Project Baseline Schedule is an approved plan containing all key information & constraint on the Project to be executed. In the baseline program, all agreed-upon information between both parties is stored. Once approved, it acts as a benchmark for progress evaluations and forecasting of the Project, helping the parties complete the Project.
However, a project can have only one baseline or several baselines, but the latest approved baseline will decide its success or failure. Once a new baseline is approved, the previous one becomes invaluable. Unforeseen events are the reasons for changing the baseline. However, continuous changing of the baselines indicates the ineffectiveness in the planning process – Avoid it!
I have divided this article into two sections submitted by the Contractor & review by the Client.
The Project Baseline Schedule – Client’s Demand
This article will cover the areas to review a project baseline program from the Client or Client’s representative perspective. But before this, let’s see what Contractor has to submit to get that Approval.
Baseline Schedule Narrative Report – Contractor ABC
Basic info on a cover page includes the Project Name, Contract Number, Contract Award Date, Data Date, Notice to Proceed, Final Completion Date, and Contractual completion Date.
A brief narrative about the Project’s overall Scope.
Approach for Construction
This section includes a bit detailed explanation like this is an Engineering, Procurement, and Construction – EPC Project Baseline Schedule and we will start from Engineering which will start after Notice to Proceed – NTP and includes the activities like Preparation/Submission of Shop Drawings, Approval and Procurement of related Materials including its Approval from the Client then towards Construction following by Testing & Commissioning. Finally, mention if a handover is either partial or in one go, including As-built drawings.
Do remember to mention Mobilization & Demobilization dates with major activities.
You can add as many Milestones in your plan as per Contract, but these must be there in any project baseline schedule.
- Contract Award
- Notice to Proceed – NTP
- Projected Completion Date – Contractual
Calendars as Per Contract & Local Law
This must be as per contractual dates; the most common is 7 days x 10 in GCC & 5 days x 8 in European countries per week. But you can check if an activity is like Curing of Rubber Lining or Concrete, then it should be 7 days x 24 in any case.
- Native Bassline Schedule file like XER if using Primavera P6, MPP in case of Microsoft Project, and so on.
- PDF File of overall Baseline without any filter.
- List of driving Activities – The main Driver
- Stacked Histogram of Manpower & Equipment
- S Curves for Manhours, Cost or Quantities in MS Excel & Pdf
- Rules of Credit
- Scheduling/Leveling Report – To check Constraints & Open-End Activities etc.
The Project Baseline Schedule – Client’s Review
Once the Client or its representative receives an official submission for Project Baseline Schedule from the Contrac, the following steps should include a proper review & Approval or acceptance.
Keep in mind that accuracy or the feasibility of the submitted project baseline schedule is the Contractor’s sole responsibility, not the Client. This is only for the Contractor’s assessment of the workplace.
The Client only indicates whether or not the submitted baseline project schedule is OK with contractual specifications, requirements and in line with scheduling practices.
Approval & acceptance are just synonyms here. Once approved of the baseline, the Contractor cannot shift his responsibility to the Client until/unless specified in the Contract. The client can advise if he demands a contract to include in the schedule but can’t force the Contractor.
Before all, the Client should attach a document in the Contract stating what he is looking to have in the Project Baseline Schedule like it should be through any specific software & if there is an imposed constraint on any milestone, activity, or area.
Review of Project Baseline | Pre-Checks
Before digging into deep, always make sure to follow some checks and so you can ask the Contractor immediately if any re-submittal is required that will save time for both parties if any concern. This includes mainly;
- Project Name, Contractors Company Name, Project Manager, Revision, etc.
- S- Curves for both Early Start & Late Start Date – The Banana Curve
- Any Constraints
- Open End Activities – One two are allowed normally that is NTP & Demobilization (First & the Last Activities)
- Data Date
- Critical Path & the Valid network Diagrams
- Week Start Day – Very Important
- Scheduling Method
- No Negative Float
- Total Number of Activities
- Percentage of Critical Activities – (15% to 30%) Normal Practice
- Contractual milestones
- No Leads should be there or long lags – Lags should not be more than Predecessor Duration.
- If it is a second or successive baseline, then also consider any change or variation order.
Review of Project Baseline | Intensive Analysis
Once you are quite OK with the above checks, you can dig a bit deep, including many factors before formal acceptance.
Analyzing Individual Activities
- At the start, you need to check the proper activity ID’s that will be helpful for proper identifying of any activities after you apply a different filter; for example, an ID like A1000 does not make any sense, but if you describe a little like MB-FF-MEP-100 that is this activity is an MEP activity at First Floor of Main Building. Also, make sure to have symmetry in this alpha-numeric. Avoid any space also.
- Activity types should be as per the Contract if it is resource-dependent, task-dependent, milestone, etc.
- Activity Percent Complete type should be according to Contractual obligations; this includes duration, physical, unit, etc.
- The negative float should not be allowed in baseline approval. It indicates an already delay in a project as it occurs during actual updating progress if a plan is behind schedule.
- Activity Duration should be logical, filter all the activities with the highest duration, and ask for it if any suspicious duration is found. It should be around 15-21 days maximum.
Activity Description Analysis
Activities should have unique, descriptive meaningful titles.
For example, Mobilization, Demobilization, Installations of Gate Valve, Testing and Commissioning, Review and Approval, Inspection, etc.
It can have any number like the Installation of Manholes (03). It describes that there are a total of three maintenance holes to be installed. The milestone means a zero duration activity of just flag.
Activity Codes Analysis
This is normally not a Client’s demand, but this surely helps filter and generate various reports that help track the Project. If you are good at activity codes, you will never rely on WBS anymore.
Analyzing WBS Coding
As per the definition of Work Break Down Structure – WBS is a top-down hierarchical structure. The project baseline program should follow this hierarchy. The lower level should provide more details and smaller elements of the overall work. A detailed WBS is always handy to make a proper plan overall.
WBS is the best way to summarize a group of activities without any hammock or logic. A proper description should be given to a specific level.
The baseline project schedule should only have one activity without a predecessor
relationship and one activity without a successor, the first and the last activities. There is an exception if there is any proper logic, like if you have an activity for maintenance, etc. Four types of logic are FS, SS, SF & FF, but SF is very rarely used and mostly is not acceptable – see if there is a proper logic to use that – Better Avoid it!
Keep an eye on activities like Testing and commissioning cannot be started until the predecessor activity is done.
Leads and Lags Analysis
Leads & lags are normally referring to opposite to each other bout. This is still arguably. Let’s call lag a positive & lead as a negative term. Both are time duration between a relationship. For example, suppose activity A & B have an FS relationship. In that case, it means activity B will start immediately once activity A is completed. Still, if you want to start activity B after a few days, like 4 days, then you can put 4 days in LagLag, but if you want to start activity B 4 days before activity A is finished, then you can put a lead of four days that is -4.
When reviewing, bear in mind, ask the Contractor to avoid using both of these while preparing Project Baseline. Lead is not acceptable in any case unless a proper reason is provided.
There is also a thumb rule; you can say that Lag should be less than half of the activity duration where it is being applied. For example, Activity A & B have 10 days, then between 1-5 days, not 50 days. I have seen plans where Contractors are using such huge lags.
Software like Primavera P6 does an excellent job while reviewing these lags/leads by report customization.
Note: Whatever you name it, a lag less than zero is never acceptable anywhere!
Constraints are not a desirable thing, but it still exists. Sometimes it is demanded by the Clients, and they need a specific area on that date in any case. Check the Contract, and the act is there. On the other hand, if the Contractor makes it on its own, don’t accept it until a proper reason is provided.
Sometimes the Contractor wants to complete the Project before time; in that case, he may use it to avoid overhead costs later.
Constraints are undesirable because these may impact Critical Path calculations that may lead to wrong forecasting and negative floats on activities by forcing override in the schedule during updating.
Enlist all the constraints and ask to write a proper reason for using it in a notebook of that particular activity – The notebook feature is available in almost every scheduling software nowadays.
Constraints are several types like Mandatory Start, Mandatory Finish, Start On, Finish On, etc. Make sure you get a proper solid logic to approve any of these.
Contract Milestones should be constrained as Finish On or Before to calculate Backward Pass Calculations.
A plan should be able to show Manpower flow & requirements at any given time.
It is maybe done through activity codes or else but must be identified parties like Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Architectural, Contractors, etc.
Rules of Credit
Ask the contractor to provide their Rules of Credit for the Project. This is a much important document (mostly ignored) to approve the progress and check to invoice. Make sure it is aligned with the Contract weights. For example, Engineering, Procurement & Construction has 10%, 25% & 65% weightage in a typical project.
Resource Loading Analysis
Person-hours, Costs, or Quantities are used to track the Project. Mostly Clients need Man-hours loading, but some want Cost loading. This is up to the Client’s consent. He may have asked for all three or none. Check this according to the Contract – I hope the Client has provided the Contractor earlier what he needs. The Contractor mostly does quantities loading for procurement purposes.
Resource Loading Analysis
Ask the Contractor to propose & provide the list of Key Performance Indicators – KPI’s. Analyze it so that it will be beneficial later on for both parties during execution & monitoring.
Risks and Opportunities
Although this is the Contractor’s planner’s job to investigate the risk and opportunities for the project timeline reviewer should help him in this regard. All this should be documented as an advisory comment on approval or acceptance transmittal.
Weather Adversity – Check
The most ignored item in every schedule, the plan must accommodate this adversity as per the document. It depends on the nature of work performed in a specific area. It may be adverse for some activities more & others for other negligible. Track those activities & try to apply Activity Codes to have a better check from time to time.
Some things are not good to include but still exist, like SF logic, Constraints, Open End Activities, etc. still, these are acceptable if proper reasons are provided. In the same way, after reviewing the above points, the plan may not meet a few or many, but it is per Contractual obligation. You can either ask to revise/resubmit it again after fulfilling the advisory comments also. But also make sure to guide the Contractor that this is his responsibility to provide an accurate plan as per the working plan’s assessment.
The Client Representative should be experienced enough in understanding the Contract and the other specifications and proficient in scheduling software being used.
There may need several meetings between both parties to adjust the baseline before approving or accepting. The Owner should have included most of the Tendering stage conditions to avoid later conflicts between both parties.
Also Visit: Analogous and Parametric Estimation
I have tried to compile as thorough practical experience & help was taken from other resources as well, notably.
- Detailed Discussion in Linkedin “Primavera” Group
- What is the DCMA 14-point schedule assessment
Find here the Baseline Plan Review Checklist