In recent years I have noticed a trend amongst small and medium sized contractors that I would like to address. Some of you have probably realised by now that this article is going to dig into the ins and outs of delegating the responsibilities of a planner to the Project Manager, Construction Manager, or any other management resource with similar title as opposed to having an NEC trained planning professional at their service. Is that the right path or are the organisations who adopt the above approach missing out?
Those of you who have worked under NEC3 understand that the Programme is assessed on a regular basis and is due for formal acceptance or rejection by the Project Manager. There are a plethora of strict requirements that need to be met and a set of rules to be followed in order to have it accepted. Once it’s accepted it becomes the new contract programme to which any progress and change is assessed against. Falling behind with Clause 31 or even Clause 32 Programme for one or more periods can have serious consequences down the line. Those consequences are often not all that clear to those who have not had exposure to a number of scenarios that could emerge throughout the lifecycle of each project, are not planners by trade, or are not familiar with planning best practice.
What is the Programme and who is capable of producing one?
On the most basic level the Programme shows the scope of the project and the sequence to be followed in order to finish the project in a timely manner based on certain assumptions, agreed methodology and with available resources. To this extent the Programme could be produced by a number of project resources, especially those with some formal form of project management training in their pocket. If you can visualise the project from A to Z, know the dependencies between cost, time and resource, you can draft high level programme, period. However at this stage the Programme is nothing but just that – a pretty picture of a timeline that we can stick on a wall. By no means is this enough from a programmatic point of view under NEC contract. Who would be a better match for the above task you’ll ask, if not people who have technical and organisational, inside & out knowledge of the project and are dedicated management resources such as the Project Manager or Construction Manager?
I ask – is simply producing a realistic schedule just where NEC draws the minimum requirement line? No it is not! Furthermore, the resources above are heavily involved in managing other parts of the project and usually don’t have the time or specialist knowledge to balance the programmatic requirements under the contract with building up a bespoke management tool that the project truly needs and will benefit from long term. Placing responsibility for the programme on any other management resource than a dedicated planner comes from lack of understanding of NEC and is a recipe for a disaster.
Let’s also be clear – by dedicated I mean someone whose sole purpose in the organisation is to look after the programme, not necessarily in full time capacity.
Food for thought – Three types of organisational attitudes towards planners:
There are three types of organisations and the moment an organization falls into one of the buckets below is often a turning point under NEC:
- Those who believe that having a planner on board is unnecessary
- Those who believe that having a planner is a necessary evil
- Those who believe that having a planner truly adds value
Those that fall into bucket number 1 usually don’t understand what the contract requires and are opening themselves up to a number of issues once the change kicks in and they lose the track of liability for delays. They also deprive themselves of visibility and control of the risks and the opportunities that can be spotted with robust programme in place.
Those that fall into bucket number 2 understand there is a requirement for a planner but they don’t fully grasp the spectrum of planner’s responsibilities. They usually believe that the planner’s job is to simply maintain the programme so that it is accepted every month. Those organisations usually hire a junior or a planner on reasonably low rate to progress the programme and provide regular updates. They look for an individual capable of operating some form of software – be it Primavera P6, Asta Powerproject or any other package that is a norm in their industry or is specified by their client in the Works Information. Frankly – this is just what many planners available on the market offer. No more, no less, regardless of their client’s needs.
Those that fall into bucket number 3 are in for a real treat. They often don’t yet understand the bolt-on functionalities that can be introduced to support the management team that are not required by the contract, but they believe having a skilled planner on their team will make their journey more efficient and easier to navigate. Imagine turning the nice, visual representation of the sequence of works that the programme is, into an all-rounded tool that helps the management team monitor and control all aspects of the works, support change implementation, model consequences of change as well as visualize the opportunities change brings. Imagine being able to indicate contractor’s negotiating position in terms of delays and provide reliable data to support negotiations. Sounds interesting? How about iron-cladding the contractor in case of future adjudication or even improving their cash flow? These are just some of the advantages having an NEC trained planner in your organisation brings.
Please do me a favour and ask yourself a question – Which of the above types of organisations does yours fall into? Let’s have a chat in the comments section or in person.