Project Baseline Schedule | Intensive Analysis

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 for successful completion of the project.

However, a project can have only one baseline or have a number of baselines but the latest approved baseline will decide the success or failure of the project. Once a new baseline is approved the previous one becomes invaluable. Unforeseen events are the reasons for changing the baseline. However continuous changing the baselines indicate the ineffectiveness in the planning process – Avoid it!

I have divided this article into two sections that are a submission by contractor & review by the client.

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Read More: Project Management Interview Questions for Planning Engineer

The Project Baseline Schedule – Client’s Demand

In this article, we will cover the areas to review a project baseline program in the Client or Client’s representative perspective. But before this let’s see what Contractor have to submit to get that approval.

Baseline Schedule Narrative Report – Contractor ABC

Basic info at a cover page that includes mainly the Project Name, Contract Number, Contract Award Date, Data Date, Notice to Proceed, Final Completion Date, Contractual completion Date.

Introduction

 A brief narrative about the Project 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. At last, mention if it’s handover either is partial or in one go including As-built drawings.

Do remember to mention Mobilization & Demobilization dates with major activities.

Contractual Milestones

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, 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.

Major Attachments

This includes

  • 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 Client or it’s Representative receives an official submission for Project Baseline Schedule from Contractor then following steps should include for a proper review & approval or acceptance.

Keep in mind, accuracy or the feasibility of the submitted project baseline schedule is the sole responsibility of the contractor, not the Client. This is only for the contractor’s assessment for workplan.

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 the just synonyms here. Once approved the baseline the contractor cannot shift his responsibility to the Client until/unless specified in the contract. Same way Client can give any advisory comment if he demands out of a contract to include in the schedule but can’t force the contractor.

Before all, 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 by him 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;

  1. Project Name, Contractors Company Name, Project Manager, Revision, etc.
  2. S- Curves for both Early Start & Late Start Date – The Banana Curve
  3. Any Constraints
  4. Open End Activities – One two are allowed normally that is NTP & Demobilization (First & the Last Activities)
  5. Data Date
  6. Critical Path & the Valid network Diagrams 
  7. Week Start Day – Very Important
  8. Scheduling Method
  9. No Negative Float
  10. Total Number of Activities
  11. Percentage of Critical Activities – (15% to 30%) Normal Practice
  12. Contractual milestones
  13. No Leads should be there or long lags –  Lags should not be more than Predecessor Duration.
  14. If it is 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 then you can dig a bit deep that includes many factors before formal acceptance

Analyzing Individual Activities

  1. At start you need to check the proper activity ID’s that will be helpful for proper identifying of any activities after you apply 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.
  2. Activity types should be as per the contract that is if it is resource dependent, task dependent, milestone, etc.
  3. Activity Percent Complete type should be according to Contractual obligations this includes duration, physical, unit, etc.
  4. The negative float should not be allowed in baseline approval as it indicates already delay in a project as it occurs during updating actual progress if a plan is behind the schedule.
  5. Activity Duration should be logical, filter all the activities with the highest duration and ask for it if any suspicious duration 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. etc.

It can have any number like Installation of Manholes (03) it describes that there are a total of three manholes to be installed. The milestone means with a zero duration activity of just flag.

Activity Codes Analysis

This is normally not a Client’s demand but this surely helps to filter and generate verity of reports which helps a better tracking of the project. They say, if you are good at activity codes then 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 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 any logic. A proper description should be given to a specific level.

Logic/Relationship Analysis

The baseline project schedule should only have a one activity without a predecessor

relationship and a one activity without a successor, that is first and the last activities respectively. There is an exception if there is any proper logic like if you have an activity for maintenance etc. There are four types of logic that 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 relationships 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 aa positive & lead as a negative term. Both are time duration between a relationship. For example if activity A & B have an FS relationship it means activity B will start immediately once activity A is completed but if you want to start activity B after a few days like 4 days then you can put 4 days in lag but if you want to start activity B, 4 days before the 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 the usage of 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 the half of activity duration where it is being applied. For example, Activity A & B both have a duration of 10 days then lag should be between 1-5 days, not 50 days, etc. I have seen plans where Contractors are using such huge lags.

Software like Primavera P6 does a very good job while reviewing this lags/leads by report customization.

Note: Whatever you name it a lag less than zero is never been acceptable anywhere!

Constraint Check

Constraints are not a desirable thing but it still exists. Sometimes it is demanded by the Clients as well as they need a specific area on that date in any case. Check the contract and act is there. On the other hand, if the Contractor makes it at its own then don’t accept until a proper reason is provided by.

Sometimes Contractor wants to complete the project before time, in that case, he may use this kind of stuff to avoid overhead cost later on.

Constraints are undesirable because these may impact on Critical Path calculations that may lead to wrong forecasting and negative floats on activities by forcing over-ride in the schedule during updating.

Enlist all the constraints and ask for to write a proper reason for using it in a notebook of that particular activity – Notebook feature is available in almost every scheduling software nowadays.

Constraints are a number of types like Mandatory Start, Mandatory Finish, Start On, Finish On, etc. Make sure you get a proper solid logic to approve any on these.

Contract Milestones should be constrained as Finish On or Before to calculate Backward Pass Calculations.

Crew Movement

A plan should be able to show Manpower flow & requirements at any given time.

Responsible Parties

It is may be 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) later on for approving the progress and to have a check on invoicing. Make sure it is aligned with the Contract weightages. For example, Engineering, Procurement & Construction has 10%, 25% & 65% is the weightage in a typical project.

Resource Loading Analysis

Man-hours, Cost or the Quantities are used to track the project. Mostly Clients need Man-hours loading but some want Cost loading. This is up to the Client consent. He may have asked for all three or none. Check this according to the Contract – Hope the Client has provided the Contractor earlier what he needs. Quantities loading is mostly done by the contractor 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 of the parties during execution & monitoring.

Risks and Opportunities

Although this is the job of the Contractor’s planner to investigate the risk and opportunities for 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 for this adversity as per the document. It depends on the nature of work performed in a specific area. It may adverse for some activities more & others for other negligible. Track those activities & try to apply Activity Codes too have a better check time to time.

Wrap Up

There are things that 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 ways after reviewing the above points, the plan may not meet a few or many but it is as per Contractual obligation then you can either ask revise/resubmit it again after fulfilling the advisory comments also. But also make sure to guide the contractor that this his responsibility to provide an accurate plan as per the assessment of the working plan.

The Client Representative should be experienced enough in understanding the Contract and the other specifications as well as proficient in scheduling software being used.

There may need a number of meeting between both parties to adjust the baseline before approving or accepting. The Owner should have included most of the conditions at Tendering stage to avoid later conflicts between both parties.

Also Visit: Analogous and Parametric Estimation


One Small Request:

Being a Project Management guy, I know how little time we have to play around on the internet. But if you have found this information useful then please share it to your colleague so that more people can get benefit from it. If you have any question then comment below and I am glad to take it.


 References:

I have tried to compile as through practical experience & help was taken from other resources as well, notably

  1. Detailed Discussion in Linkedin “Primavera” Group
  2. What is the DCMA 14-point schedule assessment
  3. Find here Baseline Plan Review Checklist

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Faisal Arsalan
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Faisal Arsalan

Well written…. Absolutely loved it!!!

Engr. Sibghat Ullah khan
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Engr. Sibghat Ullah khan

Excellent and very helpful article specially for consultant and managers

Mustafa Azeem
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Mustafa Azeem

It’s good article to basic work flow of planning and regarding resource man-hours need to be clear. Because If you make the S-curve it completely depends on Man-hour capacity.
– Comment via Linkedin

Buck Kensey
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Buck Kensey

Thank you it helped me to review contractors baseline plan effectively.

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