More and more contractors are indirectly hiring project planners/schedulers and choosing to insource project planners/schedulers from third-party outsourcer or outsource the service of project scheduling to a consultancy firm like Pro1plan Consultants.
There are many advantages in insourcing/outsourcing project scheduling as listed below:
- Project scheduling is seen as a utility and non-core business of the project. It is akin to Autocad drafting, surveying, and legal services. It can be substituted and replaced easily
. Exceptfor big projects, it is not a pre-requisite for smaller projects to use CPMscheduling tool such as Primavera P6 for project scheduling. The use of MS Excel or MS Project is sufficient for most smaller construction projects. However, when submission of project schedule using Primavera P6 is necessitated for project tendering, it is cheaper and faster to get a schedulerfrom a third-party provider for short term. Furthermore, there is no need to buy Primavera P6 Licence or send staff for P6 software training.
- It is difficult to recruit and retain bright and ambitious young professionals in scheduling function for long in a company.
- Project scheduling requires specialized knowledge of project schedule planning and project control. It is not just the mastery in the use of software scheduling tool, it takes time to master the knowledge of project planning and scheduling.
Insourcing and outsourcing each have its advantages and disadvantages. For insourcing, the planner/scheduler is at the full disposal of the project as he works full time. The disadvantage of this arrangement is it is difficult to get good quality planner/scheduler from the “body shop”. Most of these planners/schedulers are young with limited work experiences as these “body shops” cannot get qualified planners/schedulers with enough site experiences. They work merely as software operators or programmers.
Once I spoke to the boss of a “body shop” and he lamented that he could not pay the project planner/scheduler well because contractors were not willing to pay more for the services his company rendered. He could only get young project planners/schedulers from 3rd world countries with limited work experiences.
Next, we talk about outsourcing of project scheduling. The contractor engages a planning consultancy firm to develop the project schedule. Typically, during the development of tender/baseline schedule, the planning consultant works full time on or off-site until the delivery of the project schedule to the client. He usually charges the client based on effort/days he spends to develop the schedule or by specified milestones such as the 1st draft, 2nd draft, and final submission. After that, the planning consultant may work on 1 to 2 days weekly on an ad-hoc basis for the remaining tenure of the project once the baseline schedule is approved. In addition, he can also render planning/scheduling consultancy service as and when is needed. As such, there is no fixed overhead and thereby achieving cost savings.
The advantage of engaging a planning consultant is he can be counted to deliver the project deliverables without any hand-holding. During the tendering phase of the project where there is no luxury of time, a planning consultant’s service is especially critical as it speeds up the preparation of tender schedule and other related tender documentation. He knows what to look up for in scheduling development and programme requirements through his vast experience in handling projects.
The disadvantage of this option is that the planning consultant is not employed on a full-time basis. Sometimes, communication may be via phone, email or SMS and may not be as effective as communicating in person. Also, his rate is more expensive on a per day basis. Again, the experience of consultants vary and sometimes may not be as good as claim. Prior to engaging the consultant, it is important to interview him and check his credentials.
In summary, whether to insource or outsource project scheduling/planning depends on the expectations and requirements of the project. Do you need a full-time scheduler/planner with limited work experience to operate the planning scheduling tool or a planning consultant on assignment basis where he can be count on delivering the schedule development but at a higher rate?
If you are working as a planner/schedulers, I will like to hear your views as well.
About the Author:
Stanley Tey has more than two decades of project management experience after graduating from the National University of Singapore in Civil Engineering. He also obtained a Master Degree in Software Engineering from Institute of Systems Science, NUS where he specialized in Project Management and Systems Integration. He has worked as a Consulting Engineer, Project Planner, and Project Manager. Some of the projects he had handled are:
- North East Line
- Singapore 1st Desalination Water Plant at Tuas
- Integrated Resort Project at Sentosa
- Lonza Cell Therapy Plant at Tuas (Phase 2)
- Merck Junumet plant at Tuas
- Singapore Special Cable Tunnel Project