Here is some general information, for creating or updating future schedules, reviewing contractor or previous schedules, and cost loading schedules. This information is more oriented towards MS Project but could also be used in principal with any program, as it mostly focuses on theory.


Schedule Creation and Making General Updates:

1-New schedules, can be started from a template file. This file should contain a good amount of activities and their links, including how their WBS. Of course these must be adjusted accordingly for any particular project’s specific circumstances. There can also be placeholder activities which would be a set of activities that would be different from project to project. This file should already print with the proper title, date and in right size and layout.


2- After creation of schedule, for every update, please do the updates in the following order:
· Update any actual dates that already happened from “Actual Start” and “Actual Finish” columns (not Start and Finish columns, which should not be touched)
· Update any expected future dates by adjusting the durations, links, lead and lag times, but not entering dates to start or finish columns itself.
· Also for example if you wish to change start date of an activity, instead of imposing a constraint, change the link of it to it’s predecessor as applicable, or duration of its predecessor. Objective is to obtain all dates through calculation, rather than entering manually as constraint.
· If you still want to impose constraints, please do so from activity window, by double clicking the activity, opening the activity window and the clicking on advanced tab, you will see the area that will allow you to enter constraints
· For activities that only needed a percentage update and you are ok with auto calculation, just update the percentage values.
· Updating progress of activities through updating remaining duration is also possible and will generate auto update of percent value.

3-After the steps above, update the project data date from project information window. (under project tab, and clicking project information button). Almost always this is today’s date, but for any reason you may prefer a different date

4-After updating the project data date, all remaining work (in other words, incomplete portions of activities) must be pushed after the data date to the future, so that no remaining work is left in the past (a very common mistake in contractor schedules). This can be done from: Project > Update Project>Reschedule uncompleted work to start after (which now shows the data date from the step above)

Note to 2,3, & 4: Each update to the schedule should be done at once, and not at different times. Doing partially and updating the schedule each time as above to only some of the required activities, causes unupdated activities dates to change inaccurately.


5-To select a calendar other than the default calendar, please go to Project > Change Working Time. You can choose a different calendar or create a new calendar.


6-Links can be entered from predecessor and successor columns directly, by using formats such as: 5FS+3 where 5 is the activity which current activity ties to, FS, SS, FF, SF are link types, and +5 is the lag time.


9-Insert a final activity as a milestone, called project completion, and tie all loose ended activities to here. Make sure all activities have at least one successor, except the last activity. Not doing so, will cause multiple critical paths.


10-A “Must Finish By” Constraint may or may not be applied to a project, depending on choice. If this is desired, this should be applied to the last activity, “Project Completion”, which was described above. Applying this constraint, would cause the finish date to remain the same always, but any delays would cause negative floats on critical path, so the amount of delay of each critical activity can be seen. Alternately, not applying this constraint, would cause end of the project to float freely, where everyone will be able to see the calculated finish date under current conditions, but the negative float information will be absent in this case, and all critical activities will have only zero float.


11-When an activity date seems to be out of order, check links and constraints. If there is an unwanted constraint, go to activity window, advanced tab, and make the constraint to “Start As Soon As Possible”, which is the default.


12-On large jobs such as floor renovation, where an activity may encompass lot of different areas and a long duration, long pauses in between areas, they may be divided into different areas of work.



Reviewing Previous, Existing or Contractor Schedules:

The items below represent the most commonly found mistakes or items need to be revised the most, in previous schedules, or in schedules done by others:


· Check exiting links and determine if there are logic errors

· Do overall checks such as comparing obvious activities order to each other, for example, compare dates of painting vs drywall, or ceiling tile vs HVAC. If there are conflicts, schedule logic is wrong and problem links must be found

· Check if there are any start dates that are in the past. This means schedule or activity is not current, in other words status date and or activity progresses must be updated. The steps in previous section must be followed in order to update progresses.

· Sometimes there are items in the schedule which do not belong in the work scope. These should be removed or made as milestone and tied with proper links. In theory, if these are included and given duration (work), these will affect EV calculations and cause wrong results, therefore making them milestone with zero duration (zero work) is a solution, if still they need to be seen. Examples are, fabrication, delivery, submittals, inspection, getting a certain issue resolved, activities belong to another project or phase of project.

· Check if any actual dates are entered by mistake into start and finish columns. These should be moved into actual start and finish columns. The program thinks that these are constraint dates if entered here. Constraints should be used only when necessary, and as least as possible. Try to reach any desired dates by updating links and durations, rather than applying constraints.

· The % complete of activities is another important item to be checked. It must reflect the actual current condition.

· Also it is good practice to do a high level checking. Converting to high level can help identifying items that have incorrect start or finish dates which affect its whole summary (parent) activity and can be seen easily when looked at in high level, as the summary activity will appear out of place.

· See if the durations of activities make sense

· See if there are any missing scope

· With resource loaded schedules, check if resources are completely entered. Check if there are over-allocated resources and make resource leveling if necessary,

· Update the progress of complete or partially complete activities,

· Check if status date is updated

· Make activities current by bringing incomplete portions after the status date,

· Check if there are activities without successors, and if so, tie them to the ultimate activity, even if no other activity comes after it. This will ensure a single critical path calculation

· Check if a new baseline is needed. If a new baseline is needed, then it must be saved after all updates are complete.


Cost Loading Schedules (by single, lump sum cost entries to activities) on MS Project, to see “Cost vs. Time” graph (S-Curve):

Cost loading of schedules can be done in different ways. You can assign duration based rated costs, such as labor, material costs, one-time fixed cost items, or lump sum costs to each activity.

After these are assigned, the scheduling software will add the costs of all these and come up with a total cost of that activity for that instant. In MS project, this is done within the “Cost” column, by the program.

As mentioned above, in addition to assigning resources, fixed costs can also be added to the activities. In some cases, adding resources can be omitted altogether and only lump sum costs are assigned cover everything for an activity. This is a frequently preferred method in order to quickly see the cost distribution over time, if the cumulative costs of activities are known from estimating process.

Fixed or lump sum costs are assigned at the Fixed Cost column. And MS project will calculate the cost result which is the result of all resource and fixed costs, and come with the result in “Cost” column.

In other words,

Cost Column = Fixed Cost Column + Any costs calculated as a result of resource based costs.

Do not enter any costs directly into the Cost column.

After the Cost column is fully calculated as desired, in other words, after all fixed costs and resource based costs are fully entered, cumulative costs over time (S-Curve) can be obtained.

You will need to switch views for that. In MS project that view is called the Task usage view. In task usage view, simply add the “Cumulative Cost” to the display rows, and it will show you how that “Cumulative Cost” accumulates over time, under each date for which that activity takes place, and at the summary level these cumulative costs are summed.

Then all needs to be done is to copy paste the progressing dates AND the cumulative cost rows from the summary row into excel and come up with the S-Curve, which shows total cost over time. MS project can also draw this graph by itself but I find copying and pasting into excel better way as we have more control on the format of the graph.


Example of this S Curve is seen as below, based on a sample data that was pasted as two rows into excel (which comes from the task view in MS Project as explained above):