As project managers (PMs) of large projects know only too well, construction planning is everything. Construction projects have huge volumes of tasks, with lots of dependencies, and often not enough resources to delegate to. It is crucial that these tasks are completed according to a timeline which will maximize quality, speed and cost efficiency.
This is where the 5 stages of construction planning come in. Set out by the Project Management Institute (PMI), these 5 stages form a PM’s roadmap to a successful construction project - from conception to final sign-off. Read on to learn what is included in the 5 stages of construction planning and the valuable framework they provide for projects.
What is construction planning?
Construction project planning is the process of turning a project idea into a detailed program. It involves defining the project and its scope, identifying the resources, time and budget required to deliver it and, ultimately, creating a realistic plan for executing the build. A construction plan should have a clear and achievable timeline, assign each part of the project to teams or individuals and be the most efficient and cost effective way possible to deliver the project.
1. Project initiation
Stage 1 is best described as the very start of a construction project, and an outline of its purpose. A project initiation should be a truly collaborative exercise, taking input from all stakeholders individually when it comes to defining the project, seeking a mandate for it and determining the resources and budget required to deliver it successfully.
A project initiation is a broad outline of a prospective project, not a technical plan, and usually requires two major documents:
- Business case. This states the case for the project, justifying why it’s needed and the potential benefits of the construction.
- Feasibility study. This sets out the requirements needed to deliver the project and evaluates whether it is feasible with the resources available.
Once the construction has been approved in principle, a Project Initiation Document (PID) should be written, bringing together the business case and feasibility study and answering key questions around organization and potential obstacles.
2. Project planning
The planning stage is when you’ll really start to flesh out a path for the project. It involves deciding the true scope of the project, firming up goals and giving a common direction to everyone on the project team. If formulated correctly, this plan will be clear and detailed enough to guide every team member through the remaining three phases of construction.
Within the overall plan should include a carefully mapped-out timeline. At each stage of the timeline, the following should be set out:
- Every activity that needs to be scheduled
- Team roles and responsibilities (a work breakdown schedule helps break down the project scope into manageable portions for each part of the team)
- Pre-defined milestones with target dates
- Approval and communication processes
- Risk management
- Performance measures
As is standard in many industries, all goals set at the planning stage of a construction project should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) and CLEAR (Collaborative, Limited, Emotional, Appreciable and Refinable). These aren’t just buzzwords, they will help keep your project on track by preventing scope creep and unrealistic/ ill-defined targets.
3. Project execution
Now the project truly begins in earnest. If the planning stage has been completed well, a PM will be able to implement their plan methodically and effectively. And while the core of the execution phase concerns putting this plan into action, there are a number of actions needed to keep it running smoothly.
A ‘kick-off’ meeting is the essential first step, during which a PM will assign the responsibilities set out in the planning phase to the relevant team members and inform them of the project deliverables - the crucial activities for every stage of the project.
Getting the project team pulling in the same direction is a major part of the PM’s job at the execution stage, but they are also responsible for managing every aspect of construction. They must:
- Closely manage budgets and resources
- Call regular status meetings
- Realign project plans if the need arises
- Communicate progress to stakeholders
- Oversee quality control
- Implement tracking measures
In the inevitable event that tasks need to be re-ordered, or changed, it is essential that project plans are updated accordingly. The project plan should be the single source of truth and provide a live trajectory or status of the project.
4. Project monitoring and control
Running parallel to the execution of the deliverables, a construction project must be constantly monitored for progress. Every action undertaken must be compared with the original plan to ensure the project isn’t slipping away from its carefully defined goals and scope.
To help monitor progress, work should be measured against a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These will have been established either in the planning stage or at the very beginning of the project execution stage. It is up to a PM what KPIs the team is being measured against, but it is vital they align with the management plan, are easily measurable and pertain to the most important parts of the project.
KPIs are crucial to a PM’s ability to steer the project in the right direction and to report back to stakeholders. In addition, they should quickly flag up areas of concern so corrective action can be taken or adjustments be made to the project plan.
5. Project closing
Once the project has been completed, a PM will still tie up all loose ends, evaluate the success of the project and ensure it has proper closure. Most importantly, a final check will need to be carried out to ensure all project deliverables have been completed. Other important tasks include:
- Handing over the project to the client - including all relevant documentation
- Notifying all stakeholders of the project’s completion
- Evaluating the successes and failures of the project
- Releasing workers and resources
- Cancelling all contracts with suppliers
- Compiling final reports
It may seem like an afterthought, but making sure a project is closed correctly is vital for the client, as well as for gathering knowledge and lessons for future projects. An official post-project review can be a useful document for formalizing these learnings.
While all construction projects should progress through these 5 broad stages, clearly a lot more is required to end up with a successful build. This is most pressing at the planning stage - where contractors need to be 100% confident they are setting themselves on the right path for the most efficient schedule and project possible.
This is where ALICE comes in. ALICE is a construction simulation and optimization platform that generates the best and most efficient schedules for large and complex projects based on their specific requirements. It is able to do this in minutes, thanks to the computational power of AI, meaning your biggest planning decisions can now be fully data-driven. To find out how ALICE can help you build smarter, cheaper and efficiently, book a demo today.