The majority of project teams are acutely aware of the importance of planning for contingency expenditures when it comes to developing realistic budgets. There are a host of misses, though, when it comes to applying those same principles to developing activity schedules. In many cases, building in contingency timeframes that allow for unexpected delays are just as important as setting aside contingency funding.
Even teams that utilize contingency planning when developing schedules may still come up short on days now and then. If your Project Team has had trouble keeping project timeframes on track, use this list of often-missed, delay-inducing events to be sure critical-path activities have sufficient space on the calendar.
Regulatory review periods. Any time a process or piece of equipment must undergo mandated external scrutiny, the team should consider how much calendar time will be needed and when those hours will occur. Securing an inspector can itself be a time-consuming process, and detailed reviews often require multiple visits by one or more specialists. Ask the regulatory body for an estimate on when a reviewer will be available and confirm what additional follow-up activities—submittal of a site report, etc.—may need to occur before final sign-off.
Permit processing times. As with regulatory review periods, any permitting requirements will need to be thoroughly vetted to ensure there is ample time in the schedule for the activity. Consider, too, the potential for the permitting entity to extend (or even reset) the clock based on requests for additional information, if the original application was improperly formatted, if required signatures are missing, if the application fee was incorrectly calculated, or any other number of issues that could delay final approval.
Beta user selection activities. It’s common to allow some schedule leeway for identifying beta users for a project, but teams sometimes underestimate how badly this process can stray from the plan. When developing the project parameters, be sure to clarify how many beta users will be required. It’s also prudent to outline very specifically those qualifications that will be used to both include and exclude potential beta users. Not only can the methods to find enough suitable users be a lengthy undertaking, it’s even more time consuming to stop the process halfway through because stakeholders can’t agree on who should and shouldn’t be involved.
Weather events. Weather events routinely wreak havoc on project schedules. In addition to researching the normal weather patterns in a given area, project teams should also take the additional step to discuss the potential for extreme weather with local stakeholders and business partners. They are experts who have likely endured enough tornado warnings or flash-flood scares to know if, when, and how the region’s micro-climate may impact the project’s timing.
Remember that weather delays often extend beyond simple work stoppages, such as windstorms that require time for securely anchoring or removing—and then replacing—onsite materials. Look for all tasks that could become necessary in the case of inclement weather and be sure the schedule allows enough time to complete them.
Seasonal scarcity. Resource availabilities often fluctuate in relatively predictable cycles. While it’s preferable to plan projects around these cycles, that isn’t always an option. Any Project Team that may need to compete for a potentially scarce resource during a time of seasonally-influenced availability, whether it’s labor or materials, will want to consider adding contingency time to the schedule to accommodate likely delays. It may also be prudent to identify multiple sources for resources that are in demand during peak times, so look for ways to structure the project plan to allow some contingency time for that task, too.