The main objective of our project planning services is to provide our clients with practical programmes which will model the likely outcomes of their projects. The programme may be constructed at a high level to provide an outline timeframe for key tasks within the project for later detailing by the team or by subcontractors. Maybe a detailed tender programme is required which will evolve into a contract programme should a tender submission be successful.
The critical path through the programme will be identified along with any other sequences of work which may slip onto the critical path during the course of the project. Activities which are project drivers will be identified and these along with other activities which help to define the nature of the project can be established as key performance measures.
Project risks can be identified and actions taken to mitigate their impact. A programme risk analysis can be undertaken to consider all likely completion dates and/or costs at completion.
Specific schedules (eg. for procurement of major items) can be filtered out of and into the programme to provide near real time impact and establish clear status reporting for better monitoring of high value/high impact items.
In summary we are able to establish the systems at the outset of your project which will allow you full visibility of likely outcomes, enable you to manage project risk and to monitor performance against measures which are relevant to your project.
Outline Project Programmes
We are able to provide high level programmes showing: overall project duration, key dates, client & external interfaces, summary activities, and outline programme structure. This gives an overview of the project without showing the activity detail which may be developed at a later stage. This type of programme is useful at the concept stage to provide a simple assessment of the achievability of the key activities within the constraints of the overall allowed duration.
Detailed Project Programmes
The task level detailed programme gives visibility to the activity detail, i.e. durations (developed from standard working outputs), integral logic, client & external interfaces, resources, costs, critical path, task calendars, float and milestones. Once the detail is entered, activities can be rolled up to produce a high level programme. The programme will be baselined on agreement to enable future variance monitoring.
The tender programme can be developed at the level required by the client. The programme is recognised as an invaluable tool which indicates how the provider of the service intends to undertake the works in order to achieve the project completion date. It will form the basis for the accepted programme and as such needs to be viewed as a significant part of the tender submission. Time spent aligning the cost and resource detail with the tender price submission, using activity based costing, will ease the effort of moving from the bid mindset to project mobilisation.
Critical Path Analysis
The critical path is the longest sequence of activities through a project network. There may be more than one critical path or there may be a sequence of activities which may fall onto the critical path at some future time (near zero float activities). Either way, these paths will be identified and made known to the client. Unfortunately, the critical path is often assumed before the programme is constructed which may lead to blindness to the calculated path formed when activities have been progressed and the programme rescheduled. For this reason it is important that the project team understand the current critical path to ensure that resources are allocated to the activities which most need them in order to achieve the timely completion of the project.
Assigning resources to activities allows the monitoring and control of resource levels throughout the project life cycle. Specific resources can also be loaded with hourly or daily rates and/or fixed costs to provide resource cost forecasts and cash flow monitoring. Alongside this ability to monitor costs and key resources for potential shortages or overloads, allocating costs and resources to all activities (activity based costing) establishes the building blocks for earned value analysis.
This lists the major items to be bought for the project along with significant data relating to date of order, lead time, current delivery date and indicators to provide clear visibility of the status of the item. The extended procurement periods of some of these items will mean that late delivery may have a serious impact on the project completion date. It is crucial to track the impact of current delivery dates on the programme and conversely the programmes impact on the requirement for delivery. The schedule will be in an Excel spreadsheet or an Access database to suit our clients presentation format.
Lack of a formal progress updating procedure can cause failure because, without it, problems and delays will not be recognized until too late.
Even a “perfect” programme becomes outdated unless it is updated on a regular basis. On most projects, programmes are updated monthly, but it is not uncommon to update programmes weekly or even daily.
Regular revisions of a programme are important because the initial baseline programme is merely a plan with regards to what needs to be accomplished in order to achieve completion of the project on-time. How the project actually reaches completion will most likely vary greatly from the original baseline programme, which is why regular programme revisions are crucial.
A revised programme not only records progress at the time of the revision, but should also review and introduce if necessary activity logic revisions to reflect current intent. These logic revisions may result in changes to the original baseline critical path.