Article #389 Why it is Advisable to Align Schedule Milestone Dates with the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) on Capital Construction Projects?

When it comes to delivering capital construction projects, contractors should have the final decision on the methods and means for developing the integrated cost and resource loaded project schedule (IPS). Nevertheless, project owners usually impose interim milestone dates that are established to provide an early warning notification if achieving the project’s target completion date could become at risk. Contractors must incorporate those milestone dates in their detailed project schedule and ensure that those milestones dates are achievable. On some projects, project owners might opt to apply liquidated damages should the contractor fail to achieve those dates.

Similar to any other specified product or service in the contract documents, contractors should abide with specification section 01 32 17.00 20 which is used to detail the requirement for the Integrated Project Schedule (IPS). This specification section will detail the requirements that a contractor should comply with when submitting the baseline schedule, revisions and monthly schedule updates. Those requirements would usually cover the work breakdown structure (WBS) levels to be used, activity numbering method, milestone dates that the schedule should adhere to among many others.

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The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is the proven technique to ensure that the project’s scope of work is decomposed and defined to the level that it can be managed, monitored, controlled and reported on. The same approach could be applied on setting the project schedule milestone dates. Initially, those dates can be set at the project stages level by starting with the required handover completion date to define the completion date of the other stages including testing and commissioning, construction, tender for construction, design, tender for design and planning. As the project’s scope of work get decomposed and defined, additional interim milestone dates will be added at the detailed work breakdown structure (WBS) levels.

This approach not only provides the project owner with an objective process for setting the milestone dates but also the project owner to have standard milestone dates across their complete projects’ portfolio. This will enable benchmarking projects’ performance as well as better define a better method to establish and estimate the values of those milestone dates. Actually, it is becoming a common practice among project owners to provide contractors with a Primavera P6 template with all WBS levels and Milestone activities predefined.

Using a Project Management Information System (PMIS) like PMWeb, project owners will use the milestone dates to monitor, evaluate and report the performance of the project schedule which will be part of the overall performance reporting for any capital construction project. The advantage of having the WBS levels and Milestones standardized across the complete projects’ portfolio is that when the schedules are imported into PMWeb, the project owner will automatically have access to trust-worthy traceable schedule data to report on using predefined reports and dashboards.

The attachment tab for the imported schedule will be used to attach all supportive documents that are relevant to the submitted project schedule whether this was a baseline, revision or periodical update. It is highly recommended that all those supportive documents to be uploaded and stored on PMWeb document repository in their designated folder or subfolder. In addition, links to other transactions for the different project management cab be added as well as links to imported MS Outlook emails.

To ensure that the linked schedule was formally reviewed and approved by the assigned individuals, a workflow will be assigned to PMWeb schedule module. The workflow will map the sequence for the review and approval tasks. This will enable assigning a role to each review task and the duration for completing the task. The workflow can be also designed to include the conditions to enforce approval authority levels.

The captured schedules data can be filtered to limit reporting to the milestone dates. For example, a report can be created to group the milestone dates by the WBS level. The report will be used to display the variances between the current and baseline milestone dates as well as the total float value. The report could be configured to enable selecting the schedule versions for the comparison as well as the project to be reported on.

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For the reported variances, it will be difficult for project stakeholders who are not involved with the project’s planning and scheduling activities to identify the reasons for those delays. Therefore, it is highly recommended to have a report that will be part of each schedule update or revision to explain the reasons that caused those variances. The report can be can expanded to identify if those delay reasons were due to the contractor, project owner, consultant or any other source. The report will include a table for which the milestone WBS level and activity ID to be selected from the imported schedule data into PMWeb and a field to explain the reason for the variance. The WBS level is optional and can be eliminated. Similar to other processes managed in PMWeb, the attachment tab will be used to attach all supportive documents and a workflow will be assigned to formalize the review and approval process.

The captured project schedule updates along with the data captured in the Milestone Variance Reasons Report will provide the content for the Schedule Milestone Status Report. The report which will detail the milestone activities across the organization’s selected projects portfolio. The tabular section of the report will display the variance days between the current updated schedule and the approved baseline schedule for each project. The milestone dates will be grouped by the WBS levels for which the reader can expand or collapse any WBS levels as needed. The variance days values will be color coded to identify the milestone that are facing extreme delay (Black), delayed (Red), on target (Yellow), ahead (green) and exceptional (purple).

In addition, the report will include two donut visuals. The first is the display the percentage value of milestones by status while the second donut will display the percentage value of delayed milestones (extreme delay and delayed) by reason for delay. The reasons could include for example Project Owner, Permitting Authorities, Finance, Senior Management, Consultant, Contractor and others.

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About the Authorfounder

Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with 40-year service record providing project management, project controls services and project management information system to over than 200 projects with a total value in excess of US $100 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment, Hospitality and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, Telecommunication and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training and business development.

Bassam is a frequent speaker in topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 40 years he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and South America. He has written more than 300 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP) and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).

Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and London Business School, London, UK.


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