What Causes Delays in Construction Projects?

Author: Eugenija Steponkute
Published: 27/11/2023

In this article, we will be looking into the most common causes of delays in construction projects. We will also discuss possible solutions and why we believe digitisation of the industry is the way forward. 

Every client expects to have their project delivered on time, if not earlier. And, of course, complete to perfection. However, any project manager knows it is something that’s barely ever possible. Sometimes, things get derailed. You go over budget, you suddenly don’t have enough stuff, you make a small typo and your data gets skewed…The list of things that can go wrong is very long. But, ultimately, they all cause delays. The construction industry specifically is very unforgiving of those. 

Before you can eliminate the said delays, you need to understand what causes them. That’s what we are going to discuss in today’s article. In addition to that, we will also consult you on what measures should be put in place to prevent these situations moving forward instead of addressing the consequences. 

What are the Factors Affecting Construction Time?

Many things can delay a construction project. They range from weather conditions, supply chain issues, workplace injuries and many more. But they also involve things that are more in your control, such as project tracking, data collection, lack of communication and others. Namely, there is a handful of reasons for delays you can prevent. 

The preventative measures are usually rather simple and require little effort, therefore getting written off as ‘too good to be true’. However, sometimes things don’t need to be difficult to be effective. This is just one of them. 

Good Planning is Key to Success

Projects begin with a plan. This is not just a formality or ‘industry’s best practice’ but an absolute essential. A project plan is the foundation of everything, and if it is shaky, things built on top of it won’t be stable either. But what are the key differences between a plan and a good plan? Let’s talk about that. 

Understand What Resources You Will Need

Planning begins with understanding what your goals are. From there, you can start mapping out what resources will be needed to get you there at the quickest time and lowest cost. Naturally, you want the journey to be smooth too. When speaking of the construction specifically, there are many things to account for. From building materials to equipment to workers and safety measures. But there is even more to consider. 

To avoid delays in construction projects, the firms also need to understand some resources need to be allocated to back office procedures. Namely, software that enables the automation of tasks which don’t require direct human judgment. For example, transferring files from one platform to another. We advise setting aside a budget to build a designated digital toolbox. There is a high chance that once built it can also be used on future projects, with minimal tweaks. Namely, it’s likely a one-time investment that will last you very long. 

Be Ready to Be Flexible

As you may know, things never go according to the plan. Even when you’ve put your best effort towards preparation. Things going off the rails is easily the most common reason causing delays in construction projects. However, most of the time it isn’t caused by the unforeseen circumstances, per se. Rather by the lack of flexibility when it comes to quickly rerouting in accordance to the change. The plan and the forecast should be your pointers, and you should therefore expect to be thrown off the course.

It is part of good planning to be prepared to quickly take an alternative route when things don’t go as expected. For example, a shift scheduling software can help you quickly allocate workers to take over an unexpected leave. A holiday management platform will let you know everyone’s availability too. Using digital tools for collaboration quickly highlights problem areas and enables team members to jump in and sort the issues, potentially bringing the project back on track within the shortest time possible. All in all, things most likely won’t go the way you hoped. And it’s okay. It’s whether you can turn them around that matters. 

Prevent Things from Going South

Prevention is easier than damage control and fixing. Easier said than done, right?  Not exactly. When it comes to project management, preventative measures are usually very easy to incorporate. And we are going to prove it. 

Don’t Let Things Slip Through the Cracks

With how many moving bits go into project planning and execution, it is easy for incomplete processes, forgetfulness and conflicts to wiggle their way in. Naturally, all these factors cause time losses and can cause delays. Instead of tackling them one by one as they come, address the root cause and set preventative measures in place. Curiously, they normally stem from one thing that is also relatively easy to address: human error. And it’s sorted by simply taking the human out of the equation. 

By introducing digital solutions to construction projects, you can pass a good chunk of tasks to the computers. Unlike live employees, technology can process larger volumes and more complex tasks at a quicker time and without sacrificing accuracy. Even if you automate but a couple of steps in a process, it can really enhance its overall flow. Additionally, it will collect data as it runs. Which is a topic of its own and we are about to talk about it.

Keep Your Data Clean and Accessible

Incorrect or missing data can put a serious strain on any project. It is especially prevalent in the construction sector where its accuracy and quality are vital in terms of staying compliant. However, data cleaning and maintenance is an ongoing task. Given we live in an era when its flow is constant, it’s nearly impossible to stay on top of it at all times, which is the cause of inaccuracies and gaps.

The ray of hope is that it is impossible for humans. The technology, on the other hand, is very advanced in not just collecting but also filtering the data. Using the right digital solutions to run processes gathers the data for you and, within a couple of clicks, can present it to you in a digestible format which makes it very easy to analyse. It is also easily accessible on demand, making it easy to pull out for audits, post-project evaluation or simply trying to work out the timeframe when any significant changes occurred. 

Avoid Delays by Speeding the Process

Naturally, if the process is moving fast, there’s less risk of facing delays. But how do you get the process to run faster, especially without sacrificing the quality and exposing yourself to an increased possibility of errors? The solution is very simple.

Automate the Admin Tasks

Back office work is the part of the construction many don’t see, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Since most companies employ a mixture of hourly, temporary and contractor workers, it is bound to generate a lot of admin work. With a variety of other tasks such as legal compliance, finances, client liaison and others, the behind-the-scenes of every construction firm is often overworked on a day-to-day basis. 

This is the breeding ground for mistakes that later bleed into delays in construction projects. But like most of the problems discussed so far, it is preventable through digitisation. As we’ve already pointed out, not only does automation offer quicker turnaround times but also helps reduce human error. Automating admin tasks allows your staff to focus on things that require human judgment without having to rush through them.


Delays in construction projects are often inevitable, but this doesn’t mean they have to affect the delivery and the quality. Good planning and the ability to masterfully shift resources around when needed can help you easily navigate through inconveniences without derailing the project. With many moving things, however, this may sound nearly impossible. But don’t worry: there are many tools on the market to take over these matters. Not only do they make the process faster but also more accurate and less prone to error. 

Automating as many areas of the back office as possible can make a massive difference to how your on-site operations run. Not to mention, it can have a positive impact on your relationships with the clients, potentially securing more projects in the future. All in all, project delays aren’t the problem itself - it’s how you handle them. 

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