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Why would we consider running a project without a dedicated planning resource?

We all know how essential under NEC3 contracts the programme is. There is a much more stringent requirement on what a programme should include, and that the programme is to be formally accepted by the Project Manager. There is then the requirement for this programme to be regularly updated and again accepted (or rejected) which then becomes the new contract programme – to which future progress and change will be assessed against.

Next question is who is best placed within the Contractor team to produce and update this programme? I have seen an increasing trend in medium sized contractors that it is the expectation of the site manager or construction manager (or other person of a similar title) to be doing these programme updates. I agree that in practical terms they would be the best person to do it as they have all the knowledge of the site/project and interfaces etc. However, the problem is that this person also has one or two other duties to perform, like looking after their own staff, managing client interfaces, managing subcontractors, health and safety etc. Therefore whilst they know the programme is important there are other things on a day to day basis that become more important and it gets left behind. Such contactors should seriously think about having a dedicated planning resource to take this pressure away and make sure that it is kept up to date to meet the requirements of the contract. I don’t know many/any contractors who would run a job without dedicated quantity surveyor, but many would run such a job without a dedicated equivalent planner.

Contractors might think that they can’t “afford” a dedicated planner – my response would be they can’t afford NOT to have one! And by dedicated, I don’t mean full time – this dedicated resource could be one or two days a week or one or two days a month. GMH Planning is currently providing a number of planners to Contractors/Subcontractors in terms of programme support which ranges from full time to two days a month. The point is that it is essential that the programme is kept up to date with progress, logic changes, new activities and most importantly compensation events. Most compensation event quotations require a programme to go with it (62.2) to demonstrate what effect that event has had on the remaining works. I recently heard from a main Contractors QS that they had a number of CE quotes done but were now well overdue as they were waiting for a planner to look at the programme effect – which will obviously effect the quotation. If a quotation is not submitted on time that is instantly a reason that the PM should then assess it themselves on behalf of the Employer (64.1) – which I suspect might be a little lower than the Contractor would think it was worth.

To summarise, just like a contractor has dedicated quantity surveyors to look after the commercial elements of the project, they should seriously think about a dedicated planner resource to focus on the programme. If a planner is only needed a day week on a project but there are five projects – that is one planner that can full time look after all of those projects. The role of the planner would be to:

  • Produce compliant programme in first place
  • Update programme in line with progress and other changes
  • Ensure that programme is accepted each period and if rejected turn it round (within same period) to get it accepted
  • Ensure site team is aware of new revised programme they should be working to and filter programme to suit different people on the project
  • Produce quotation programmes to go with each compensation event to demonstrate effect of this event, particularly in terms of delays to Key Dates/Completion Date

A site manager could well have the skills and knowledge but not the time or priority to make sure that these planning elements are maintained 1) in accordance with the contract, and more importantly 2) to ensure that the programme is the practical management tool that it should be for the Contractor on a day to day basis.