Of the three key factors that drive a project (cost, quality and time), time management is by far the least developed and understood.
This was highlighted by the Chartered Institute of Building’s (CIOB) report, Managing the risk of delayed completion in the 21st century. Having identified the problem, the CIOB is trying to solve it.
The CIOB’s report was based on a survey it carried out between December 2007 and January 2008. It revealed that time on a project is often managed intuitively, in a contractor’s or professional consultant’s head. This is fine for a simple works, but on a complex construction or engineering project it is inadequate.
Why is poor time management endemic?
In short, the CIOB found that one of the key reasons why poor time management was endemic was because there was no accepted best practice for managing time on a construction project. Contrast this with costs management, where an agreed method of measurement has existed since the 1920s.
Are contract terms the answer?
In the absence of any accepted best practice, parties have tried to manage time using contract terms, with increasing use of liquidated damages, strict provisions for delay notification and an increasing transfer of risk onto the contractor. However, the report found that the type of contract had no effect on the incidence of delay on a project. Delay was just as likely regardless of the procurement method adopted and the form of contract used. (Also, there was no difference between standard form and bespoke contracts.)
What is the solution?
Since September 2008 the CIOB has been developing a practical standard to which the industry can work, entitled A guide to good practice in the management of time in complex projects. At the moment this is only a draft document and not available to the general public. The CIOB intends to distribute it privately for peer review this month and publish it in October 2010.
What can we expect from the guide?
Although the draft guide is not publicly available, the CIOB is already making efforts to publicise its work. PLC Construction was fortunate enough to hear Keith Pickavance (a past president of the CIOB) talk about the guide at a recent seminar hosted by Herbert Smith. Some of the guide’s key features were set out by Mr Pickavance, for example:
- It is intended for use on any complex project, regardless of what contract or procurement method is being used.
- It requires the parties to produce a written time management strategy dealing with everything from project planning to record keeping and quality control.
- The traditional “programme” is abandoned in favour of a “schedule”. The schedule is produced and maintained using computer software to which all the parties have access.
- The parties operate two types of schedule, a development schedule (prepared when the contractor is appointed) and a working schedule (used during construction).
- The guide recognises that not all of the functions available in time management software are actually helpful. It sets out in detail those types of software control function that are permissible and those that are not.
- The guide recognises that a complete, detailed time model for a project is impossible to produce at the outset. Instead, it specifies that the schedule must have three parts:
- a low density part for work intended nine months or more in the future;
- a medium density part for work taking place in three to nine months; and
- a high density part for work happening shortly (within three months).
- When considering delay to a project, intervening events will be impacted in accordance with the SCL delay and disruption protocol (the SCL protocol).
Will the guide succeed?
The CIOB’s report revealed the shocking extent of delay in the construction and engineering industry, so the need for action is clear. Whether the CIOB’s guide will be adopted by parties remains to be seen. This depends on several factors, including whether:
- Parties view the guide as allocating responsibility fairly. For example, what will be the sanctions for failing to comply with the guide?
- Employers are willing to bear the increased “front end” cost of using the guide in exchange for promised benefits later in the project.
- Contractors consider it practical to keep the detailed records that are necessary to produce accurate schedules, particularly as they will have to rely on sub-contractors to supply much of the information.
- The guide really can be used alongside existing forms of contract with only minimal amendments and parties can agree how far down the contractual chain it should be made contractually binding.
- The guide gains acceptance from major employers or public sector bodies that sponsor major projects.
- The CIOB succeeds in training enough professional consultants to apply the guide.
Whether it succeeds or fails, the guide will be the most important development in time management since the SCL protocol was published in 2002.