Including an industry-standard Primavera P6 or MS Project schedule with your bid offers many valuable aspects, both for your bid strength and for your project team.
Having reviewed bid packages for owner’s teams in the past, we’ve noticed how many submissions ignore the schedule component, or have clearly spent very little effort on that part of the bid package. Most owners contracting out large project are concerned with quality and accountability when it comes to bid reviews; they need to be able to defend their chosen contractor(s) in the years to come when issues and costs may be in the forefront of management’s and investor’s / regulator’s minds. This accountability and transparency is usually accomplished with a detailed scoring system. Bid packages are scored on costs, safety and environmental / regulatory / community provisions, execution and contracting strategies, risk mitigation strategies, corporate reputation, etc. One of the major scoring metrics has become schedule quality. This is because the schedule gives credence to the other claims made in the bid package.
The quality of an estimate is often assessed in terms of its completeness, realism, and relevancy. An incomplete estimate is one that may not include certain overhead costs, supporting requirements, or missing detailed scope. If cranes are required, but provision for crane mats or other supporting costs are not included, this leaves an impression that the details have not been thought through, and therefore there is a higher risk of cost overrun and mismanagement. An estimate lacking realism may assume high worker efficiency in remote frigid locations. Or, such an estimate may assume little overhead, assuming many parallel work-fronts that are simply not possible with the available workforce or work area access restrictions. Finally, an estimate that is not relevant may not include current rates, productivity, and worker availability data. All of these aspects can be improved with good planning integration using the schedule and an integrated scheduler.
Designing the work in a schedule can help visually ensure cost items are not missed. Walking through the project schedule’s Gantt chart allows the planning team the opportunity to consider questions like:
- what do we need to have ready for this chain of tasks?
- what should we have in place to support this work?
- how does this work tie-in to existing infrastructure, and other areas of the project?
Any gaps found while developing the schedule in this way can be addressed in the estimate as well. Furthermore, when resource-loading a schedule, the planning team can consider the effort required, making sure the assumptions align between the schedule and estimate. In reviewing the schedule with experienced construction representatives, for example, recent productivity, availability, and overhead requirements can be discussed and integrated into both schedule and estimate.
By integrating detailed schedule planning and reviews into the bid package, you are able to strengthen your estimate, prepared to back up your assumptions with your plan, and impress-upon your potential client that you have thought of the work completely, in a realistic and relevant manner. This also has the benefit to your team of fostering communication about these assumptions, leading to a higher confidence in the bid as a whole.
Most owners want to review the execution strategy, to help distinguish bidders from each other. Well thought out strategies recognize and mitigate risks, as well as find opportunities for increased schedule or cost efficiency. To illustrate this, a schedule can help in presenting, for example, a specific risk avoidance strategy. Walking through a schedule can reveal potential issues with an execution strategy that may not be apparent in a more abstracted desk exercise. For example, multiple simultaneous work fronts can be easily identifiable via the schedule, and may not be as apparent otherwise.
As part of the execution strategy, associated strategies include contracting, worker recruiting, security and access, safety, and other strategies. These can all be reviewed in a wholistic way when using the schedule as a common facilitator. For example, although safety overhead support may be calculated as a percentage of direct costs, simultaneous or overlapping work fronts may alter either the safety staffing plan or the schedule once over-allocations are spotted. Without this planning tool, you run the risk of either un-forecasted delays later on, or higher safety risk levels. These are the holes in execution (and related) plans that owners are looking for in bids to poke at and to score lower in their evaluation procedures.
One of the common methods for producing a risk profile for a project is through a schedule-driven risk analysis. This process provides your team the ability to do a thorough risk analysis, by reviewing not only scope items, as you may find in an estimate or a drawing. This process also facilitates discussion on other aspects, such as seasonal risks, schedule slippage risks, impacts relating to overhead and support personnel, and may even bring light to risks not previously considered in detail, like delivery and storage complications of off-the-shelf materials.
Owner’s teams appreciate a thorough and detailed risk assessment, as this shows that your team cares for the risk of cost overruns as they do. Furthermore, a detailed risk assessment based on schedule shows the owners that you have a more sophisticated management team, able to see the links between cost, risk, and schedule. This allows owners to score your proposal higher than others, while also allowing them to easily defend your proposal to senior managers, showing the care taken in assessing, and therefore preparing to avoid, costly risk items.
In terms of bid proposals, Change Management may not seem like something worth considering. However, projects almost never end up where the initial plan began. Although your team’s detailed change management process may not be part of your bid submission, having a quality schedule submitted in your proposal can help your team during that change process once the job is ongoing. One reason for this is that rare but often time-consuming claims procedures get bogged down due to obscure definition of the original agreement in terms of the specific subject of a claim. Furthermore, if a claim proceeds to court or arbitration, having a long and detailed history insures your assertion of what the original understand and expectations were will have more weight. In this way, having a quality schedule submission can pay dividends later in the project, especially in the event that disputes arise in the validity or scope of change orders and claims.
To recap then, quality schedules can improve your bid submission in several ways. One of these is in the scoring of your bid by the owner’s team; quality schedules allow for increased scores in scheduling and project controls areas, as well as indirectly in execution strategy, estimate, and risk management areas. Furthermore, the very act of developing a schedule will help improve your team’s submission overall, by bringing certain constraints and requirements to light, while also ensuring a tight relationship between execution plans and the estimate. Finally, a quality schedule in your bid submission helps set up your execution team with a solid basis when confronted with required change orders and possible claims management proceedings in the future. Although many see the benefits in schedules during the execution phase of a project, these reasons support the inclusion of a schedule as early as bid submission.