Enforcing Fixed Schedule in Your Contract
Updated: Aug 1, 2022
Writing a good contract is the first step to securing a good project. So many challenges can be averted by spending the time to put together a solid statement of work and the effort put into those contracts is often paid back multiple times through the life of the project. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about how to ensure that you have a solid contract for keeping a fixed schedule to go alongside your fixed price contract.
Document a Baseline Schedule in Your Contract
This is a good habit to get into no matter what the parameters of your engagement. Having a baseline schedule defined in your contract helps manage expectations for both customer and vendor. It should describe a reasonable start date and detail out the activities needed (and by whom) to carry your project over the finish line. It also serves as your contractual baseline for any change orders that will affect schedule. This immensely helps the project manager(s) with any discussions pertaining to the original schedule and slippage that may occur.
Ensure Documented Resource Requirements for Client
Another component to your contract that is a must for ensuring that you can have a strong fixed-schedule approach is to document the expected resource commitments from your client. This should go hand-in-hand with your baseline schedule to indicate that said schedule is achievable IF the client provides the resources that you list out in your contract (mostly staffing levels but other resources can be applicable here as well). This should be based on best practices and be practical in nature. I.e. you cannot say you’ll get the project done in half the normal time if the customer provides twice as many people as you would normally expect.
Add ‘What If’ for Schedule Delays
The most important piece of ensuring that your contract will withstand the test of a delayed schedule is having language in the contract that spells out what is to happen when there is a delay. You need to have your baseline schedule and assumptions (i.e. resource commitments) firmly documented but then when those conditions are met and the schedule is delayed, your contract needs to spell out who is responsible for what, most notably around the cost of a schedule extension. For fixed price agreements this is absolutely crucial. If the scope has not changed but yet the schedule requires an extension it’s important to make sure your contract has language to the effect that perhaps the offending party is the one to shoulder the costs of the extension.
Contracting is a difficult job and if not done well, can easily set your project up for failure. Take the time to make sure your contract is strong and that your customer clearly understands the impacts of having a fixed price/fixed schedule agreement – your project manager will thank you!