Disadvantages of Static Update Methods

Effective time management in construction is best supported with a planning and reporting tool that allows data-driven decision making.

But what is “effective” time management? What does it look like and how is it performed?

Static progress updating methods such as the “jagged progress” approach are frequently used to manage time. However, there are some considerable weaknesses with these methods. So why are they still used?

This article will look at why contractors might use the “jagged progress” method, its disadvantages and what alternative methods are available.

Static vs Dynamic Updating

A comprehensive, well-structured, and easy to follow programme is at the heart of any well-managed project. However, having a programme is not enough. The programme needs to be updated and maintained. In doing so the programme will accurately record what has happened and what will happen in the future.

At Decipher, we often see projects attempting to manage time using static updating methods. This is where the status of activities in a programme is shown on the updates as a percentage complete. Often with these updates the start and finish dates never change.

A common example is the “jagged progress” approach. This is when a jagged line shows if tasks are behind, on time or ahead of the baseline programme.

The example below shows a programme updated using the “jagged progress” method. The jagged vertical line (green) indicates the status of each activity:

An example of the jagged progress update method

Some might favour the jagged progress method because:

  • It is easy to see which activities are on programme or behind.
  • Planning software isn’t necessarily required so anyone can update it. For example, it could be drawn by hand on a chart.
  • It requires only a basic level of competency using planning software.

However, there are 6 significant disadvantages of this method:

  • Difficult or impossible to quantify the delay.
  • Does not forecast when future activities will start based on where the project is now.
  • It does not forecast when the project will finish.
  • Cannot determine the critical path, making prioritising difficult or impossible.
  • Doesn’t facilitate deviations from the original plan which are inevitable in most construction projects.
  • The jagged progress method does not capture the date when activities started or finished. (For record-keeping)

So, which method should you implement to make time management “effective”?

What should be used, is a dynamic updating method.

What does this mean? Put simply, this is when the programme is re-scheduled after the progress data has been inputted. Once rescheduled, the activity bars will move to reveal a new set of start and finish dates. Usually the software calculates these changes, but it can be done manually, based on how the project has performed up to that point.

The programme below is the same as the figure above but engages the “straight line” method:

An example of the straight-line updating method

Using this method, the contractor can determine that the project is 3 weeks behind. Or, specifically, that the project is likely to finish 3 weeks late if the project runs without any further delays. You can see this by comparing how far the activities have moved against the original plan, known as the baseline (shown in yellow). You can also look at the “Finish Variance” column which shows a delay of “-3w”.

The straight-line method allows the project to make data-driven decisions to get back on track. For example, the critical path appears in red. This tells the contractor these activities should be accelerated or re-sequenced to recover the lost time.

These decisions are informed by the programme. They can only be identified by the straight-line method or another type of dynamic updating.

In Conclusion

Effective time management is difficult to achieve with static updates like the jagged progress method. It provides the reader with limited information, leaving them unsure how the project is performing or when it is likely to finish.

Instead, a dynamic approach will help to truly understand the trajectory of the project. Dynamic methods are the only way to be sure you understand what is critical at any given time and what can be done to recover delays should they arise.

This article was written by Anthony Hayes, Associate in the Delay and Project Planning team at Decipher. If you would like to find our more about how we can support you with effective time management, please get in touch.