Pre-Construction Planning List (& Your Essential Guide to MORE Success)

Uncover the critical steps of pre-construction planning and ensure your construction project's success. Learn how powerful, easy-to-use planning tools can boost your efficiency and profits.

A line of hammers in a construction job site

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Would you set sail around the world without a compass? Of course not! You’d be setting yourself up for failure.

But that’s what it’s like to start a project without pre-construction planning. Failure (in the form of missed deadlines, low morale, and lost revenue) is pretty much guaranteed.

Like the compass to the navigator, this foundational phase sets your project's direction and prepares the groundwork for tackling challenges. But what does effective pre-construction planning look like, and how do you keep it from turning into a confusing sea of spreadsheets destined for missed deadlines? 

That’s what this essential guide is all about. 

We’ll answer your burning questions by going over the essential steps of construction pre-planning. We’ll also explain why and how planning technology can give your projects the best chance at success.

But first, a bit about the whys of pre-planning and the importance of doing it right…

As we said, pre-construction planning is your project’s compass. It sets the direction and ensures everyone’s efforts align to reach its intended destination—the Magical Land of Profitability.

But don’t confuse planning with setting expectations. While setting expectations is always a great idea, it’s never enough. Unlike a laundry list of expectations, pre-construction planning is about:

  1. Envisioning the journey ahead
  2. Pinpointing potential bottlenecks
  3. Preparing the right resources to navigate through those bottlenecks

Keeping with the sailing analogy, a slight deviation in a ship’s course can lead you miles off target. Small oversights during the pre-construction planning phase have the same compounding effect. 

Before you know it, the budget and timeline are way off course, the crew’s morale is down, and your bottom line is suffering—badly. 

So, don’t ask yourself, “Is planning part of the pre-construction process—always?” Instead, ask yourself if you’d like your projects to run smoothly from start to finish and generate a profit because pre-construction planning is the only way to achieve that outcome.

Pre-construction phase planning includes a series of three overarching steps that prepare the project for a smooth execution:

  1. Site Analysis and Feasibility Studies
  2. Stakeholder Engagement
  3. Scope Definition

Following is each of those key steps more clearly defined.

Site Analysis and Feasibility Studies

Your first critical step is to thoroughly assess the proposed construction site's physical and environmental conditions. This work helps you determine the site's suitability by addressing potential challenges like soil quality, topography, and environmental impact

Conducting these analyses helps you identify and address risks early on, which can significantly influence design and construction decisions.

Stakeholder Engagement 

Stakeholder engagement is all about establishing communication standards that create a collaborative environment where all parties come together. 

This phase element focuses on agreeing on the project scope and objectives among all stakeholders. That includes investors, community representatives, government agencies, and future facility users. 

Effective engagement is worth its weight in gold because it encourages shared understanding and commitment to the project’s goals. And that smooths the way for faster project approval and better ongoing support.

Scope Definition 

This is the “big picture” step—a critical effort that sets clear boundaries for the construction project's overall path to completion. 

Defining the scope is essential for preventing scope creep, which can lead to project delays and budget overruns. By clearly defining the project's scope, stakeholders can be confident knowing that all teams involved have a precise understanding of their roles and responsibilities. 

This clarity helps maintain focus and flow because each person and team is empowered to contribute toward shared goals.

These three steps form the foundation of a streamlined construction process designed to minimize risks and enhance efficiency (and allow everyone to leave on time at the end of the day).

Since each step includes smaller sub-steps, we’ll take a look at some of the most important of those sub-steps in a minute.

But first, one factor separates the leaders from the followers in the construction industry today. That factor is (you guessed it!) construction technology. So, to kick off the sub-steps discussion, we’ll look at what advantages to pre-construction planning technology is bringing to the table.

You’ve got to use technology; this is pro tip numero uno. In modern construction, leveraging high-quality scheduling, planning, and management software is essential because your competitors are doing it. At least, the most successful ones are.

The reason? Construction management technology is proven to:

  1. Improve real-time communication
  2. Enable fine-grained planning
  3. Save resources and increase profitability 

Some planning and scheduling platforms, like Outbuild, even incorporate lean construction methodology by default. Thus, no expensive, time-consuming seminars are needed to get your team on board.

It’s easy to see how integrating advanced tools early in the pre-construction phase gives you greater accuracy in execution, tighter timeline adherence, and better ROI.

Filtering activities from the Master Schedule to build out your Lookahead | Outbuild's Lookahead Module

Arco Murray’s struggle with data double-entry and disconnected planning processes is a case in point. 

A big contributor to their problem was that managers were forced to keep project schedules in Microsoft Project files and manage lookahead plans in spreadsheets. These spreadsheets were then passed around between supervisors and foremen. 

As fragmented systems do, this led to major inefficiencies and communication breakdowns. Recognizing the need for a more integrated solution, Arco Murray set out to find a good construction planning and scheduling software. 

With Outbuild, they were able to house all the project planning elements in a single, connected platform, greatly reducing data double-entry, enhancing overall project coordination, and revolutionizing their operations.

Arco Murray’s transformation underscores the critical role of tech in streamlining pre-construction planning, setting a solid foundation for successful project execution.

For every sub-step below, there’s a tech solution or enhancement designed to make your job easier and more efficient. The first thing on your pre-construction planning list, then, should be to find that technology and start using it.

Defining clear, measurable goals during pre-construction is essential to stakeholder engagement. It involves establishing benchmarks for:

  • Budget adherence
  • Timeline accuracy
  • Quality standards

These goals serve as a north star, keeping the project aligned with its intended outcomes and making sure every team member understands what success looks like.

Incorporating the principles of lean construction can seriously enhance goals and objectives planning. Pull planning is a perfect example. 

In traditional push planning, construction teams are expected to move forward with the pre-task plan or steps according to schedule, regardless of downstream readiness. With pull planning, workflow is determined by the readiness of the preceding steps. 

This method helps you set realistic timeline goals and stick to the project’s actual progress and stages, minimizing delays and securing smoother execution. However, pull planning can be tough to snapshot for reference in the long term. And that’s where technology comes in. 

For example, Atlanta-based KBD Group recently did away with its whiteboards and sticky notes and started using Outbuild to conduct pull-planning sessions digitally. Now, they keep a working record of planning that all stakeholders can access.

Speaking of stakeholder access…

What a committed plan looks like in Outbuild after a Pull Plan Session

Effective communication and collaboration among stakeholders—architects, engineers, financiers, local authorities, and future facility users—is vital, especially in the early phases. 

Stakeholders’ early involvement ensures that the project plan is comprehensive and includes all the relevant perspectives. This collaboration encourages a sense of ownership and commitment to the project’s success, which are both key to profitability.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) are interrelated, effective, and easy-to-implement construction management strategies that greatly enhance the collaborative process among stakeholders.

Incorporating IPD

This strategy involves forming a coalition of all primary stakeholders (designers, builders, and owners) into a single contractual unit from project onset. The group becomes a collaborative alliance of sorts whose members share risks and rewards and who are aligned toward common goals of efficiency and innovation.

The approach encourages an open forum and joint decision-making so that each stakeholder's expertise is utilized to the max, leading to mutually beneficial outcomes. 

In a nutshell, IPD promotes better communication flows, reduces conflict, and enhances problem-solving capabilities. This keeps the project on track and within budget.

Using Collaboration Software to Implement BIM

Any construction scheduling software worth investing in will include a solid collaboration platform. These platforms integrate building information modeling (BIM) systems, allowing real-time sharing of design data, changes, and updates accessible to all stakeholders, regardless of location. 

BIM enhances visualization and promotes informed decision-making by providing detailed insights into the project's design and construction processes.

Other Useful Collaboration Tools

In addition to specialized construction collaboration tools like Outbuild, communication platforms like Slack, which integrates with top construction management software Procore, also play crucial roles in maintaining smooth communication.

Even better, integrate Procore and Outbuild, and you get a specialized construction communication and collaboration powerhouse.

With a tech-driven approach, stakeholders are consistently on the same page, which dramatically reduces miscommunications and delays and supports the broader objectives of efficiency and clarity in construction project management.

The future of schedule management

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  • Integrates effortlessly with Procore.
  • Designed with simplicity in mind.
  • Leverage the power of lean construction.
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Outbuild construction scheduling and planning playbook

To effectively manage financial resources, you’ve got to develop a detailed budget early on. This step helps prevent financial overruns and keep the project viable from start to finish.

Again, technology plays a major role in this phase of modern construction. For example, the Procore platform consolidates designs, bids, budgets, and estimates in one solution, giving you more accurate planning and reducing margin erosion.

Like Procore, solid construction software creates a connected preconstruction environment where breaking down the walls between design, bid, and build is easy. When you can generate bid packages, compare bids, and convert these bids to subcontracts in a single workflow, you save incredible time and money. 

You also get a way smoother transition from estimating to construction without the hassle of switching between multiple apps, safeguarding the project’s financial health from the outset. 

The bottom line? A structured approach to pre-construction planning that incorporates advanced tech significantly enhances project success rates and profitability.

Creating a comprehensive timeline for pre-construction sets the tempo for the entire project. It’s the best way to allocate sufficient time and resources to each phase, helping to establish a smooth transition from one stage to the next. 

Advanced construction scheduling software also comes into play here by offering flexible timeline adjustments and cost tracking. For example, Outbuild enables superintendents to generate lookahead schedules within a single platform and allows trade partners to coordinate work accordingly. So everybody gets a clearer picture of the project's timeline and progress.

It allows you to link schedule changes directly from lookahead observations to the master schedule. Delays are immediately recognized and addressed, maintaining the weekly work plan's integrity.

Other timeline development and management features, such as integration with Procore's RFIs, creation of Gantt charts, baseline comparisons, customizable calendars, and integration with full-scale project management software like Procore, allow for aggressive management of potential roadblocks.

Outbuild's Roadblocks Log

Addressing regulatory requirements and securing permits during the pre-construction phase helps prevent delays and legal issues, supports compliance, and smooths project progression. 

Features like data encryption, access controls, and regular security audits are important for protecting project data and adhering to strict regulations. Construction technology is arguably more helpful in this area than in any other. There’s no better way to manage and secure sensitive data in compliance with local and international standards. 

For example, Procore’s platform has enterprise-grade security and robust data protection, capable of automatically meeting standards like SOC 1, SOC 2, and ISO 27001

It also supports compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California's Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other privacy laws. It makes high data integrity and security throughout projects easy. 

By simplifying the compliance process and improving project execution, construction tech keeps projects on track and boosts revenue potential.

As you know, construction companies encounter a range of extreme risks, from financial constraints to safety hazards. So, this sub-step is about identifying the potential for those risks and setting up contingency plans before problems arise. 

As they say, hindsight is always 20/20. Because that’s true, the best approach to risk management is a methodological one involving the collection and analysis of data, such as cash flow statements and job site safety metrics. Good construction software centralizes tools and data, making this kind of real-time communication and documentation possible.

Again, take Procore, for example. It enables a structured 5-step risk management process, including risk identification, impact assessment, response preparation, and loss recovery. It also provides robust reports on the process, bringing us to our next sub-step topic. 

Managers must be able to define and monitor success metrics to assess the effectiveness of the pre-construction planning process. These metrics, especially key performance indicators (KPIs), are critical for:

  1. Determining whether the planning phase meets its objectives
  2. Pinpointing areas for improvement

KPIs provide a focused set of metrics that clearly depict project performance against goals. Common KPIs in construction include gross profit margin, net profit margin, cash flow, cost variance, and labor downtime percentage. 

These indicators offer insights into financial health, project efficiency, and operational success. For instance, monitoring cost variance helps managers understand how actual spending compares with budgeted amounts, which is key for maintaining financial control and preventing cost overruns.

As you can imagine, technology significantly improves KPI tracking and analysis. Modern construction management software automates data collection and reporting to enable real-time metric monitoring. These systems help managers quickly identify trends, spot discrepancies, and make informed decisions to steer projects back on course. 

For example, Outbuild compares planned versus actual hours worked and can immediately highlight labor inefficiencies. Using such technologies can streamline operations and enhance your team’s ability to meet project timelines and budgets.

The detail and precision in your pre-construction planning play a pivotal role in the success of your construction projects. Incorporating advanced planning tools during this phase can revolutionize your planning process and revenue.

When you choose your tools for this crucial stage, opt for solutions specifically designed for the construction industry that integrate effortlessly into your existing processes. It will go a long way toward making sure your team consistently exceeds expectations and goes home happy—and on time.

By selecting the best tools and adhering to a structured pre-construction planning approach, you can position your construction project for greater success right from the start.

Lee Evans
Syble Harrison
Senior Copywriter
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