Programme Management in Construction

To learn and establish exactly why Programme Management is so essential in Construction, we sat down with Steve Woodcock (Contracts Manager).

Why is programme management so essential?

Delivery timescales in a construction project are as important as the spec, the performance and the quality of the product. They are all contractual obligations that must be achieved, it’s not optional.

What are the factors that can affect the programme most?

Change in my view has the most major impact on any programme or any delivery that I’ve ever made. It almost always results in extending the programme. Change can take many forms, there are client led design changes, design changes which are architect led, specification and performance changes which would be consultant led or even just additional scope or scope creep. When change happens, we all too often focus on the monetary impact of the change and don’t assess the time impact which is equally as important. Time is money! We look at the cost of the materials, the cost of the design and the consultant involvement but we don’t look enough at the time impact and how it is going to affect the delivery of the project. Sequencing of construction activities, can have a huge impact on programme timescales. As an envelope contractor with a lot of interfacing trades, we have to identify interfacing trades on the programme and make it clear what our sequence is: who should be before us and who should follow us on, because if you put everyone in the same area of the building, your efficiency is massively affected, your level of output is dramatically reduced, and you don’t achieve your plan. In summary, unplanned interfacing and partial releases of areas can seriously affect our construction durations

Why are suppliers so key in ensuring the programme is managed correctly and kept on track?

Well we are a Project Management Company, so it is absolutely crucial. We are all about bringing suppliers and consultants together to achieve a façade delivery so it’s crucial we have a supply chain that supports the programme obligations, takes them seriously and ultimately signs up to them. As I said before, to get the product on time, is just as important to get a product of the right specification at the right quality delivered. So, you can’t compromise on any of those factors. Programme is as important as quality and time. So, in summary, we look for suppliers that take the programme obligations seriously, come to the table if there is a problem and look for opportunities to accelerate and work as efficiently as possible.

What are the methods used to ensure a programme is kept on track?

Once the programme is established and signed into, it is all about reporting. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it, that is the same in any budget, whether it is a time-related budget or a cost related budget. At a minimum we need to produce jagged progress reports weekly, so you draw a jagged line down the programme. This gives you a clear view of performance against the plan, from there you discuss with the team about the necessary recovery measures, resource allocation, whatever we need to do to ensure we achieve the planned outputs. Under achieving is not an option.  Resource allocation is absolutely critical to ensure that we keep on track. You must look ahead, you have to look at the resources against each of the activities on the programme to make sure you aren’t planning to fail. Reporting is also a key way to ensure that change is recognised, and the time impact of change is recognised so if you are doing reporting weekly, you look at the impact of the change, you forecast the impact of the change and then you can communicate it – you can talk to your client about. The more time that you are going to need, the more time that they will need so it is a very positive thing and is absolutely vital that it is done routinely and clearly and the whole team gets to input into it.