Owners and contractors usually have different ideas about what the perfect schedule looks like.
Contractors use software to create very detailed schedules with all the minutiae involved to coordinate the specific activities per trade on a construction project. When an owner asks for a project schedule, they tend to have an orientation toward funding, cashflow, and the in-service date for the asset. “Their eyes tend to gloss over,” says Joe Poskie, Director of Product Management at Trimble e-Builder. “Owners want to know when their big-picture goals are reached—not follow every trade detail of the project.”
"OWNERS WANT TO KNOW WHEN THEIR BIG-PICTURE GOALS ARE REACHED—NOT FOLLOW EVERY TRADE DETAIL OF THE PROJECT.”
-Joe Poskie, Director of Product Management at Trimble e-Builder
Addressing the Challenge
Owners want a schedule with a bird’s-eye view of the project—but there’s a technical challenge in pulling that essential information from a contractor schedule and presenting it in a usable format.
Construction managers and project managers often find themselves caught in the middle of this challenge. “Maybe they’re working for an owner, but they’re used to being in the weeds of managing trades and subcontractors,” says Poskie. “Now they’re getting thrown into a world where the expectations are a little different.” The project needs to be done on time, but the actual work schedule must align with funding and payment cycles, annual budgets, and other factors.
The Importance of Good Schedule Management
Why is it so important for owners to have a good schedule management method in place? The tolls of poor scheduling—in both time and costs—are significant. “If you’re not tracking your schedule properly, you’ll end up with unpleasant surprises,” says Christopher Haite, Managing Civil Engineer at Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. “For example, you might realize you’re ready to install something, but it hasn’t been ordered yet. Things like that are going to slow you down—and in construction management, time is money.”
Delays can affect the capital plan and disrupt yearly cash flows, further delaying project completion. “From an owner standpoint, I might be budgeting out five or ten years in the future,” says Haite. “If I have a major capital improvement project that I need to do in year three, and I've got these other projects pushing it back, I need to be made aware of those roadblocks in time to offset delays.”
“IF YOU’RE NOT TRACKING YOUR SCHEDULE PROPERLY, YOU’LL END UP WITH UNPLEASANT SURPRISES...”
-Christopher Haite, Managing Civil Engineer at Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
Migrating from Spreadsheets to Software
Traditionally, owners used spreadsheets to manage schedules manually—and many still do. But creating and updating spreadsheet schedules is a time-consuming and never-ending task. Often, by the time you’ve finished updating the document, some elements have changed, making it almost impossible to maintain a schedule that delivers real-time accuracy.
For owners accustomed to manual schedule keeping, the switch to a modern construction project management software solution can prove challenging—and requires buy-in from everyone on the team. Existing data must be migrated to a system that enforces relationships and team members must then keep their pieces of the project updated.
But while there’s a learning curve involved, the risk of not making that change is greater. Owners need to recognize the value of having a schedule that contains the long-term milestones that matter most to them, from capital planning all the way through delivery and occupancy. “When we’re helping customers migrate to e-Builder, we see owners recognizing the importance of scheduling,” says Poskie. “They really see the value of it and make it their own.”
Visibility: The Key to Success
When owners—and others on the project—can view the schedule in ways that apply specifically to them, it streamlines the project and keeps everyone better informed and less confused. “Visibility into the schedule by all members of your project team is a key factor of success,” says Roger Newman, Project Manager at Trimble e-Builder.
To accomplish this visibility, e-Builder allows you to build your schedule within the platform, setting up activities and allocating resources to different tasks. For example, if you add a design task, you might assign a civil engineer and an electrical engineer to it. When they log into the program on their homepage, they see that task and its accompanying deadlines.
Everyone on the project can update the same schedule and you’ll have a clear understanding of where things stand—so if there’s an issue, you can see it right away. As long as tasks are updated regularly, project reports yield an accurate picture of where the schedule is slipping or gaining time. e-Builder also integrates with other systems to manage cash flow. “By linking it to your budget, you can start to see the money move with the project,” Newman says. “That linkage to cash flow is critical when you’re managing long-term capital plans.”
Ultimately, e-Builder Enterprise provides easy-to-use scheduling tools that yield measurable results in saved time and better insights. “The real advantage is being able to anticipate problems and delays,” says Haite, “and make better decisions because you know what’s going on.”