controls is profitably completing a project at or above the desired quality while adhering to budget and schedule constraints
For Contractors, subcontractors and suppliers, some of the major benefits are:
- Detection of errors in scope definition, relationships between activities, milestones, resource allocations, etc;
- Upon being Validated and Audited, the schedule becomes more reliable and technically stronger to preserve the Contractor’s rights when preparing claims and requesting compensation;
- The presence of validators/auditors induces the Contractors to better plan and control the job.
It is important to note that McLaughlin and McLaughlin [M&M] is not a law firm and is not intending to provide legal advice. M&M is a consulting firm providing (among other services) non-legal expertise in dispute resolution and litigation support. The Resource Center is for the convenience of blog visitors and M&M does not offer this for commercial purposes. For further information on M&M services, please see www.McLaughlinandMcLaughlin.com.