3 Ways to Avoid Being Overwhelmed by Complex Schedule Changes

Construction projects are getting more and more complicated. Tight margins, resource constraints, and labor shortages are forcing companies to get creative in order to keep projects on track. Add to that every trade involved on a given project. It’s no wonder construction schedules get extremely complex and consist of thousands of schedule activities.

As a Project Manager or Schedule Coordinator on the job site, you know that when one thing goes wrong, it’s a recipe for a series of problems to surface. The least of which is keeping your head on straight while you manage the ripple effect.

68% of trades point to poor schedule management as one of the key contributors to decreased labor productivity on the job site according to a report from Autodesk and Dodge Data & Analytics. With a figure like that, it’s no wonder schedule management tools have evolved–and thank goodness.

Here’s some tips to keep the stress of schedule changes to a minimum.

1. Digitize and centralize your schedule management

Get away from spreadsheets and static schedule printouts if you can. You may kick yourself for not doing this sooner. You can easily connect field teams, office operations, and any other stakeholders together with modern schedule management tools.

The ripple effect of a single schedule delay/change can be significant. And there’s hours of sifting through printouts, spreadsheets, updating documents, changing whiteboards, informing stakeholders, distributing new schedules, and sometimes you’re not even sure if everyone got the new information. Plus, in a matter of hours, that new schedule printout you just gave everyone is out of date because another schedule hiccup came through.

The whole process is a tedious, labor-intensive task. Yet these traditional, stuttered, and out-of-sync workflows persist. Dollar for dollar, there’s probably a lot better ways to spend your time than in the minutia. It’s no wonder schedule management takes nerves of steel.

“Distributing schedules across the team and ensuring everyone is on the same page is often time-consuming. Traditional and siloed schedule management requires updating spreadsheets, publishing them as PDFs and emailing them around to the team. By automating schedule communication in Autodesk Build, we save valuable project time and keep our team updated on the latest, while remaining in the same solution that houses our other critical project information.”

–Bryan Nuckolls, Project Manager at BOLDT

With Autodesk Build’s Schedule Tool, everyone with the right permissions has access to the latest schedule information once imported. Plus, you can instantly share the digital schedule with field teams. It lets you distribute real-time updates instead of using clunky PDFs that can quickly become outdated.


2. Give your teams real-time schedule information

Think about how many times a day someone asks about the new updated schedule before it’s ready. Or how a delay might impact the myriad of things you have to be mindful of. Not having an answer doesn’t work because you’re the point person.

Typically, schedules are managed on a whiteboard in the trailer or by schedule coordinators in the office. And paper printouts or PDFs are provided to the field team to execute on the newupdated schedule. The problem that results from these outdated processes is that the minute you create that static print out, the information is out of sync and out of date. When teams rely heavily on paper printouts and static PDFs, miscommunication is bound to happen.

“The Schedule Tool in Autodesk Build is easy to use and has reduced the amount of time I spend on distributing the schedule to our teams. Before Autodesk Build, I had to update the schedule, publish it as a PDF, and email the PDF to the entire team. Now, the process is automated. I upload my Microsoft project schedule into Autodesk Build, and it distributes a link to a web-based version of the schedule to the team, with notifications about the changes.”

—Bryan Nuckolls, Project Manager at BOLDT

Storing project information in one place eliminates confusion and increases visibility into what’s happening on the jobsite for greater collaboration across teams. For example, S. M. Wilson’s superintendents are using Autodesk Build for their drawings, daily logs, and safety audits and are excited about the flexibility of the schedule tool. The ability to search for critical items or activities, or create a custom monthly timeline of the project, gives more visibility into the project and further connects teams and activities.

“We want them to have that knowledge at their fingertips. So that schedule tool is one of the most exciting features in Autodesk Build. Going from a static piece of printed paper to being able to look at your next three weeks and develop those three-week lookaheads easier is crucial and makes our teams smarter builders.”

—Jamie Berzon, Construction Technology Manager

at S. M. Wilson & Co.

With a great schedule management tool, especially when connected to all your other project data, your field teams (from every trade) can quickly navigate the thousands of schedule activities based on real-time schedule information. And they can do it all from the ease of their mobile device.


3. You can know your risks before they become costly problems

Large projects typically take 20% longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80% over budget according to the McKinsey Global Institute. While it’s common to build buffers into budgets, that can still be a startling figure.

Once you have the right schedule tool in place though, you’ll almost instantly improve communication and collaboration across team members. The hidden gem here is not simply that your team members communicate better. It’s how they communicate through a shared platform, and what issues are revealed when they’re empowered to collaboratively support one another.

A major benefit of centralized schedule management is that you’re able to avoid unexpected schedule delays by discovering and addressing risks early on. Through active commenting on the schedule, team members can collaborate and communicate issues that might otherwise become a very expensive rework.

“One thing that’s cool about the Scheduling Tool in Autodesk Build is the ability to link different references together to understand how Issues or RFIs are impacting the schedule. This capability allows us to have more context into what items may affect the schedule and have more meaningful conversations with our subcontractors and owners for faster issue resolution.”

–Brian Popis, VDC Engineer at Barton Malow


Allow team to suggest schedule updates

Autodesk Build recently released a schedule suggestion feature. It helps facilitate collaboration on important updates to the schedule and serves as a dedicated communication channel for project schedules. This feature also helps you manage schedule suggestions by effectively utilizing robust permission controls–ensuring the right information stays in the right hands.

Team members with the appropriate permissions can suggest an update on an activity to the schedule manager. The schedule managers can then review, approve, or reject the suggestion. It’s that simple.

It's worth noting that the schedule manager must update the master schedule in the schedule authoring tool to ensure the latest schedule is imported into Autodesk Build. Typically, this process is done through countless emails, phone calls or undocumented conversation. By digitizing and streamlining the process, the Schedule Tool in Autodesk Build helps create an accurate trail of records for all suggestions made. This ensures nothing falls through the cracks.


See the Schedule Tool in action


Not too long ago, we announced the addition of the Schedule Tool in Autodesk Build. It enables teams to collaborate, connect, and interface with the most up-to-date schedule information. By centralizing project schedules in the cloud, teams gain real-time visibility into schedule data. They’re now able to stay on top of all the milestones, dependencies, and tasks to avoid potential delays and costly rework.

If you'd like someone on our team to walk you through Autodesk Build’s Schedule Tool, please contact us. We’d be happy to show you around.

Samira Tily

Product Marketing Manager, Autodesk Construction Solutions