The New Norm in Planning and Scheduling
By Nate St. John
April 13, 2021
Only a few years ago, the term augmented intelligence (AI) was pretty much unheard of on capital projects. Today, however, it’s almost impossible not to hear about how it is changing the way we work. What seemed like a bold prediction at the time in the field of planning and scheduling has become the new norm. Here’s why.
CPM’s Traditional Limitations
For the past three decades or so, the science of project scheduling hadn’t fundamentally changed. Though the technological tools became faster with more bells and whistles, the underpinnings of how a project was scheduled still relied on the tried and true critical path method (CPM). But these types of models are only as good as the inputs we feed them. Most popular planning tools today use CPM as their underlying forecasting engine. As the planner, however, we are still left with the heavy task of knowing not only which activities to include in our plan, but also what should their durations, cost and even sequence be?
While CPM can be highly effective at calculating when a project is going to be completed, the calculation is unfortunately entirely dependent on the planner who is building the schedule. This is because the planner must be able to accurately forecast the durations that go into the CPM model, as well as model the sequence of work, typically known as “logic.”
The catch is that if you get these durations and sequences of work wrong, your schedule becomes basically worthless. This is because one of the hardest challenges in project management is accurately forecasting future outcomes (project completion dates, total costs) of very complicated and highly uncertain endeavors (projects). This process is what we call planning. CPM by itself does little more than convert durations and sequences of durations into a series of dates.
The Power of AI and Scheduling Certainty
With the advent of AI, however, scheduling tools can now capture prior project performance, as-built schedules and lessons learned. Then, they can apply historical trends and make suggestions to the planner during the plan-building process. Instead of starting with a blank sheet of paper every time we build a plan, AI can help us establish a defendable schedule based on sound, historical knowledge. That’s not just an incremental step forward – it’s a huge leap for the planning industry.
AI is transforming the way project plans are developed. For the first time, the software tools are proactively augmenting the planning process, guiding the planner with smart suggestions and ensuring that we end up with a more realistic and achievable plan. This is why AI is here to stay.
AI for Humans
AI boils down to a computer being able to consume information it’s been fed from humans, digest it, and then make intelligent suggestions. When these machines can digest huge amounts of intelligent, historical data, it’s obvious the power of AI is to become a pseudo-expert.
All of this digitized historical data comes from human expertise — our seasoned professionals. The best way to forecast the future is to look back and use valuable knowledge gained from past experiences. The ability now to quickly mine those vast sums of historical data and apply context to it frees up the professionals — real people — to focus on more important tasks that relate to construction project management.
By combining the power of AI computing and human input into the development of your plan, today’s solutions provide a better, faster and more reliable means of establishing an achievable baseline against which to execute your project. The new norm is here. Are you ready?