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Construction Project Management

Encore Group Services

Encore Group Services

Encore Group offers complete project management solutions for your Enterprise or simply on a Project basis. Our expertise with Project Management products and our track record for successful implementations will maximize project successes by identifying, assessing, and managing project risks. Our national expertise and ‘best practices’ approach in scheduling, project controls, claims, and technology application adds tremendous value to both new and ongoing enterprise project management programs alike. Encore Group looks forward to being your complete project management solution partner.

 

Enore Group Services
Video: MS Project vs. Asta Powerproject
Posted by Encore Group
Nov 11, 2016

Unlike Microsoft Project, Asta PowerProject is 100% designed for construction projects. Powerproject is easier to use, with top quality presentation of project plans and features a Free Project Viewer allowing you to share plans with anyone. With Asta Powerproject you can Import/export into Microsoft® Project Import/export into Primavera. Powerproject also offers better protection against delay events and allows for simpler management of trade contractors, and much more!

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*Sales tax charged in Nevada, Texas, California and Hawaii.
Scheduling Technology or Experience – Which is Most Important?
Written by John Jackson
Apr 11, 2016

Scheduling Technology or Experience – Which is Most Important?

Advancements in technology continue to stretch construction programs and their managers. It sometimes seems that the technology has outpaced organizational capabilities to manage it. While the technology promises advantageous results in effectiveness and efficiency in managing not only larger and more sophisticated programs and projects but also the small project as well. It also presents new issues for organizations to deal with in implementing new systems and procedures.

On the one hand, many firms have done well enough without the technical advancements and resist any change in their current ways knowing that change will have to come eventually, while other organizations struggle with attempts at implementing anything to ease their pain. There is no doubt however that the competitive nature of construction and development, both public and private, continues to force a resistant industry into a new age. In this environment it is imperative that executives adhere to certain basic business fundamentals – some things do not change. While they may not understand all of the ramifications and benefits of new technologies, certain elements should not be overlooked, like the importance of experience and expertise. Technology, in particular computer hardware and software, is only a tool, and benefits will only be noticed based on the hand that wields it. Let me illustrate with a simple analogy:

Mr. Smith, a Framing and Drywall contractor knows that to stay competitive in the current market it is important to keep up with the latest in hammer development. After all, he knows that good tools increase productivity. His approach is to purchase only the finest hammers for the young apprentice carpenters on his staff. Through careful research and evaluation Smith selects a new hammer from a reputable manufacturer for his inexperienced crews. The selected manufacturer provides the sleekest and most user friendly features in the hammer industry. The contractor justifies the purchase price and the cost of training for the best tools in the business with the money he is saving hiring only apprentice carpenters. Following a day of training with their new device, the carpenters begin framing walls with new enthusiasm.

Over time the overall company production has not increased significantly with the new product. Our Smith gradually becomes somewhat disillusioned with the innovative hammer product and begins re-entertaining new products for the company thinking that the previous selection has not lived up to his expectations.

We on the outside look at Smith and his hammer selection process and say “It’s your carpenters, Smith.” You can purchase the best hammer, but in the hands of inexperience, even the best tools will bring little benefit to a project. On the other hand, an experienced carpenter can produce a quality performance with a mediocre hammer.

Let’s apply this same analogy to a different area of project delivery. Planning and scheduling a project and using that schedule to coordinate the execution of the project can have such an impact on whether or not a project is successful. Yet emphasis on experience for scheduling is often minimized. Just like our contractor, expensive and sophisticated planning tools (software) are entrusted to inexperience for their implementation. In so many situations, project executives entrust the coordination of the project scheduling to apprentice project managers inexperienced in critical planning and scheduling techniques, developing a well-coordinated plan, identifying potential risks, recognizing issues, and analyzing impacts. Owners are also guilty of minimizing experience in the schedule coordination and review process.

Here’s a tip, inexperience will often cast blame on the failure of technology (a quality planning tool) for a lack of quality performance. Experience, on the other hand, provides quality with the available tools. A change or an upgrade in technology will usually only increase efficiency, not quality. With so much at stake, budget and time, wouldn’t it be prudent to re-evaluate where the planning and scheduling department focus should be. Research and evaluate procedures, experience, and expertise first – then review technology.

2 Rules of Engagement in Resolving Construction Delays
Created by John Jackson
Mar 8, 2016

2 Rule of Engagement in Resolving Construction Delays

Most disputes remain unresolved for one or more of the following reasons: 1) the delay entitlement has not been settled (acknowledgement of who is responsible for a particular issue), and/or 2) the understanding of delay resolution concepts is not understood (see the article on concurrent delays), and/or 3) there is no understanding of the Rules of Engagement in the delay resolution process.

There are two fundamental Rules of Engagement that must be followed in order to resolve the dispute over delays: 1) agreement to the method of delay analysis, or which Time Impact Analysis (TIA) to use for evaluating the delay impacts, and 2) once the method is selected, agree to adhere to the guidelines built into the particular evaluation method. Both are essential. It is not enough to establish an analysis method. Both parties must agree to work within its parameters.

I have two children, and as angelic as I want to believe they are, I constantly have to step into a dispute and establish a plan for resolution, as in “taking turns”. It seldom fails that one will cry for enforcement of the rules when it benefits their position and will want to claim alternate reasoning when the rules are not in their favor. I must remind them that, although the rules may not seem fair in some situations, in the long run, following the established rules will work both ways and is the fairest way to resolution.

I recently worked with an associate who was in the process of buying into a partnership with an optional buy-back clause. This associate spent a lot of time and effort attempting to calculate the best method for evaluating the value of the shares of the business he was buying. The seller had proposed a specific evaluation method for the purchaser’s shares, at a discount, with the agreement that in a set time frame the same evaluation method would be used in buying back the shares at full value. Through the process we came to the conclusion that as long as the evaluation method was reasonable at the beginning and was the same for both transactions, whatever part of the formula may work against him during the purchase would be in his favor when he sells. In the end it would be fair and equitable as long as the formula was consistent for both parties, and both transactions.

In attempting to resolve delay issues on construction projects, the same reasoning will typically apply. It helps to start with the best methodology. But even if the best methodology is not selected, if both parties will follow specific guidelines of the agreed upon method, equitable resolution can be accomplished.

1) Establishing the Best Delay Analysis Method

AACE established Recommended Practices identify numerous analysis methodologies. In general however, delay analyses fall into four basic categories:

  • “Total Time Analysis” – used mostly in efficiency claims when the budgeted time is compared to the total time.
  • “Adjusted As-Planned Analysis” – delay activities are inserted into an “As-Planned” or “Baseline” schedule to measure impacts to the critical path.
  • “Adjusted As-Built Analysis” – an as-built schedule is prepared from project documentation and delay activities are removed to collapse the schedule back to a “but for” status to quantify the impacts.
  • “Contemporaneous Time-Frame Analysis” – delays are inserted into the current updated schedule to determine impacts to the current critical path including the current as-built conditions and the contemporaneous critical path

One delay analysis method does not fit every situation. Over the past 20 years I have reviewed court cases that have supported all of these analyses methods, and I have worked with contracts that specified which method to use. Although the most effective method in measuring and resolving delays, in most disputes, is the “Contemporaneous Time-Frame Analysis”, it is only effective when the schedule has been updated and managed contemporaneously with the project. Even though this method is the most favorable, if the schedule has not been managed and/or maintained properly, then it may not be the best method. It can be difficult when Agencies, Owners, and/or their consultants try to limit resolution to one type of Delay analysis technique. They should be reminded that one method does not always fit every situation. So, with the several evaluation methods that are available, the key is to find the best one to fit the project situation and be consistent in the review as it favors one party on one issue and the other party when other issues are evaluated.

As an example, I was recently involved in a delay resolution scenario where the Owner had determined that the only acceptable method for analyzing delays to the project would be based on “the sequential evaluations of the approved schedule submittals”. The only problem was that no updated schedules had been submitted. The baseline had not been approved until 14 months into the project for various reasons, and there were no updates available until the fifteenth month.

In an initial effort to resolve the delay issues that occurred prior to the first update, a series of Time Impact Analyses for delays were prepared by inserting the delay activities into the approved baseline schedule based upon an adjusted “as-planned” or baseline schedule methodology. These TIAs were rejected with a comment that this method of evaluating delays was unacceptable, as if there was no more than one method of evaluation. The Owner stated that the only “acceptable” method of analyzing delays was with “updated monthly progress schedules for the sequential and chronological evaluation of events and determination of the controlling critical path activities, at the time of the delay event.” This description defined the “contemporaneous time-frame analysis”. However, the only scenario where this method should be the only acceptable method is when there are truly “contemporaneous” updates. In this case it was not possible since the baseline schedule was approved after significant changes and delays were already occurring on the project. The owner suggested that the Contractor recreate updates for each month prior to the approval of the baseline schedule and prepare analyses based on those updates. As a result, the contractor was preparing updates and fragnets to appear “contemporaneous” with sequential data dates, when in fact they were not. This was an exercise at overlaying as-built information into a baseline schedule that was already old when it was approved – hardly contemporaneous, and probably not the best delay analysis methodology for that particular situation.

Each delay analysis method includes certain evaluation guidelines. For this analysis method (which the Owner had determined as the ONLY acceptable method) to be effective, each submittal had to be reviewed sequentially since each was built upon the previous submittal, and acceptance or rejection of any one submittal in the sequence impacted subsequent analyses. Those are part of the guidelines that are consistent with the “contemporaneous time-frame” analysis methodology.

2) Working within the Guidelines of the Established Methodology

Although the “contemporaneous time-frame” methodology may not have been the best methodology in this scenario, it could work if the appropriate guidelines were adhered to. Once again, the Contractor had to submit one schedule (update or TIA) at a time, have it reviewed to the point of acceptance, and then, based on the accepted submittal, prepare and submit the next one in sequence. This would obviously be a long arduous task, but it is the process that goes along with this method of analysis. In my example, all the parties, including the contractor, were under such pressure to get the issues submitted that the process immediately veered outside of the guidelines of the prescribed methodology by submitting schedules prior to the previous submittal response. The series of updates, schedule revisions, and fragnets were submitted in sequential order to provide a “sequential and chronological evaluation of events” per the owner’s request. But since the review process was being overlooked in the sequence, multiple submittals were being submitted prior to review of the previous ones. So, initially both parties began to work outside the guidelines of the established methodology.

Since there were multiple concurrent owner delay issues, some of the delay evaluations resulted in zero days of impact. In other words, other issues were driving the critical path in that particular schedule and it only got worse. The owner did not review the issues in chronological order, and the issues including request for days were rejected, while issues with no days requested, because of concurrent delays, were accepted. The Owner either failed to see, or intentionally ignored the fact that if one issue in the sequence was rejected, then all subsequent submittals needed to be revised.

At this point, there was no valuable response to the Owner’s rejection comments since the reviews were not performed “sequentially” according to the prescribed methodology.

Both parties in dispute must adhere to the same guidelines. If the Owner determines the only “acceptable” method for preparing the analyses, it is imperative that their review be based on the guidelines appropriate for the same method they prescribe for the Contractor. In this case, not only did the Owner review the submittals out of sequence, they drew data for rejection comments from “as-built” conditions in the field, unrelated schedule submittals, and a broad range of other project data. While they limited the Contractor’s methodology and base of information to prepare their analyses, they left their own review parameters wide open and undefined. If the Owner’s review methodology does not follow the same methodology the Contractor is constrained to in preparation of the delay analysis, it is easy to use the established guidelines, or rules when convenient, but when it is not convenient, it becomes easy to find something else to bring into the process to keep the dispute unresolved. An excuse to deny a time extension can always be discovered if the rules of engagement are left undefined.

Here is the bottom line. It is not enough just to select that appropriate methodology for preparing the analyses. Unless an Owner is willing to live by the guidelines of preparation and review that they deem “acceptable”, there is not much hope that the delay issues will be resolved with2out lengthy dispute.

Ultimately, the best method is dependent on the individual situation. Owners and Contractors should realize that what may work in your favor for one scenario may work against you in another, no matter what method is used. As long as both can agree to work within the consistent and acceptable guidelines of the agreed upon methodology, then resolution can be possible and reasonable.

Management Strategies for Project Execution
Written by John Jackson
Sept 5, 2013 @ 1:06 AM

Management Strategies for Project Execution

Management Strategies for Project Execution

So much is written and discussed these days to help teams execute organizational objectives. It is not enough to have thorough knowledge of a particular strategy, and good intentions will not get the job done. What organizations need is a culture or environment that fosters execution, or follow-through on goals or strategies communicated from the top. While many construction executives focus sincere effort on high-level strategies and goals, there is often a breakdown at the implementation level.

No program strategy will be successful without the team and tools in place at the project level to execute that strategy.

Program strategies can vary as much as the number of programs that exists; from individual construction project execution to enterprise software implementation, from a rollout of corporate standards to a management accountability programs. But successful execution of the program strategy, no matter what it is, will generally consist of three themes that must flow down from the executive level.

Empower the Team

The successful project execution process begins with systematic project team approach to planning the rollout of the strategy. Without a rigorous dialogue on the detailed day to day strategy of an entire project among those assigned to accomplish it, it is impossible to move forward as a coherent team. With the dialogue up front before the project even begins, the team becomes more of a unit and their effectiveness reaches way beyond their individual skill or knowledge base.

This principal is demonstrated regularly in sports. Every player on a football team, no matter what position they play is a part of game-plan discussions. It is important that each player sees how their efforts fit into the big picture. The quarterback may participate at a different level in the discussion, but if an offensive lineman is unaware of his part in the overall plan, the quarterback may have a rough game.

It is no different for a construction project, or group of projects. The most effective game-plan sessions are those that include participants from the entire project management team. These sessions allow the team to discuss in detail the how’s and what’s of the project and form a cohesive plan for project execution.
As a professional planner and scheduler I have participated in a wide variety of these types of “game-plan” sessions as a facilitator, usually lasting one or two days at the beginning of the project. The focus and team spirit that comes from these meetings always benefits the execution mentality and helps link organizational strategy to field operations.

Establish Milestones

Milestones help execution teams (Project Management Teams) establish goals and work together as a team to accomplish them. Milestones also help the executive know if a project is in trouble before it is too late.

Some effective guidelines for milestone setting are:

Establish some milestones early in the project

Unlike a sporting event with a real-time scoreboard most projects/programs are moving forward in the dark when it comes to measuring their score on time and budget. So, an executive will need to set up a scoreboard with milestones if he wants to know how his team is doing.

Establish rewards for milestone accomplishment

By spreading rewards or bonuses over the course of the project for specific accomplishments an executive benefits from the ongoing accountability of the project team. The execution team benefits from the ongoing team motivation and accountability offered by the milestone rewards.

Ask the Right Questions

It is so important for executives to know and ask the right questions. Most of the construction claims that I have been involved with over the years could have been avoided had executives (those with experience and vision) understood this simple process.
To ask the right questions an executive must be involved.

In the “game-plan”, or planning and scheduling sessions mentioned above an executive can learn so much about the team he is depending on to execute. Those sessions open up so many opportunities to ask “How are you going to do that?” or “What resources will that require?” Askinq the right questions forces the team to think about their assumptions and contingencies. Asking the right questions also exposes strengths and weaknesses among the team members. So often weaknesses are not discovered until it is too late and execution hopes become replaced by recovery necessities.

To ask the right questions the executive must be informed. Having the right information allows the executive to understand the proper management questions. I’ve known executives who would meet with their project managers and maintain a cordial relationship with general conversation about the project and major issues. Their intent may have been to keep the project manager motivated and keep the project moving forward. Their intent may have been to become more informed as to the status of the project. In either case, without the proper information to know what questions to ask these executives were so often left holding the bag.

Good reports that compare current status with planned status, milestone status, progress on the critical path, along with budget and projections provide the information needed to ask the right questions. When the right questions are asked the execution team will stay motivated because problems are always in the open. Executives stay better informed and their experience brings earlier and more effective resolution to project issues.

John Jackson is a professional scheduler, expert claims consultant, and enterprise software implementation and corporate standards specialist. For question please contact jjackson@encgrp.com