Pre-Planning the Benchmarking Way

The saying goes that if you fail to plan, you’re really planning to fail. This is certainly true in the construction industry. Traditional critical path method project planning has focused on building a schedule and specifying the work required rather than trying to align work required with agreed-upon deliverable dates.

But pre-planning addresses this as an effective means of not just establishing a top-down, deliverable-based plan, but more importantly, a means of validating that this plan is reasonable and achievable is needed. Setting unrealistic expectations in the plan is as bad, if not worse, than missing the mark during execution itself. This is where “pre-planning” and the benchmarking process come into play.


Understanding Pre-Planning

Think of pre-planning as the precursor to building out a critical path method (CPM) schedule. During this early phase, you are defining a hierarchy of deliverables along with expected timelines.

To establish a hierarchy of deliverables, consider the concept of “planning packages.” These are used to define scope and identify associated deliverables without the need for the complexity of activities, logic links and calendars.

To establish timelines or durations for deliverables, you must account for the size or quantity of deliverables. Based on a combination of productivity rates and specified quantities, you can then derive durations. These are the timelines that you believe the actual work can be achieved within. This top-down estimate gives you a target to aim for when fleshing out the bottom-up schedule.

Once you have established your top-down deliverable-based plan, you can then flesh out the details using traditional CPM scheduling techniques. The main benefit of integrating top-down with bottoms-up planning is the ability to compare the two, tracking whether or not the bottoms-up work plan satisfies the top-down estimates established during the pre-planning phase.


Benchmarking Process Planning

When building your top-down plan (establishing deliverables), wouldn’t it be useful to know what reasonable productivity rates are? For example, when defining a planning package for six concept drawings, knowing that a reasonable rate is five days per drawing would help in establishing a duration of 30 days. Not only is it a realistic duration, but it has a sound, defendable basis.

Imagine you are building a plan and being prompted in real time about what realistic durations (and even costs) should be based on your benchmarked deliverables. Today’s leading planning, scheduling and risk solutions have this capability.

As you build your top-down plan during the pre-planning phase, the tool provides organizational or industry benchmarks for what your durations and costs ought to be. Not only that, but it also shows you the consensus of these benchmarks, including historical performance data from your previously completed projects.

You as the planner still get to make the overarching decision as to whether you adopt suggestions or opt to proceed with your own estimate. Adopt your own estimate and you can visually see how that compares to the consensus from the benchmarks in your tool’s knowledge library. The benchmarking process gives you direction as to whether you are planning according to your organization’s standards or not.


Looping It All Back to Critical path method

When you execute a project, you track performance by comparing your plan to your actual execution – this tells you how successfully you are executing your project. Well, now you can do the same for planning. By measuring your detailed plan against your benchmarked deliverable plan, for the first time, you can measure how realistic and achievable the plan is. That’s a huge step forward in the science of project planning.

In the end, it’s not really about changing how to build a CPM schedule. It’s about the fact that we are now providing a means of measuring the realism of that CPM plan. When you begin with a real-world, achievable plan, you’ll be heading for success before you’ve even started execution.

InEight’s construction planning software is one multifaceted to look at. It brings together three key aspects required for successful construction project management: planning, scheduling and risk management. Find out how it can add value to your future project planning; request a demo today and invite your team of power users to experience how it can streamline their jobs.

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