Preparing an effective schedule claim requires diligence, preparation, communication, documentation and pro-active project management. If the contract is not administered properly from the onset of the project, a successful time-impact claim is highly unlikely.
Generally, the burden of proof is on the contractor. You cannot demonstrate that your schedule has been impacted if you do not have a clear and viable baseline schedule.
Here are some basic steps involved in tracking and demonstrating schedule variances:
- Establish a logical baseline schedule before the start of the project. Ensure that it ties into your job estimate.
- Verify that the baseline schedule has been communicated and included in your contract.
- Document your assumptions.
- If you are the prime contractor (CM or GC), be sure to include the baseline schedule in your subcontract agreements.
- Specific task activities should be clearly defined.
- Keep the schedule current.
- When updating the schedule status, be sure to verify the logic of your assumptions.
- Do not override the logic of the schedule; this will only increase risk and reduce the credibility of your schedule and any time-impact claim(s).
- Submit updated schedules with a critical path analysis at least monthly (or periodically as needed).
- Each activity should have a unique owner (source) of responsibility.
- Activities should be descriptive: Object / Action / Location
- Use the Critical Path Method (CPM) to manage the project.
- Bar charts are only used as a summary tool after the CPM has been constructed.
Time Evaluation Concepts
The critical path is the longest sequence of activities in the schedule, and therefore, activities on the critical path have zero float. This is an important concept. If you deplete the float in an activity, by definition, it will fall on the critical path. Thus, the critical path is dynamic and can change, especially on a large and complex project. As a project manager, you must recognize the tendency of the critical path to change and be ready to document how it changed and who or what caused the change. Also, the CPM schedule must be presented prospectively, i.e., it should be based on the best information currently available and on project assumptions that have been verified.
Include external interfaces and owner-supplied information and deliverables. Remember that the CPM should represent all of the scope of the contract.
When preparing a time-impact analysis for a claim, you can show the progression of the schedule up to the point of the delay event and use “BUT FOR” analysis. This entails showing how the schedule deviated from plan, and how it would have progressed IF the delay event had not happened. Also, verify that all activities which you include in your delay claim were “critical” at the time the delay occurred. If there were non-critical activities which lost their float because of the delay, and were forced to become “critical”, demonstrate this using the schedule history as back-up.
Effective schedule management and time analysis requires attention to detail and a project management team that communicates and documents changes. Often, large changes are the result of small changes that the project team views as being minor. The lesson is that even small schedule changes should be documented and communicated, so that the schedule (and the project) does become a victim of “death by a thousand cuts”.