Uniting Planning and Scheduling Through Technology

Integrating planning and scheduling is not just a theoretical advantage but a practical solution to common industry challenges.

Two essential aspects of managing a construction project are planning and scheduling. Though distinct in their functions, their successful integration is crucial for effective project management. 

 

Planning vs. Scheduling

 

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), planning deals with selecting the appropriate policies and procedures in order to achieve the objectives of the project. On the other hand, scheduling converts the plan for scope, time, cost, and quality into a timeline.

At its core, planning is about setting up your project for success, figuring out what needs to be done and by when. Scheduling is more about the ‘when.’ It’s your project’s calendar that tells everyone the plan for each day. But here’s the thing: these two need to talk to each other. When they don’t, your project can hit some serious roadblocks.

 

The Role of the Planner

 

A planner thinks big picture. Ideally, a planner creates an overall view of the project, working with teams to develop a cohesive system. They’re looking at blueprints, counting crews, and mapping out how to turn drawings into structures. 

To create a plan, consider all the moving parts, from manpower to materials. As listed in Project Control Academy, a plan involves the following: 

  • Defining scope and constraints
  • Performing feasibility studies (financial, legal, and other)
  • Comparing alternative designs
  • Choosing the best contract type and delivery method
  • Preparing for management of the execution. 

Plans lay the groundwork. They forecast project needs, from the quantity of concrete to the number of workers on site. With a proactive process, looking at the project in its entirety, planners and schedulers work together to establish a roadmap to completion.

 

The Role of the Scheduler

 

The scheduler brings the planner’s vision into a timeline, plugging activities into CPM scheduling software like Primavera or Microsoft Project. In order to use these systems effectively, knowing how to add activities and assign logic is crucial. 

 

 

However, it’s easy for schedulers to work on multiple projects or get caught up in the details. When this happens, the potential risks or chances to improve the process are often overlooked. As a result, the schedule becomes a reporting mechanism as opposed to what it was designed to be–a management tool. 

 

Technology: The Integrative Tool

 

That’s where technology comes in. When scheduling fails to consider things like needing additional crews, how activities impact the critical path, how end dates are affected, and which trades have the highest probability for disruption, it does not involve planning. Until the two worlds of planning and scheduling are merged together, both remain in a silo. 

Effective project management requires collaborative planning and scheduling technology. Using collaborative software platforms where planning and scheduling converge seamlessly allows for reporting that reflects on-site work as it happens. 

That’s the kind of tech we’re talking about — software that helps planners and schedulers work together in real time.

 

Merging Planning & Scheduling with Technology

 

The first schedule, aka the “baseline,” showcases the initial project plan. It cannot predict how trades will work together, if there are enough resources, or how RFIs will work out. But, every time you update the schedule, it’s a chance to learn and better determine what’s next.  

With new technology, planning and scheduling are coming together more than ever before. Using schedule analytics tools, you can spot trends–what’s going well, what’s not, and where you need to change things up. These tools help you keep track of everything as it’s happening. 

By staying on top of regular updates and using the data received from CPM scheduling, your team can make smarter choices. You can figure out where you need more people or materials to keep the project moving smoothly. This way, you’re not just following a plan or a schedule– you’re actively improving how the job gets done. 

 

Collaborative Project Controls Platforms

 

To merge planning and scheduling, everyone on your project must be on the same page. Project control platforms enable team collaboration by providing access to the same information, ensuring that all members are informed and aligned. Ideally, these platforms should  include features like: 

This information gives planners, schedulers, and everyone in between the metrics and checkpoints necessary to ensure company standards are met. By tracking these metrics, teams can catch issues early and adjust schedules and plans accordingly. 

 

 

Case Study: Technology-Driven Planning and Scheduling

 

Barton Malow Builders’ implementation of SmartPM exemplifies the practical benefits of integrating planning and scheduling technology. With an automated platform, the company can detect risks earlier, adjust planning in real-time, and reduce the incidence of claims due to scheduling errors. 

 

 

Having a real-time project overview allows all project stakeholders to quickly analyze all ongoing activity in an easy-to-read format. The result? All project stakeholders have the insights needed for agile decision-making. 

 

Bridging the Gap with Technology

 

The integration of planning and scheduling is not just a theoretical advantage but a practical solution to common industry challenges. By bridging the gap between these two processes, construction professionals can leverage real-time data to make informed decisions, ensuring that all projects are completed efficiently and effectively.

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