The NEC suite of contracts puts far greater contractual requirements upon the Contractor to produce and manage a detailed programme than other forms of contract currently in existence within the construction industry. The contract requires this programme to be regularly updated and re-submitted for acceptance by the Project Manager (who acts on behalf of the Client), and thus becoming the new accepted programme under the contract, superseding any previously accepted programmes. When administered properly this should lead to both parties having a clear understanding of how the Contractor plans to carry out the works in accordance with the Scope and any associated liabilities in relation to the movement of the completion milestones.
It is probably fair to say that the construction programme is under-utilised and under-valued on many if not most construction projects and rarely used to its full potential. The benefits of an up-to-date programme reflecting where the Contractor is and how they plan to complete the remaining works is fundamental to the team working efficiently and effectively to achieve success on any project. The NEC form of contract has recognised this and translated this into firm contractual obligations rather than just hoping or assuming that the parties will manage such a process.
Whilst this now means that the ECC contract requires the Contractor to manage the programme, there is in fact nothing that the contract is asking for that the Contractor should not be doing for themselves to efficiently manage their works. The resultant bi-product is that there is a clear contractual mechanism for agreeing change between the parties as it happens and not waiting for the traditional end of project “sport” where both Parties spend time/effort/resources in trying to agree the entitlement to any extensions of time and the resultant final account figure. The NEC has not particularly created any fundamentally new “rocket science” procedures with regards to programme. What the contract asks the Contractor to do is to produce and manage a programme to a good level of detail, and for the Project Manager to recognise and regularly accept the Contractors updated plans as a true reflection of where they are at. Other forms of contract probably assume that this process of using and updating the programme will just happen. Like many of the NEC clauses, the programme aspects are just good practice project management, with the contract simply formalising the fact that these process must take place.