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Calling all construction businesses; it’s time to upgrade your planning for 2021 and beyond

Construction jobs are always complex, and competition is tough. Delivering on time, every time is a real differentiator in a profession that will always encounter a level of delay, change, and delivery challenges.

Female foreman working on laptop at bridge construction site. Girl builder controls erection of car road.

Many of the UK’s top firms are recognising that upgrading their project planning, scheduling and time management processes and tools can give them that competitive edge as well as deliver efficiency advantages. Embedding a culture that is focused on the most efficient use of time and collaborative effort for excellent project scheduling is already delivering business benefits for firms like Willmott Dixon, Seddon Construction and Mac Group. Is your company keeping up with the culture of project excellence? Now might be a good time to take another look.

2021 and post COVID-19 working will inevitably bring another year of change and challenge in construction. Are you ready to grasp every new tender opportunity, create winning bids and have complete confidence in your ability to deliver to the promised deadlines?

The answer is more likely to be ‘yes’ if you have a systemic approach to project scheduling and management, and have considered how this impacts not just projects but people and profitability.

Not surprisingly, those organisations that plan the best are the ones most likely to benefit from the opportunities. Great planning provides a strategic and competitive advantage – ensuring that they bid on the right jobs, confident of a fair profit margin – and, perhaps most importantly, make their clients happy by delivering on time and on-budget more often.

Leading firms like Willmott Dixon have made time management and project scheduling central to each job. With a strong focus on its people, and one of the sector’s highest training budgets per person, it is hard at work empowering everyone across its organisation to become involved in planning through its Fiit Time (Focused Innovation and Improvement Team for Time), and equipping key managers with Asta Powerproject project management software from Elecosoft.

“Everyone can now take responsibility for time” says Paul Hoskins, Planning Manager.

Regardless of whether your firm turns over £1bn or £100k, every business which plays a role in the construction value chain can benefit by shaping up their project management processes and tools to check that they work not just for your people and the bottom line, but for your partners, suppliers and customers.

Your team’s project scheduling process should be accessible, logical and measurable. Processes need to be not only repeatable by every project manager, but understandable by all others. If you’re starting from scratch and not sure where to begin, you might consider working with a consultant to help your team establish a process, something that we frequently do with our customers.

Take a similar measured approach to selecting your scheduling system. Look for one that is tailored for the needs of construction firms. Never try to wrestle spreadsheets to meet project management needs, or even to fit a generalised PM system to your needs. Not only is the latter likely to mean a huge learning curve, but it can take more time, effort, and more reluctance around adoption – leading to huge frustration for people and the business itself. Construction software vendors, like ourselves, understand your need for flexible and appropriate licensing models, as well as the specific challenges of building projects and change management. Check that your software candidates have an established track record in the industry, have listened to user feedback and feature requests to shape their product, and are in the habit of regular software updates to keep pace with this fast-changing industry.

Willmott Dixon’s choice of planning platform had to support the needs of every area of the business, including the different needs of divisions such as its residential group, and of site managers as well as project leaders.

“It’s one thing doing a plan but once we’re live on site, certainty of where we are and predictability of where we’ll be, becomes fundamental,” Paul told us,

When explaining why the company had additionally deployed the Asta SiteProgress companion app. In its residential business, good planning and scheduling helps them to manage the needs for information and progress updates that home-buyers have, as well as share information to keep trades on track. This is one of the benefits the company gained from standardising on Asta Powerproject, making programmes and timelines both easy to share, and simple to comprehend for all.

While it is true that making a change will require some work, it comes with a substantial return on investment. Produce, manage and share a professional project schedule for every job and you are more likely to:

  • Bid smarter – You can be sure you’ve fully worked through the requirements and practicalities of the project and are charging a fair price for the staff and other resources that need to be committed to the job.
  • Look smarter – Additionally, a solid schedule shows your potential client that your firm is serious about project controls, fully confident, and thus likely to deliver. Your project schedule can be the basis for positive conversation, and to provide logical responses to challenging questions.
  • Optimise project schedules and resources – A detailed schedule allows you to visualise the many different tasks of a job and how those tasks and resources can most efficiently be sequenced. It also helps you avoid logistical conflicts – like scheduling the HVAC and plastering crews on the same day – and demonstrate clearly what has to happen in what order.
  • Communicate better – Real-time progress reports are standard in most construction-grade scheduling software and should be easy to share with management and owners. Many systems also include the ability to filter and share task lists for trades and subcontractors or break out sub-programmes for discussion or distribution, all without confusing the recipient with the complete and complex project background.
  • React more quickly – It’s construction. Things will go wrong. A good schedule helps you get out of the mess faster. You can conduct “what if” scenarios to assess impacts of changes, make smart decisions about resources, sequencing, etc to protect the completion deadline, and explore different solution scenarios to find the least-cost or fastest time to get over the issue.
  • Measure effectiveness – Comparing a project’s performance with others across the team’s portfolio allows you to spot what is working well and use that information to continue refining your standardised process. These incremental improvements can really add up to significant savings.

Remember that opportunity favours the prepared especially in a competitive world. Make sure your project scheduling is up to the challenge and plan for success in 2021 and beyond.

Your team’s project scheduling process should be logical, measurable, and repeatable. The right tools are indispensable.

Asta Powerproject is the choice of 95% of the UK’s construction contractors. It is used by more than 100,000 schedulers and project managers worldwide. It helps project teams get more done, more faster. It delivers project leaders the visibility and control they need to keep things on track, and enables construction businesses to plan better, deliver profitable projects and build great client relationships. The powerful but intuitive software has evolved over the last 30 years with input from users to meet the industry’s changing needs, like mobile apps, BIM capability and integration with essential cost control and other back-office systems.

The power behind successful projects: Book a free demo to experience Asta Powerproject by Elecosoft.

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