Using Construction Scheduling Software to
Better Plan Capital Projects
July 23, 2021
When you’re working on capital projects, or any project of a massive or particularly complex nature, it’s no longer a matter of if you need construction scheduling software but what to look for in such a solution that will best meet your company’s needs. While there’s no one universally perfect solution, there are several factors to consider when exploring all the options available to you.
Having a cloud-hosted construction scheduling software means all parties — in the field, the back office and other remote locations — have access to all schedule-related information. What makes cloud access stand out as a must-have feature is its ability to turn scheduling software into a collaborative tool so all users can work together on causes of and remedies for scheduling delays or deviations that demand attention and action. Plus, cloud-hosting is a more cost-effective option that doesn’t take up your existing IT staff’s time or require extra equipment. One thing to keep in mind is that with the cloud there may be security concerns, particularly if your scheduling software is integrated with other programs such as costing and estimating.
Made possible by the cloud, this ensures everyone out in the field can still view and interact with the schedule using their smartphones anywhere on the job without having to go to a centrally located device on site. Sometimes the mobile version may have modified functionalities, so check that everyone will have access to the ones they need to do their jobs, and that the data available to them is updated and synced frequently or in real time. It could depend on whether the mobile option is available as a downloadable app or only via a web browser.
Scheduling conflict alerts
One small scheduling error can have an unintended cascade effect, especially when organizing the thousands of tasks that make up a substantial capital project. So you want to make sure the right people are flagged when there are threats to the schedule — such as clashing timelines, out of sequence tasks, sudden schedule deviations, tasks at risk of being late, and double-booked equipment, site crews or individual craftspeople. Effective construction scheduling software will have a notification feature. Alerts serve as an essential heads up so timely decision making and adjustments can be made.
Forecasting what-if scheduling scenarios
What if you’re assembling an estimate that takes into account factors that can impact the schedule? What if an event occurs in real time that wasn’t accounted for in the estimate? What if a requested change order is approved? Forecasting takes on simultaneous planning and risk management roles by enabling you to assess their respective impact and create contingency plans around them. Plus, it can be used to assess the trajectory of your schedule against the estimate. What if things are projected to run behind or ahead? Forecasting using ongoing schedule data entered from the field can help you monitor these trends so you can plan how to realign site crews, for example.
Dashboards and reports
Could you use more insight into your schedule performance and keep everyone informed on progress and any developing issues? Look at what the data shows. Dashboards make your schedule (and other factors) easier to monitor through visually formatted analytics that everyone can digest at a glance. Reports provide everyone transparency into ongoing performance — especially owners who will likely want regular reports to follow along on their capital project’s progress and keep everyone accountable.
Ease of use and training
Your construction scheduling software should be relatively easy to learn and intuitive enough to use. Find out what kind of training as well as what ongoing support is available in the future. Odds are high you’ll have temporary subcontractors who need to access schedules, the learning curve should be short for their needs.
Extras that can Really Make a Difference
- Will you want to view multiple projects at the same time? Having a dashboard with a summary view of your projects can help save you time bouncing between different projects for basic scheduling status information.
- Do you work on projects with repeatable, predictable tasks? The ability to create a library of task templates (with the right amount of required labor, materials and equipment) that you can drop into the schedule ensures all associated subtasks and timelines are consistent.
- Do you plan on integrating it with other point solutions? Make sure they can “speak” to each other and share information easily without data loss or distortion. Especially if you track project performance through earned value management, you’ll want to make sure it’s integrated with costing and reporting software.
- Do you need multiple ways to view scheduling information? You might need to use critical path method, Gantt, timeline or other format based on the type and amount of data you need to track. Find out if the construction software you’re considering can support the scheduling methods you rely on.
It’s a good idea to reach out to others who will use the construction scheduling software frequently to find out which of these or other features are most important to them that will streamline their job and eliminate redundancies.