How unified schedule data helps keep construction projects on track

The right technology can help keep office and field teams in sync.

Garrett Harley | February 15, 2024


The schedule is the beating heart of every construction project. Or the detailed map that guides the entire project team from start to finish.

Or the finely tuned engine with a thousand moving parts that…you get it. Whatever your preferred metaphor, getting the schedule right is the key to getting the project right.

So what’s the secret? No secret, really; it’s just a matter of close coordination. While that sounds easy, the reality, as always, is more complicated.

Having spent several years building and managing construction project schedules, I get how tough it can be to make sure everybody who needs it has access to the best information at the right time.

In most construction projects, the critical path method, or CPM, schedule tends to be the responsibility of folks in the office. That’s not to say that we didn’t include and get input from teams out in the field. But the level of detail that’s needed to run work in the field tends to be very different from what might live in the initial contract schedule.

Different—but connected—needs

Scheduling teams need to understand, at a high level, what’s happening and going to happen on a project. But in many cases, the folks in the field aren’t really looking at the project through this lens. They’re thinking about the 12 things they need to do today and the 15 other things that must get done by Friday. So, the best schedule has views and experiences that help both approaches, because they’re interdependent.

Ideally, the project schedule should consider the summary of activities found in the scope of work of the contract, as well as the field-level production details based on the guide rails in these summaries. But from a behavioral standpoint, what happens is that teams in the field tended to go out there and do their own thing.

So while we might all agree on what the framework of a contract schedule should contain, it was tough to get visibility into the changes that were happening day to day. Things just weren’t fully in sync, and that can lead to trouble, or at least make things more complicated for everybody. We’re chasing information, and the information often just moves faster than we can.

A better approach to construction scheduling

Wearing my construction tech hat, I’ve talked with lots of folks trying to cope with these very challenges. When asked how they want to improve how they run their schedules, a couple of themes came up over and over:

  • Connect my CPM contract and task management schedules
  • Put the task work in the hands of my field teams

Using technology to unify the CPM contract and task management schedules can accomplish both objectives. Such an approach brings all teams and data into a single environment, meaning the right information is available to those who need it.

Whether the CPM scheduling team needs to ensure updates are made, or the field team needs to know where to focus right now, all stakeholders are on the same page and have the needed level of detail to perform their roles. Learn more about this approach—and how to get it right for your organization.

The benefits of bringing together your scheduling data aren’t limited to improved coordination of long- and short-term plans and work in the field. There are also opportunities to improve how you manage project risks. This entails empowering the entire project team to log risks in a central register linked to the schedule, creating a broader view.

Finally, connecting data can help your organization turn information into insights. For example, advances in AI are helping construction firms identify hidden risks that need to be investigated and addressed, including factors that contribute to schedule delays, poor schedule quality, process inefficiencies, and project planning issues.

Machine learning models can be trained using past and current project data, letting systems dynamically analyze that data to predict future outcomes. This approach provides an ongoing risk “radar” that can flag problems and guide teams on how to mitigate risks long before they become showstoppers.

Whatever your immediate need may be, a more connected approach to scheduling can help you shift from rework to clockwork to keep projects moving forward.

Garrett Harley, a former construction scheduler, is a product marketing director for Oracle Construction and Engineering.


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