Table of content
- Construction industry current practices
- Comparing scheduling processes between Outbuild and MS Project
- Comparing Lookahead planning processes between Outbuild and Excel
- We made it collaborative, no seats restriction
- Roadblocks management
- Schedule updates comparison
- World class training and support
- Outbuild benefits and opportunities
Let's set the stage in the construction industry.
If you look at general contractors in the mid market size.
65 to 70% of general contractors are using Microsoft Project for scheduling and Excel for Lookahead planning.
So when we talk about scheduling, what we mean is you are using a scheduling software for biddings, proposals and contracts. It then becomes a contractual document with the owner that is also leveraged to make updates for the client and contracts for the subcontractor.
So this is where the project managers are involved as far as managing the schedule. And we know there are some subtleties. Sometimes the superintendent or the pre-construction manager will be, but we’re using the main feedback that we get from the people that we talk to.
Then on the planning side.
We're talking about everything that is field coordination, led by a superintendent on the job site.
We're looking at the Lookahead planning, the three or six weeks Lookahead plan that we take from the schedule where we would also track progress, subsequently this is all the collaboration that happens with subcontractors.
As you can see, there is not much relationship between what is going on in the office (with the master schedule) and the field at the Lookahead level. At the end of the day MS Project and Excel don't talk to each other.
So let's skip to the good part and start comparing the scheduling processes.
For that we prepared a video where we built a 30 lines item schedule in MS Project (left side) and Outbuild (right side) to see the main differences.
As you can see in the beginning of the video adding activities, it remains very similar. In Outbuild you could add activities by clicking the plus button and in Microsoft you press enter to add activities.
Microsoft Project has a lot of features and a lot of things that you could do that sometimes make it a little cumbersome for people to use.
For example, when we talk to superintendents, what they tell us is that they prefer to use Excel for any update or leverage because they need to learn by themselves how to use Microsoft Project.
With Outbuild, when it comes to sequencing, taking advantage of drag and drop and bulk selection features allows to create those sequences of activities in a couple seconds.
With MS Project having to manually plug in predecessors and successors felt very cumbersome.
And this is what we also hear from most of the clients and prospects we talked to, the reason why switching from MS Project to Outbuild is that ease of use.
So as you could see in the recent video above, Outbuild took 7:49 min to build a 30 lines schedule in comparison with Microsoft Project that took 11:17 min.
Outbuild has all the functionalities you need to manage a construction schedule.
Whether you're looking at processors and successors, float, baseline, being able to display critical paths, WBS structure of course, the import/exports templates, and custom calendars. So all those features are here for you to have a transition coming for Microsoft Project.
We make it even easier where you can import a MS Project file and get going right away.
Or when your company transfers, if you want to keep that data of Microsoft Project files, you can import them into Outbuild.
Outbuild allows you to filter or tag by anything you like. You could also have, if you are a more advanced scheduler, looking at constraint types to be able to define different constraint types.
So, as in the video shown above. You could build schedules 30% faster and this was only 30 line items, imagine if you get to 300 or 1000 lines item schedule.
How much time would you actually save?
Now let's make the comparison at the Lookahead planning.
So the best or most common practice when you work on Microsoft Project is to use an Excel spreadsheet. Where we have to format all the numbers and days in the spreadsheet and make sure that we have everything ready to go. On the other side with Outbuild because it has the master schedule connected to the Lookahead it was very simple. We just filtered out activities directly from the schedule.
Working with MS Project and having to do the Lookahead plan in Excel you’ll need to have both programs open on different screens to go through the activities. Most people we talk to, tell us that superintendents don't even do it, they build out a Lookahead not connected to the schedule basically.
In Outbuild we don't even give you that option. You have to build within the confine of what the contract says. So that makes it a lot simpler for a superintendent to come in, call the code and sequence the work as they need. And you see like in 4:04 minutes, we did a six week Lookahead. That was incredibly simple because all we had to do was bring in activities from the scheduling to our Lookahead.
That's instant in Outbuild. Add all the tasks that we need as we select a responsible, a company, it would color code automatically the company associated. And then we could just drag and drop the tasks in the Gantt chart.
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On the other side with the Excel spreadsheet we realized that it needs more than three weeks so we needed to redo the formatting. We know some superintendent don't have quite the time or the patience to be able to do this. Which leads to them not wanting to actually do it.
Finally after we've finished sequencing in Excel, it took us 9:39 minutes. More than twice the time to do that in Outbuild.
So think about what would make your superintendents want a tool designed for them. And also the easier it is, the more likely they are to spend time building out a proper Lookahead, building on the right sequence. And not having to format an Excel spreadsheet, which we are sure they are not looking forward to during the day.
So just to recap, we took nine steps from MS Project to Excel and turned it into four steps and let you build 60% faster. And that's awesome because once again we're all looking to value time and help you out with a build focused solution.
Let’s talk about collaboration.
It is great to be able to create a Lookahead. But it only matters if you could share this with subcontractors in an effective way.
With Microsoft Project and Excel, it is a single user access so you only have access to the fact.
There's no live access to the data, unless you're using the Drive Excel Sheets we've been using in the last Lookahead Planning video, but then people may have the ability to touch things you don't want. No ability to truly collaborate and no mobile access. You can't make any updates in the field.
What we also found is that the only way superintendents can share the information is by printing to PDF, emailing subcontractors, or printing a piece of paper. Which means that paper always shows outdated information. Every time you make a change to the Lookahead, they have to go back and print and send it to everybody, which could take a couple of hours or a couple of days.
With Outbuild, we made it collaborative.
And what it means is its unlimited users. When you sign up your company on Outbuild, you get unlimited users. Don't worry. It doesn't mean that you relinquish control.
It's actually quite the opposite, because at the Lookahead level, what companies can now do is give access to subcontractors, design teams or inspectors to see their plan and be able to filter by company name, being able to see all the data they need.
So there's many permission levels that enable you to do so. All the data is live.
Anytime you log in, as long as your superintendent is making sure the updates are being done on a day to day basis, you don't have to ask for a copy of a PDF. And the best part is the iPad app (we will dive into, down in the article), you can now make those updates in the field. No longer go back to your computer and sit down on Excel.
How does it translate to benefits?
What we see based on our user feedback, having instant access to the schedule and Lookahead increase participation.
What that means is that subcontractors are now more willing to take part, reflect on issues and provide feedback because they have access. They don't have to ask for permission, which will allow you to identify potential delays quicker and mitigate the risk of delays.
The people that are building in the field of subcontractors are the ones that are closest to the work. And they are the ones telling you; I might see a problem here or there.
Now, moving on to roadblocks or constraints management.
What we call roadblocks have been called constraints. You can see on the picture below that we took from LCI.
These are the issues that come up when you're having a conversation in the field. You know, you have a foreman's meeting, you need this RFI answered, you need to make sure the crane is ready for your guys. So most of the time, these roadblocks are tracked in an Excel spreadsheet or a whiteboard.
The roadblocks are so important to track because if it's not resolved on time, it will push your schedule. So what we did in Outbuild is allow you to create roadblocks directly to the task that is being affected.
As you can see in the following video.
We have created a roadblock that is a submittal and we assign it to a specific task. And it's a reminder, I need that roadblock to be answered by "X" time and who is in charge of it.
Instead of having it on a computer or a whiteboard you would keep all that information connected live in your schedule into Outbuild.
Subcontractors, project engineers, project managers, superintendents, anyone can create roadblocks. But the goal is to make it visual. In Outbuild we have those little cones that pop up in your Lookahead, so you know exactly what's being impacted and it creates a Roadblocks Log.
You want to remove any potential delays or roadblocks before they're actually impacting your project.
So as a quick summary again
MS Project, Excel or work over a whiteboard are great, but it's very siloed. All this information living on a whiteboard, you have no reminders, no access to it.
Outbuild is all living in one place. You could connect those roadblocks directly to the task. You get an email and a reminder, making sure you don't forget about it.
And we also provide you with construction analytics on how good you are at performing all those roadblocks. We centralize all the issues into one place with your scheduling and your planning.
The goal is to mitigate the risk of delays.
Now in the schedule updates side of things. The following video shows what most superintendents have to do to update progress in Excel.
As you could see, the progress made on Excel did not reflect in Microsoft Project. And it means by the time you sit down with the superintendent and project manager to make the update, it's a week. And what happened when the inspection pushed out and we needed more time? As you watched in the video you would probably drag that task a little longer, calling a couple extra boxes and be able to change.
So we needed a couple more days for that inspection, but that didn't do anything to my schedule. Because Excel and MS Project don't talk to each other. It was just informative, we were pushing out.
And that is if the superintendent in their Lookahead is tracking the milestones from the schedule, most would not.
Then, what does this mean?
If you see there's a potential delay and it's in Excel, it's siloed. You will have to wait till you meet the project manager, and update in Microsoft Project, make that manual change, see if it's okay or not, and then save it. So it's quite a lot of steps for you to be aware that there is an impact to your schedule.
Now, what can you do in Outbuild?
A) Outbuild iPad App updates
Use the iPad app, so instead of having to wait and sit down in Excel to update progress. The superintendents while walking the field, they're able to open the iPad app and look at the sequence of work that they have created. And now they could just simply click and start updating progress of the tasks that have been completed.
So as the video below shows, we have completed three tasks. And you can see that Excavate activity now is 80% complete. So you have that instant feedback.
B) Outbuild desktop platform updates
You can open Outbuild in your browser and make the update from there.
As you will see in the following video by navigating to the Activity Card and because we already updated those tasks in the "Option A" video, Excavate activity is already 80% complete.
Layout, Topsoil, and Excavate tasks are 100% complete.
So we know where the progress comes from because of the schedule, we can see what is in the Lookahead.
Now, when we navigate to the Lookahead module, we could of course, make those changes there too and add more detail.
We have those three tasks that we just updated. If we need to make changes and so on, the superintendent could also make it there at the Lookahead level. So you'll see, we changed the progress of one task from 100% to 0%. It updates my schedule automatically.
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Another thing we wanted to show is the ability to identify delays. So pay attention to the “Inspection” task in the video. What if that gets delayed?
In Outbuild, you get an instant reminder, but be careful. You are going to schedule something outside of the range of your contract. So the superintendent will immediately send that request to the project manager, saying; “we missed inspection”.
We need an extra day that then goes to the project manager to review and see if it's okay, and how is this impacting the schedule.
So this is what we call the Modification Request. You're sending a request to modify the contract, but only the admin could make that validation.
As you will see in the video my schedule that was originally on, on baseline right now, I don't have any delays.
But when we click “Preview”, now we have a day of delay and it pushes my entire schedule because Excavate is on my Critical Path. Due to the fact that we're starting the job and It's only one day we have decided to approve it.
When we go back to the Lookahead module, our activity has extended 1 day and everything has shifted according to the sequencing that we had. We went to “Inspection” task and now the end of it has been extended to give us a little bit more time.
To summarize schedule updates on MS Project and Excel.
You have to update Excel, you have to update Microsoft Project. There's no connection between the two. As soon as you make a change, you need to create a PDF, send it to everybody.
With Outbuild you turn eight steps in two. The idea is to update the progress in the field directly with your iPad app, or if you don't have an iPad app, you could do it on your computer. If ever there's a delay, you get notified right away.
What are the benefits of this?
Again, you identify potential delays instantly. You don't have to wait a week or have that conversation to see how Excel has impacted your schedule. The goal is to minimize the risk of delays, which is the number one reason that's costing people money on job sites because we can't stick to the plan.
The next key part is training and support.
This is probably one of the things that we received the most amazing feedback from our current clients. Is the ability to have support.
With MS Project and Excel, as you know, you'll buy the software, the license you have on your computer. And then if you have questions you have to figure it out on your own because they won't provide any training or live support. Which means that training is an added cost.
In Outbuild any clients that sign up, will get full onboarding and training.
We will help you with the transition. We will help you make sure that you have something that is custom to your needs, to make sure every project manager, superintendent gets on board. And it's super simple. Within an hour or two, anyone will be able to use the entire suite and know how to use the product.
The best part is the unlimited live support. There's a little bubble at the bottom right off the platform, you click there and you can talk to our support team and have somebody get to you within a minute.
With Outbuild, if someone has any issue, can be you, the owner, your subcontractors, anybody who has access to, they can hit the chat support button and we'll help with anything that is needed to make sure they get those updates as planned and don't get any more delays.
The goal is to make you save time and money.
Cost of Delays
Why does Outbuild exist?
On average in the industry 90% of construction projects experience delays. And if you've been on a job site, you'll probably agree with this.
And on average, it's about 20% of the added duration to the original project plan. So if you're doing a 1 year project, most probably, you may have 2 months of delay added to this, which is massive.
Now let's take the example of a general contractor that does about $50 million construction volume a year and it has 10 projects. The average job will be $5 million through the course of a year.
What Outbuild does best is helping projects prevent delays. Because in the end, this is what scheduling and planning is, you want to build as planned.
If we take the lowest possible scenario of helping you with that transition. Let's say we help you to save 1 day of delay on each of those 10 projects.
Adding collaboration, adding participation, adding live information, etc. all that you get throughout Outbuild.
1 day of delay saved on a $5 million job is $13,600.
Then, over 10 jobs, that would be $136,000 saved per year.
And again, it's only 1 day. That's the least.
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Now let's talk about time savings.
We have just quantified in the previous paragraphs how much money you can save with the mere fact of being able to avoid 1 day of delay.
We also can help your team save time.
We understand that they're still getting paid for what they do and it's not quite money back in your pocket. But, wouldn't you rather have your superintendent in front of a computer doing Excel updates, which otherwise takes an hour and is a pain in the ass, to have him walk around the field, looking at safety, looking at quality and making updates from there?
Or even take a 15 minute break because it has been on the job site for 14 hours.
So we watched the comparison videos above.
Building schedules are 30% faster.
Make Lookahead 60% faster.
Planning session built up quicker too.
Because you put Outbuild on the screen and everyone can have access. That's a lot easier than putting an Excel spreadsheet. And then add that we've eliminated training, sharing of information and schedule updates, because it's all done as you go.
We found that with our current users you can save about 150 hours per project per year.
So if we save you 1 hour of not having to do a schedule update with your super and your PM, that's already two hours a week. Very simple math.
Then for that company just mentioned, we talked about 10 projects. That is 1,500 hours a year.
So if we pay $50 per hour XYZ employee and we multiplied per 1,500 (hours saved per year) that's an extra $75,000 a year spent that you could be using to do something more useful.
Let's summarize it.
Using the example company from before. The opportunity in time and delays saving could be over $200.000 per year. For a $50 million contract.
Now, how much are you currently spending on MS Project? How much are you currently spending on training? That you can consider as a direct saving as well.
At the end the return on investment could be over 10X.
We truly hope you have enjoyed this article. We have tried to make this comparison between Microsoft Project, Excel and Outbuild as straightforward as possible.
Please if you have any doubt don't hesitate to contact us, you can try our construction scheduling and planning software for free for 30 days, no card attached.
And if you would like to know more about Outbuild functionalities, customer stories and more visit our Youtube Channel.
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