Project Scheduler vs Scheduling Expert

A construction schedule is vital for planning, managing, and leveraging data analytics to make informed decisions.

The project schedule is arguably the most important document in the construction industry. It’s vital for planning, managing, and leveraging data analytics to make informed decisions. Most construction projects have what is called a “project scheduler” who plans construction on behalf of the project management team.

This is not to be confused with the “scheduling expert,” who can do all that and more with the data contained in the schedule. While I may be biased, I think schedulers with a high level of expertise in data analytics will ultimately promote better outcomes.

The difference between the two is generally cost—where project schedulers make far less than the scheduling experts —but it’s usually for a good reason. In the paragraphs below, I have done my best to explain what a project scheduler is usually capable of, followed by capabilities that scheduling experts have that go above and beyond that of project schedulers.

 

The Project Scheduler

 

A project scheduler understands the basics of schedule management, which includes generating activities with durations and applying logic to create a plan. They also know how to update a schedule with information over time and understand the mechanics behind total float and critical path management. They have a pretty decent understanding of earned value management as well, and —in most cases— have had enough experience to build schedules of high quality and best practices for every project.

The one thing that schedulers can typically do that far surpasses the capabilities of everyone else on the job site, including the “schedule expert,” is their ability to manage and navigate through scheduling software. However, most dedicated project schedulers know a lot about schedule management and the scheduling programs they are built into but usually know very little about actually building a construction project. They don’t question schedule feasibility, rather just use the program the way they are told to by the PM, creating some challenges as projects progress.

 

The Scheduling Expert

 

Enter the scheduling expert. An easy way to distinguish between the scheduler and the scheduling expert is that the scheduler is hired at the start of the project, while a scheduling expert is usually only brought in when a claim is filed or a dispute arises. This is generally because of the cost differential between the two, which is very unfortunate.

Scheduling experts can see data beyond what is printed on the .pdf schedule. They have skills that can actually control the outcomes of projects, therefore reducing overall delays and overruns. Scheduling experts generally know a lot about the construction process as well because they have been a part of so many projects in their careers and studied their schedules so intensely, allowing them to have a better grasp of the actual construction side of the equation.

 

The Difference Between a Project Scheduler and a Scheduling Expert: 

 

The various skill sets that a scheduling expert possesses that exceed that of the project scheduler include the following:

  1. They are capable of assessing risk within project schedules, whether it be through the general logic and sequencing, durations, or assessing the various changes from one update to the next.
  2. They have the ability to analyze true critical path delay, a skill set that is crucial for assessing why projects are late and who caused it.
  3. They have the ability to study the compression and feasibility of the various schedule updates, which is critical for determining whether or not the plan is reasonable going forward.
  4. They use historical data embedded within a project’s schedule to plan for and, in some cases, predict future critical paths with accurate estimates for expected completion dates.

 

Due to the reasons listed above, I totally recommend hiring a scheduling expert on every single project if it were up to me. Although they are easily twice as expensive, it is worth the investment. Of course, there is always the option of utilizing a technology platform, like SmartPM, to perform the function of a “scheduling expert” alongside the project scheduler.

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