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The Top 6 Reasons for Construction Delays . . . and How to Avoid Them

by Marilee Bodden

Whether it’s a new school or a new restaurant, no owner wants to consider the possibility that the opening of their new building will be delayed. Unfortunately, the statistics are clear: fewer than 25% of capital projects are completed by their original deadline.

Those delays don’t happen in a vacuum, either. They’re linked to cost overruns, PR problems, and lost opportunities. Failing to complete any construction project on time creates a ripple effect that can dramatically impact an organization’s bottom line.

While some construction project delays are unpredictable, most fall into recognizable patterns. You can’t control everything, but understanding when, where, and why delays tend to occur is the first essential step in mitigating their effect.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the top six most common reasons for construction project delays:

1. Improper Budgeting

Based on a study that analyzed all construction projects completed over a span of 70 years in 20 different countries, a whopping nine out of 10 projects experienced cost overruns.

That can be more than just a minor inconvenience. Failing to accurately estimate costs can result in any project screeching to a halt. When the money stops, so does everything else.

Project schedules are joined at the hip to project budgets, ensuring that there are sufficient funds to cover labor and material costs at each phase of the build. But if you’ve misjudged cost or cash flow, it’s likely that your job site will sit idle . . . ultimately costing you even more money in the long run.

2. Inadequate Planning & Scheduling

Inadequate planning and scheduling can lead to missed deadlines and increased costs, especially if you need to subsequently pay for additional labor to make up for missed work. Failing to properly schedule can also result in overbooked crews or unexpected labor shortages.

Efficient scheduling requires excellent visibility into the actions of your project team. Being able to set and track critical milestones or analyze daily field reports can give you insights into whether your schedule is in danger of slipping . . . and, if it is, why. Proactively analyzing project data is essential for ensuring that small delays don’t balloon into big problems.

3. Poor Communication

According to a study conducted by the Project Management Institute, poor communication is the root cause for over one-third of project failures. Without reliable communication tools and repeatable processes, miscommunication is a certainty on any project — especially on a construction project that involves potentially hundreds of stakeholders.

That miscommunication can result in decisions being made from stale information, important documentation not being readily available, and project team members working at cross purposes. Correcting the results of those missteps can push any construction project past its margin for scheduling error.

4. Lack of Materials

Failing to order materials on time, cost fluctuations, shipping delays, supply chain disruptions – all of these can seriously impact a project in terms of delays and cost overruns. And the COVID pandemic has only made the situation worse.

As an owner, you may not have control over the supply chain. But you do need drill-down visibility into your budget to be able to track your balance-to-finish and verify that what you should have spent by this point in the project actually has been spent. If not, it’s time to ask questions sooner rather than later.

5. Data Blind Spots

Too many owners rely on contractors and other third-parties to keep them informed about the health of their project. All too often, what they get is at best an incomplete picture of what’s really happening. At worst, they’re being fed bad data by contractors who prefer not to have to answer tough questions about why schedules have slipped or costs have increased.

Real data-informed decision making is impossible if you’re dealing with trickle-down information. You need quick, full access to every piece of project information. And if you’re not convinced of the importance of owning your own project data instead of outsourcing it to others, consider this alarming stat: bad data caused up to $1.8 trillion in losses in 2020 alone.

6. Inclement Weather

There’s not much anyone can do about the weather except complain about it, unfortunately. But if the other processes we’ve discussed are sound — budgeting, scheduling, communication, data and documentation — then your chances of mitigating weather delays are significantly improved.

Being able to create a realistic contingencies based on prior or similar projects can give you the flexibility you need to get your current one back on track as quickly as possible. Without that ability, you might be dead in the water.

Avoiding Construction Project Delays

Successfully mitigating construction delays doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the result of the right processes paired with the right tools. 

The right construction project management software can be the most important tool in that formula. According to one recent survey, 61% of construction firms said that leveraging project management technology greatly reduced project error. And the World Economic Forum has identified some truly astonishing savings from full-scale digitization of construction documentation.

When considering a construction management platform for adoption, make sure that it was developed to safeguard your interests as the project owner, not simply add conveniences for your contractor. If you ultimately aren’t the one controlling the information, you can’t make decisions based on accurate, real-time data . . . and that means that your odds of falling behind schedule increase every week.

To see how Owner Insite’s construction project management software can help you ensure that your projects finish on-time and on-budget, contact us to schedule a short demo. The 20 minutes you spend now might save you months of delays later.

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