Schedule assurance reviews – know the scope, its not just about quality!


2020 is the year that just keeps on giving.

Not only have we seen the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on society as a whole, but the economic impacts affecting the project world have been difficult to predict. Coupled with market downturns (like the oil price for example) organisations are now scrambling to re-arrange their portfolios to continue to deliver projects and add value to the organisation.

At GBA we’ve seen first hand the effects on time and cost for construction projects where crews are unable to mobilise, works on site and remote locations take longer (due to social distancing requirements and border restrictions) and large scale cost overruns emerge due to prolongation.

It simply takes longer to do things nowadays.


The Importance of Assurance Reviews

It is therefore important that the projects which an organisation selects as part of its current portfolio are those that not only add value, but are clearly defined, planned and costed with a full appreciation of the risks to successful delivery.

The opportunity/realisation process is used in many industries and a key feature of these standard processes includes the ‘gating process’, which is typically aligned to a project delivery methodology. The gating process asks:

  • Is this the right project for our business?
  • Are we doing this project the right way?

Typically the review team is guided by a Terms of Reference (ToR) document that outlines the projects objectives, paving the way for a greater deep-dive into the scope, time, cost and risk parameters for the project.

The assurance review process is critical to ensuring that a project is fit for purpose, ready to deliver and will actually add value to the business.

But what does this mean for the schedule review team?


Know the Scope – its not just about quality

When it comes to a schedule review, it is not acceptable to simply put a copy of the project plan through a tool (such as Acumen Fuse) and then call it a day.

Reviewers need to know and appreciate the scope of the project so that omissions, errors and risks to the project schedule can be identified.

This requires that the schedule review team actually must have the necessary experience in the same field/discipline as the project itself.

Any reviewer, as an example, must be able to review activity durations and challenge the basis of how they are derived.

At any assurance review a risk register must be fully populated and aligned to the schedule. It should draw upon the scope of the project, past experience but also provide pre and post mitigations. These should all be present in the base schedule.

This is all is achieved through experience.


Quality – the final check

The schedule in itself is a model, used to input progress and re-forecast the finish date of the project. If the model is broken then the ability to accurately forecast completion is at risk.

Tools such as Acumen Fuse are really invaluable to understanding the overall quality of a project schedule, but this comes with yet another set of requirements.

An organisation should define its own scoring methodology and thresholds when looking at common schedule quality metrics. Acumen Fuse is a very powerful tool with numerous metric libraries available out of the box, but not all of those metrics are applicable to any given project.

As an example, a business should not assess their Level 3 master schedule for an engineering phase using the same detailed metrics they used for a level 5 multi-discipline site works program.

The intent and purpose of the schedule must be taken into account when examining schedule quality characteristics.

Define a Checklist – review it each time

Companies often derive checklists for schedule assurance reviews and more often than not they are weighted worksheets that include key quality parameters as well as business rules.

Whilst these checklists can  be highly subjective they at least provide a mechanism to score a schedule and provide assurance that the ‘model’ is fit for purpose.

Organisations should define a checklist to assist in providing a standard approach to schedule assurance. Some common review items:

  • Critical path credibility
  • Common software options & settings (eg, MS Project, Open Plan, Primavera P6) are established for consistency in scheduling teams
  • Overall quality – based on key metrics tailored to the organisation
  • Contractor interface points identified
  • Logic between disciplines in engineering and construction tasks
  • Alignment of activity logic to staging documentation
  • Project scope, drawings, documentation – reviewed and included in schedule
  • Contracts and Procurement register is included within the schedule

Whilst this list is not exhaustive, it’s a starting point to a more robust approach to the schedule assurance review process.

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