How to Plan Your Construction Project Successfully

How to Plan Your Construction Project Successfully

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Monday, 16 January 2017 04:06

Planning a project requires very specific skills and a deep knowledge of the activities needed for its successful implementation.
Successful scheduling begins by assigning a good Project Manager to the task of planning.
But with all the variables in play, how can everything come together on time, on budget and with the desired quality?


Basic Concepts in Development of Construction Schedules

Planning a construction project is no different from planning any other kind of projects. However, the number of tasks and activities involved can be by far superior compared to other projects. Also, risks associated with such activities are much higher than those found in other industries. This calls for extra skills, experience, attention.

A Project can be called successful when implemented on time, on budget and with the desired quality.
Generally, when these three indicators are met, risks have been taken care of already. In fact, any unforeseen event connected with risk generates an expansion in time and budget. 

In order to be on schedule, spending the right amount of money and producing correct results, one needs to begin with these three ingredients:

  1. a detailed project 
  2. a schedule
  3. a budget

The order is important.

The Project Manager shall begin planning only when it is clear and agreed what has to be built, together with all the construction details of the object. Differences in the construction details can affect the implementation time and cost of the works. It is then essential that all parties agree with no doubt on what is the desired outcome of the construction project.

The main challenge for a Project Manage is to "interpret" the project, with all its components and its details, and translate it into actionable steps to be taken in a logic and clear sequence. That is the project schedule.
After that, it is easy to compile a budget by assigning a cost to each step.

After the agreement on the object to be built, the most important duty for a Project Manager is then to develop a reliable schedule. Let's see which are the fundamental steps to get this right.

1. Defining Work Tasks

This is often seen as the most complex duty of the Project Manager.
Defining work tasks requires the capacity of looking at something that has not yet come into being and lineup the series of events that need to happen to make that something become a reality.
This is no ordinary skill.

It is tempting to sit at your desk and start to compile lines on your favorite project management tool. That most likely would result in missing steps.
For getting everything right one must take the time to think.

Something as low-tech as "post-it" notes, make a great tool for this initial part of the process.

Suggestion: take a 30-minute undisturbed time. Begin by thinking about all the phases of the project, all the tasks that must be performed, all the activities involved. Write them down on the post-it notes.
Keep doing this for the whole 30 minutes time.
You'll notice that it is easy at first to come up with tasks to write and it becomes more and more difficult as you go.
A good way to use time when you cannot come up with additional tasks, is to split tasks you've already written.

After 30 minutes you'll end up with a bunch of post-it notes. It is now time to make order. 
Begin collecting notes that are related to the same task, group of tasks or phase of the project.
You should be able to end up with a set of clearly defined piles of notes.
This is the starting point for building your schedule. Now you need to start writing down those piles of notes into your scheduling tool.

Yes, to build a project schedule you are going to need some tool. The best tool for the job is a Gantt Chart.
We already covered Gantt Charts in a previous article and I warmly suggest you having a look at it since there are over 100 tools that do the trick.

Leansite provides a built-in Gantt Chart tool. We call it "Masterplan".


leansite gantt schedule


You can easily input all your post-it notes into Masterplan and begin arranging them in time, by sliding tasks from left to right.
The whole process is very intuitive as it is all based on drag&drop interaction.
In a few minutes, you'll be ready to continue to the next step.

2. Defining Precedence Relationships Among Tasks

Once all tasks have been inserted into Masterplan, you can begin to define the relationships between them.
Precedence relationships (also known as "dependencies") are important because they clearly show how one task affect another.
Numerous natural sequences exist for construction activities due to requirements for structural integrity, regulations, and other technical requirements.

Delays in one or more task can affect the project in many ways and having dependencies clearly identified will help you to monitor the progress once the project is running.

Note that, while some tasks have a clear dependency on the order of execution, some other might be executed in any order but, if those are assigned to the same resource or make use of the same equipment, they must be put into a dependency sequence.
Which brings us to step three: it is very important to define which resources are assigned to each task.

3. Estimating Resource Requirements

The total resources required for the project are the sum of the resources required for each task.
By assigning resources to each task, one can have a good picture of the requirement of resources for the whole project.
Note that "resource" may indicate a person or an equipment.

By assigning resources to each task, potential bottlenecks can be identified. Identifying bottlenecks in planning stage allows taking measure to solve the issue by simply allocating more resources and eventually modifying the budget.

Resources can be internal or external. In both cases, it is wise to check if those resources are available for the time where the work is planned and to make necessary arrangements to book them. This might reveal extra hidden costs (for example it might be necessary to foresee cost buffers for hiring different resources if the resource of first choice are not available).

4. Estimating Task Durations

Right after estimating resource and before starting estimating the duration of tasks, there is one more thing you can do: bring your Team onboard.

In the previous step you identified human resources and assigned them to specific tasks. Good.
It is a good practice to inform them about this possible project and to ask their opinion about the tasks assigned to them.
Their know-how can become handy to split the task into subtasks for a better understanding of inner bottlenecks or hidden requirements.
This step is fundamental in order to get durations right.

So, ask them to review the tasks they were assigned to and ask them to help splitting specific time-consuming tasks.
Complex tasks such as "revision of design" come packed with subtasks and internal dependencies which might affect duration so heavily that time can be anything between a few days and a few weeks. You need to be precise.

Once you put a duration to every task you are set for success.

You can now convert time in money and compile a budget for the whole project. Don't forget to add buffers :)

Execute and Track the Progress

Once everything is properly set up, you can take a short break and watch the Project unfold. At this point, your main duty shall be to supervise and check that all Tasks and activities are executed according to the plan and in respect of Quality and Budget.

Tools like Leansite can help you to free your time from planning and micromanaging and focus more on Quality by spending more time on the construction site.

Leansite is an outstanding application able to deliver excellent result in managing your construction site.
Masterplan, Workplan, Activities, Discussion Board and File Sharing make the application the perfect tool to stay on track. 


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Published in Masterplan/

Read 872 times Last modified on Tuesday, 31 January 2017 05:45

Andrea Bronzini

Brilliant and committed professional.
Andrea has been working in construction industry since 2004 and he was certified as Passivhaus Consultant in 2010.
Among other skills, Andrea specialises in Sales and Marketing and collaborates with Leansite in quality of Marketing Consultant.