How Construction Scheduling Software Supports Project Teams
December 28, 2021
Labor, materials and equipment are considered the three primary resources of any capital project. Let’s add a fourth one: time.
Although obviously not a physical entity, time nonetheless is a crucial element of every project, representing the intangible measure of how those other three resources are allocated along a project’s continuum. And that measure of time has been showing the majority of construction projects finish beyond their target completion date. The prime culprit? How those resources are scheduled.
That explains why 53% of respondents of InEight’s Global Capital Projects Outlook survey indicated that planning and scheduling is the most impactful factor in on-time and on-budget project delivery. And 54% say that software adoption is key. That’s in line with the slow but steady digital transformation within the industry, with contractors increasingly turning to construction scheduling software to make the scheduling process more effective, transparent and collaborative.
While it can improve the process, what about the project teams? After all, construction is still a human-dependent business despite all the technology and automation proliferating in the industry. Let’s look at how construction scheduling software supports the people part of the project equation.
Schedule realism from past project data informs more reasonable schedules for site crews
Resources have limits. Labor, materials and equipment are all in limited supply and availability. Time, on the other hand, is infinite, but not when it comes to construction. Industry-wide, there’s plenty of past project data that proves on-time project completion rarely happens according to plan. However, history can be the best teacher. That history, in the form of project data stored in construction scheduling software, can serve as a guide for how schedules should look realistically. So current projects can leverage the standards set by prior ones when creating accurate schedules because they’re based on real-world-informed data. Same goes for the things that didn’t go as planned. When risk-adjusted within the software for factors that impacted those similar projects, it helps to manage timeline expectations at the outset for everyone on the project team.
It’s this risk-management ability within construction scheduling software that can keep history from repeating itself. Forecasting the impact of not only these previous what-if scenarios, but also unaccounted-for factors occurring in real time is a key benefit for contractors, owners and other stakeholders as they make better-informed, consensus-driven scheduling decisions armed with this data. For contractors and owners in particular, it creates more project outcome certainty, but teams get a bit more control over them.
And the direct benefit for the field-based team of the overall software and its risk management capabilities? Eased pressure to meet ambitious task delivery timelines. Subcontractors and craftspeople have a better chance to be more efficient when executing against a better-informed schedule. Quality and productivity are likely to improve, which can be reflected in individual job performance.
But construction scheduling software also can deliver a secondary benefit for site crews that may be even more compelling: reducing the risks that play out when under pressure to hit task deadlines. That can include mistakes and non-standard workmanship that can later result in rework that threatens their retention payments; missed safety protocols that can cause injury; and long shifts leading to fatigue that further compromises their safety.
Schedule visibility promotes collaboration and trust among project team, contractors and owners
Accessibility is what puts schedule visibility within equal reach of everyone on the project team. And visibility, in turn, encourages communication through information-sharing and dialogue — something that’s notoriously been lacking in the industry.
Particularly with cloud-based software, on-site and remote project team members are literally on the same page, able to see where things are going well and where attention and action are needed. With layers of schedules and hundreds of resources to organize, capital projects especially benefit from the level of visibility found in construction scheduling software. Even with all the complexity inherent in such projects, visibility makes it easier to collaborate quickly when necessary. For example, contractors and key stakeholders are better able to sync up on reviewing and managing schedule-impacting changes and constraints. That way timely decisions and any contingency plans can be agreed upon, implemented and shared with the broader team to keep them in the loop.
But interacting with schedules this closely isn’t the only way to see what’s on track or not. Construction scheduling software also offers visibility in the form of dashboards — as well as the more formal, in-depth reports — for at-a-glance insight into project health via earned value management (EVM) metrics, specifically schedule performance index (SPI) and schedule variance (SV) values. Proactively accessing the dashboard ensures everyone — from subcontractors to contractors to owners — stay informed on progress. In fact, monitoring these metrics can provide an early sign of when things may be deviating or falling behind schedule. The parties most impacted or involved have the opportunity to become problem solvers determining the source of any sudden spikes or gradual deviations to schedule progress, forecasting the effects of possible course corrections and taking the necessary action steps to bring the metric values within safe operating range.
The benefit of all this transparency and collaboration across the board is trust — trust among the team as they work together to solve a challenge, and trust by the owner in the team demonstrating accountability to complete the project on time.
Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities improve team effectiveness and schedule feasibility
Let’s go back to the historical data from your past projects. If your construction scheduling software has AI capabilities, it can create risk-mitigated, realistic schedules. How? By relying on human input and interaction — specifically that of project team members — to think and learn. As AI pulls in this data and begins to understand how past schedules have been assembled and what risks they encountered, it can start to pick up on consistencies and irregularities. The more data it’s fed from past and current projects, the more it learns, and the more accurate its generated schedules will be as it suggests ways to make optimal use of all resources: labor, materials, equipment and, of course, time.
So how do project teams benefit from all of this? Because AI is meant to provide insights and recommendations, rather than firm answers, you and your team are spared from assembling every detail of your project’s schedule — itself a risk-laden adventure. Instead, AI helps you understand your project and its scheduling better. It enables you to assess any risks it noted, adjust plans based not just on its suggestions but the real-life expertise of the team.
Are you realizing team benefits with your construction scheduling software?
Not all software solutions have the exact same capabilities. What’s the right software tool for you? It could be InEight Schedule, created by and for construction professionals to deliver the performance and predictability you want when planning out your projects. How do you find out? Schedule a demo to see if it will improve your scheduling for the types of capital projects in your portfolio.