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Reviving the Faded Project Schedule

Before your last home got rolling, you built a detailed schedule you thought would help you manage the project to completion. Now you're waiting on permits, two of your subs haven't showed and your homeowners
are wondering what's going on. You've got a stack of daily reports that are too overwhelming to sort through before your next homeowner meeting. That faded project schedule on the wall is looking pretty useless.
Project managers need a schedule that is dynamic, just like their jobs. Unfortunately, most project managers are too busy to update their schedule to reflect every change. Moreover, most project managers use separate systems for project control and project scheduling. The change orders and daily reports tracked in one system aren't being reflected in the scheduling system that manages the critical path.
An integrated project management and scheduling system delivered over the Internet can transform your schedule from a printout on the wall to a living asset that reflects the real-time status of your job. Every document that comes through the project management system will automatically update the schedule based on its project impact. By extending access to subs over the Web, they can update their own information so you don't have to track them down.
Here we discuss five ways that integrating project management and scheduling in a Web-based environment can keep your homes on track.

Daily reports drive schedule updates
Daily reports aren't much use if they're just printed and stacked on your desk. Instead, reports should be created, distributed and viewed within a Web-based system. Not only will a Web-based system allow more people to report on job status, but the on-line environment will also transform the report from a simple write-up to a structured set of project information. For example, team members can report on the per cent completion for a given task by selecting from a dropdown menu. Your schedule can then automatically measure that status relative to plan, adjust the schedule and alert everyone affected by the change. At the same time, tasks and processes that are not impacted will continue to move forward on the original schedule.

Proactively control critical project documents
Daily reports aren't the only documents to come across your desk and impact your schedule. Homeowner selections, change orders, insurance certificates, contracts and permits can all impact the critical path. If left sitting on the fax machine or stacked on your desk, it may be days or weeks before their impact is reflected in the schedule. By moving these paper-intensive documents into a web-based collaboration platform, their impact can be measured and reflected in the schedule in real-time. The schedule will automatically update and alert the relevant people. Moreover, the system can alert you when someone else drops the ball. If your question to the architect hasn't been answered promptly, the system alerts you and the responsible party to keep things moving.

Juggle resources with insight into everyone's schedule
Because the schedule is inevitably changing throughout the job, knowing your subs' availability is critical to staying on or ahead of schedule. One way to stay ahead of the curve is to maintain schedules for each of your subs. This way, you'll know if they are available a few days ahead of schedule or a few days behind. Traditionally, that would mean maintaining more schedules and tracking down more people. With a Web-based system, you can extend access to all of your subcontractors who in turn can update their availability via the system. The same applies to equipment and other resources. The availability of every person, company and resource can be tracked in a Web-based system.

Find everyone you need with ease
Communication is integral to running your job smoothly. You have to talk to vendors, subs, homeowners, managers, and architects. Maintain an active directory of contacts and resources within your project management system and allow everyone to update their own information in the system via the Web. Next time a sub fails to show, access your global contact list and find an alternate sub, along with his contact info and even his schedules. When the system is integrated with your e-mail, you can manage all of your correspondence through the system as well.

Manage the job from the jobsite
With broadband Internet and wireless cards, it rare not to have Internet access available at job sites. Why wait until you are back in the office to update the project management system? Laptops, PDAs, and other communication devices allow superintendents and project managers to keep everyone informed about progress, issues, and all the information they have from the site in real time. Rather than wasting a morning driving to and from the site, get all your work done on-site. Meanwhile, the folks back at the office will have instant Web access to all the new information you've updated in the project management system.
By integrating project management and scheduling, you can bring your faded schedule back to life. And not only will you know project status at any point in time, but everyone else who has to know will learn by using the same system, available anywhere. Your job will move more smoothly by staying up-to-date and proactively alerting you about what's going on.

Don Fornes is founder of Construction Software Advice and has helped hundreds of home builders find the right integrated system. E-mail Don or visit www.softwareadvice.com.

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