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Managing the program

Learn about the importance of managing a program; find guidance on monitoring and control to ensure the project remains on-program during the delivery phase and is successfully delivered on time.

A well developed and clearly articulated program is essential for ensuring the project is completed on time; all project activities are planned appropriately and communicated to the appropriate parties. The program will allow you to understand the interdependencies between activities and determine the order in which activities must be completed to ensure the project is delivered on time.

It is important to note that the TAFE may need to develop various programs or make a number of revisions to the program, throughout the project lifecycle, including for internal processes such as obtaining the necessary funding and approvals, procurement and managing the design process and the works. You will need to agree on the program for the delivery of the works with the contractor.

The need to manage the program

Delays to the program may prevent the project from being completed on time, within the required budget and/or to the required standard. This may impact the realisation of project benefits envisaged during the project definition, funding and approvals phase. It is therefore important to plan, schedule, monitor and control the program.

The program is also an important tool during delivery to help:

  • assess contractor claims
  • determine whether any extension of time (EOT) claims should be granted, and
  • monitor progress to determine whether works can be accelerated or reprogramed.

It is important for the program to be up to date and accurate to assess EOT claims and other impacts caused by change events.

  • Step 1: Planning

    This step involves understanding important dates, time constraints and key milestones which the project is required to meet.

    Every project has a start and an end date. These dates may be linked to a critical constraint, such as a government commitment to have a project completed by a certain date or a critical interdependency with another important project. In some cases, these dates are arbitrarily established by the project team.

    In the project's early stages, when the project need is established, you may need to identify critical dates. These may include:

    • when the business case should be submitted in line with funding cycles
    • when the project should start
    • when the project should be completed
    • critical constraints, such as semester, term or critical teaching dates, and
    • critical interdependencies with other key projects (including projects with external stakeholders such as major government initiatives or industry partners).

    Step 2: Scheduling

    Once the scope is defined, quality requirements and project risks determined, and an estimate of activity duration in place, you should undertake the scheduling process. This will typically occur during the project definition, funding and approvals phase after funding has been received and project definition has been completed.

    During the scheduling process, you will need to develop a program to illustrate how project tasks will be sequenced and activities will be allocated between different stakeholders (for example, different works to be completed by different consultants, contractors or trades). The program is typically in the form of a Gantt chart.

    The concept of a Gantt chart is to map out which tasks can be done in parallel and which tasks should be done sequentially. A Gantt chart displays information visually, in a clear, easy-to-understand way and is used to:

    • establish the initial project schedule
    • allocate resources
    • monitor and report progress
    • control and communicate the schedule
    • display milestones
    • define the critical path
    • identify and report problems, and
    • develop detailed sub-programs, as required, including procurement, design development and approval task programs.

    Step 3: Monitoring

    Monitoring is important for determining if the program is running as planned and deciding when changes or intervening corrective action (for example, rescheduling or accelerating the works) may be required.

    Once the project program has been set, monitoring includes analysis of past events, recognition of trends and assessment of the potential impacts on the future schedule - comparing what actually happens during the project against what was expected to happen under the project schedule.

    Monitoring includes the communication and reporting of findings to the wider project team.

    Monitoring is an ongoing activity and may include processes such as:

    • reviewing the program as part of regular progress reporting
    • communicating risks and issues impacting the achievement of the program to those responsible for project governance
    • engaging an independent programmer, or an external specialised advisor, to undertake scheduling and programming reviews
    • working with the contractor and specialist advisors to understand forecast progress against actual progress, and
    • assessing if any program slippage will impact the critical path.

    Step 4: Controlling

    Controlling the program refers to ensuring that the objectives of the project are met in accordance with the program. This will ensure timely and successful completion of the project.

    Controlling the program may include the following processes:

    • upon engagement of any specialist advisors or the contractor, incorporating all milestone dates and durations from the related contracts into the program
    • evaluating and understanding the results of monitoring the program
    • reviewing the program status and recommendations contained within project reports
    • where key dates are at risk, considering viable alternatives where appropriate
    • assessing the validity of contractor extension of time (EOT) claims and determining, if as a result of the EOT claim, any changes need to be made to the program and a claim approved, and
    • incorporating program information into the lessons learnt and risk registers.
  • The critical path is the longest sequence of activities within a program, which must be completed on time for the total project to complete on time.

    Activity on the critical path cannot be started until its predecessor activity is complete. In other words, if activity on the critical path is delayed for a day, the entire project will be delayed for a day unless a following activity is completed a day earlier.

    The purpose of understanding the project’s critical path(s) is to be able to focus effort in managing the activities that lie on that critical path. If all the critical path activities are completed on time and there is no slippage on other activities (which are not on the critical path past the anticipated end date), the whole project will finish on time.

    Understanding the project’s critical path will also help with the assessment of contractor extension of time (EOT) claims, as well as any other unforeseen events which may impact the project. If an EOT claim arises or an unforeseen event occurs, you will be able to consider opportunities to reschedule activities or accelerate some works to maintain the critical path (if the date for practical completion is impacted). If an EOT is genuine, the contract will set out the mechanisms for relief from elements such as liquidated damages.

  • During the procurement phase, you are likely to require tenderers to return a proposed program as part of their tender response.

    In order to ensure you receive an acceptable program from tenderers, the tender documentation should clearly identify critical dates within the program. Tenderers must then incorporate these critical dates into their program and sequence of work.

    You should evaluate tenderers’ proposed programs contained within their tender responses. This includes ensuring critical dates, as well as any constraints and interdependencies, are appropriately considered.

    You should agree on the successful tenderer’s key dates and milestones, prior to engaging the contractor, so they can be included in the signed contract. You should also:

    • incorporate any key dates and milestones from the successful tenderer’s program into the project program, and
    • monitor the contractor’s performance against the contractor’s program set out in the contract during the delivery phase.

    The final program should communicate all activities, the duration of these activities and key milestones required to deliver the project. The program should:

    • reflect a realistic work breakdown structure (WBS)
    • show clear dependencies between tasks
    • include reasonable durations for each activity
    • identify key milestone dates and constraints, and
    • show a clear critical path.
  • Once the contractor is engaged you should monitor actual progress against the forecast delivery program to ensure that the project achieves its objectives in line with any time constraints.

    In practice, on at least a monthly basis, you should perform the following tasks to ensure that the contractor’s program status reporting is as accurate as possible:

    • physically check that tasks claimed to have been completed each month are in accordance with the works actually performed by the contractor. Undertaking a physical check is also important as the completion of works is likely to be directly linked to financial claims from the contractor, and
    • ensure that the contractor’s contractual milestone dates are adjusted to account for any approved EOT events, which may increase or decrease the duration available to achieve the completion of all tasks or activities.

    During the delivery phase, it is important for the program to be up to date and as accurate as possible, to assist in determining whether EOT claims are valid. It is also important to consider other project events which may validate contractor claims.

  • To ensure timely completion of the project during delivery, the TAFE may take the following actions:

    • not enforcing arbitrarily defined deadlines
    • reviewing and tracking the program with key project stakeholders
    • using the program to identify and manage risks
    • assisting in the early identification of issues, such that actions can be undertaken to minimise impact, and
    • identifying constraints that should be managed appropriately within the TAFE and with the contractor.

Reviewed 05 July 2023

TAFE Toolkit

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