What to Look For in Construction Scheduling Software

Rick Bell | Senior Writer, Construction and Engineering | April 24, 2024

Scheduling software may not make the short list of essential construction equipment, alongside ladders, trucks, and backhoes. But before a construction firm turns the first shovel of dirt on a project, it needs to do all it can to ensure that the project runs smoothly from start to finish. Firms are ill advised to rely on error-plagued manual processes and unreliable spreadsheets to track the status of labor, equipment, and materials.

This article defines the many benefits of enterprise-class construction scheduling software and how to choose the right platform for your needs. We also address the key factors to know when choosing the software.

What Is Construction Scheduling Software?

As the name suggests, construction scheduling software helps construction professionals create and manage project schedules. Mobile accessibility is a key feature of cloud-based scheduling applications, letting users plan projects, track timelines, allocate resources, and monitor progress from anywhere on a jobsite. Features include task, resource, program, and risk management, as well as data reporting and analytics.

Working from cloud-based construction scheduling applications can give your teams the communication, consistency, and confidence to work on multiple complex projects, boost project efficiency, and improve overall project management.

Key Takeaways

  • Cloud-based construction software can simplify the scheduling process.
  • Construction scheduling software stores all project information in a single place, giving all stakeholders continuous access to the project flow.
  • Construction scheduling software must be accessible and easy to use for novices as well as experts.
  • Construction scheduling software should be able handle any size project, from small and simple to large and complex.

Construction Scheduling Software Explained

Every construction project has a schedule, but not every project schedule makes key data easily accessible to all teams. Paper and spreadsheet schedules are better than nothing, but their capabilities are limited, and they make it difficult for project leaders to ensure that all stakeholders have the latest versions reflecting the latest changes and developments.

Planning and scheduling software puts all project information in one place, while reducing the need to always recalculate the timeline manually. Enter the list of things the team needs to do (activities), how long each item will take (duration), the order in which they need to be done (sequence/relationship type), and when those things are available to happen (calendar). The scheduling software then provides dates of when everything will happen with a click of a button.

Construction scheduling software helps streamline projects of all sizes and scope, keeping them on track and stakeholders constantly updated on their status. All information is centralized, not in silos.

What Should You Look For in Construction Scheduling Software?

Because each construction project has unique features—think a high-rise office building versus a water treatment plant—it’s important for scheduling software to handle a variety of basic and complex tasks. Your construction schedule is first and foremost a communication tool for all involved. And since you’re catering to an audience of office teams and field teams, make sure your construction scheduling software centralizes and standardizes information and is simple for people to use.

Here are some of the key features of the best construction scheduling software packages.

  • User-friendly interface. A user-friendly interface helps make construction scheduling software intuitive for people of all skill levels. If the software’s hard to navigate, users may become frustrated and find alternatives—possibly going back to inefficient manual processes and spreadsheets and working in silos.
  • Task management. At a certain point the contract schedule needs to break down into field production increments. Tasks are the small components that lead to the final deliverable. Construction scheduling software should manage all activities and tasks in one solution rather than require integrations with other solutions. In construction terms, activities and task management live in one house.
  • Time tracking. Time tracking helps improve both the speed and accuracy of projects by quantifying field activity and construction progress and connecting real-world situations to plans and models. Construction scheduling software should help project managers track project progress against the schedule and ensure scheduled tasks have been completed, which can help make crews more productive and improve payment accuracy.
  • Resource management. It’s important to load labor, equipment, and material resources into the schedule to identify and address situations in which multiple parties will need access to resources simultaneously. This functionality is particularly valuable where resources are limited but critical for a project to be completed on time and budget.
  • Real-time collaboration. Effective, confident scheduling comes down to clear, real-time communication among all parties. There’s seldom time for sending emails and waiting for a response, given the fact that construction projects run on tight, complex timelines.
  • Document management. Given that construction projects typically create massive amounts of paperwork, it's easy to lose track of where a document is in the review and approval process. Construction scheduling software should incorporate easy workflow management for monitoring and reporting the status of thousands of engineering drawings, requests for information, change orders, and other documents requiring review and approval.

    Because project consultants often are located across multiple time zones—sometimes continents away from the job site—marking up and emailing or even mailing document changes can take days or weeks. Construction scheduling software that’s tightly integrated with project/enterprise document controls helps cross-functional teams stay in sync with the latest updates and revisions.

  • Reporting and analytics. Project planners often rely on gut instinct across a project’s lifecycle, throughout financing, planning, and closeout. But making decisions based just on past experiences—or worse, hunches—is not a reliable guide to building an airport or skyscraper. The best construction scheduling software packages build in advanced data reporting and analytics that provide insights into project progress and performance while helping teams quickly identify areas for improvement. More analysis of and access to information, especially in real time, means the folks in the field are way more informed than ever before.

    You typically find great project reporting in construction scheduling software, but can you find great enterprise reporting? Depending on the volume of data you need, that’s an important question to consider.
  • Mobile accessibility. The iPad’s introduction in 2010 gave the industry a valuable new mobile tool that grows more important daily. With a generation that grew up with technology entering the workforce, mobile devices are now as common on job sites as saws and hammers. It’s critical for construction scheduling software to include mobile app capabilities to track time, fill out forms, take photos from the field, and send it all instantly while letting office and field personnel share scheduling insights.
  • Project management. Most project management scheduling software improves efficiency and contributes to the timely completion of projects. But the best project management software does more. In addition to scheduling, it should help teams control costs, coordinate design and construction, provide document management, and help with invoicing, payments, and regulatory compliance.
  • Scheduling features. These features cover the blocking and tackling of a construction plan, defining an item of work, an activity, or a task and how long each will take, and how quickly and easily it is to add work. Baselines and scenario analysis are critical features since planners should take snapshots periodically to document a project’s progress. Also consider features that quickly generate reports detailing the schedule’s health.
  • Collaboration and communication tools. A challenge in construction is keeping everyone on the same page. The schedule is where all the work items to be executed on every project are documented. Communication is a critical component, and ensuring all stakeholders have easy, fast access can help build trust and relationships among stakeholders. Keeping all parties informed and involved can create a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility for the project’s success. Construction scheduling software provides the only platform to orchestrate the project plan.
  • Integration and compatibility with other tools. Ideally, every key feature should live within a single construction scheduling software solution. Still, that solution should allow for the integration of third-party capabilities. It’s important to consider who builds the integration and if you’re being charged for it. Saying that we have an API and you have an API makes it sound so simple, but it costs money, and someone has to make the integrations work. Look for a third-party solution built with the same architecture to support projects and enterprises.
  • Scalability and flexibility. Scheduling software should scale for projects of varying complexity and cost, from a simple tenant improvement project to a multimillion-dollar water treatment plant. Flexibility is also crucial so that you can reassign tasks, adjust budgets, and shift deadlines without wasting a lot of time.

Benefits of Using Construction Scheduling Software

Construction scheduling software stores all project information in a single location. All interested parties, including construction managers, skilled tradespeople, and project owners, have access to the project flow whenever needed. Working as a vital communication tool, the scheduling software should alert all relevant parties to any updates to the schedule as soon as they’re made. Look for the following key benefits:

  • Improved project visibility. Contractors and owners typically need the schedule for different things. Contractors want deep-dive details, while owners look mainly for the big picture. Construction scheduling software gives all stakeholders the necessary visibility, including across projects, while helping teams communicate and manage resources.
  • Enhanced productivity and efficiency. When users work together in a single construction scheduling solution, there’s no need to play phone tag or wait for email responses. Questions get answered, problems get solved, and schedules immediately sync up. Real-time communication and collaboration can help reduce errors and increase productivity and efficiency.
  • Accurate cost and time estimates. A construction schedule is only as good as the information that’s entered into it. Accurate cost and time estimates are based on information that is trustworthy and reliable—the math needs to add up. Then the scheduling software will do its job.
  • Streamlined communications. In fast-paced, complex construction project environments, time is of the essence. Email and siloed spreadsheets limit communications and information sharing, slowing projects down. Both wing-tip-wearing office executives and the jobsite workers wearing steel-toed boots need immediate access to different levels of project information. A cloud-based scheduling solution is a communication vehicle, giving all stakeholders immediate and transparent access to filter, sort, group, and create information that’s valuable to different users. Follow this rule of thumb: Can they understand what the schedule is presenting in less than seven seconds?
  • Increased profitability. It’s simple: Teams that prioritize construction project scheduling can perform better than those that don’t. Teams that move to construction scheduling software can improve productivity and efficiency, which could result in increased profitability.

How to Choose the Right Construction Scheduling Software

Construction scheduling software should fit the needs of your organization, teams, and individual projects. Make sure all stakeholders have easy, transparent access to the schedule at all stages of a project.

1. Identify needs and requirements

Most construction companies work across a portfolio of projects that range from small and simple to big and complex. Talk with your teams about their specific needs before shopping for scheduling software.

2. Evaluate features and compatibility

Identify the scheduling features that help you gain more efficiency and better define workflows. Compatibility with financial, supply chain, and other enterprise applications is important from day one, as you will be bringing together people, processes, and technology to give everyone real-time insights. Depending on the project, your features and compatibility needs will vary. For example, a government project’s needs are vastly different from those for a new home project.

3. Consider budget constraints

The cost of construction scheduling software can go beyond the up-front fee. The costs of different licensing and support models, as well as the hard and soft costs of training users to boost adoption, all must be factored in. For on-premises software, there are also associated server hardware and networking costs. The costs of subscription cloud services, especially those with intuitive GUIs, tend to be more steady and predictable.

4. Read reviews and get recommendations

Take all “independent” reviews with a grain of salt. The best reviews and recommendations often come from your peers in the industry, as scheduling for construction and engineering projects has unique requirements and rigidities.

5. Take advantage of free trials and demos

A free trial allows users to try out the scheduling software product or service at no cost for a set period. Remember: Free trials come as part of a professional sales pitch that’s carefully scripted. Ask many questions, including about the hard and soft costs of implementation and support, the length of implementation, the ease of use, and product/service capabilities.

When selecting construction scheduling software, it’s critical to do your homework. Customer success stories and use cases can be particularly insightful. Reach out to current customers of the scheduling software.

Oracle Construction Scheduling Software Grows with Your Business

A single construction scheduling software solution should provide organizations with all the features and benefits they need. Oracle Primavera Cloud delivers a comprehensive solution, at scale, with features that are easily accessible for new users as well as scheduling veterans.

Oracle Primavera Cloud, an integral part of Oracle Smart Construction Platform, accommodates scheduling projects of all sizes, bringing together office and field teams, synchronizing schedules and resources, and empowering the thousands of decisions that construction pros must make every day.

Have a super-simple project? Oracle Primavera Cloud lets you build a schedule for it. Or is your project incredibly big and complex? You can build a massive, complicated schedule in Oracle Primavera Cloud as well. Want to see both projects together? Oracle Primavera Cloud can display all project schedules in one place.

“Before, everything was manual—we even needed PowerPoint to show the status of a project,” says a master scheduler at a major home builder in the Philippines. “The most beautiful features of Oracle Primavera Cloud are the centralized, immediate updating of a project, and how quickly we can provide management with the right information. It’s so collaborative. We can update or see the project being updated by each member in real time.”

Construction Scheduling Software FAQs

What is construction scheduling software?
At the center of every project is a schedule: a multidimensional map of the project from inception to closeout. Construction scheduling software takes all the project information and stores it in a single place, giving construction managers, workers, and various clients access to the project flow whenever the need arises.

What is the best software for construction scheduling?
The best construction scheduling software is easy to learn, customizable, scalable, regularly updated with the latest features, and lets project stakeholders share information without delays.

How do you make a construction schedule?
Carefully, thoughtfully, truthfully, and collaboratively. Include the people who will perform the work. Make sure you’re entering information that reflects how the real world works. The construction schedule is a constantly evolving document that needs continuous updates.

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