The CIOB planning protocol 2021 – could it be used with NEC contracts?

The CIOB has published a Planning Protocol 2021 which aims to be a guide to assist good project planning.

It contains two tools to assist with project planning. The purpose of these is to provide a basis to “stress test” the programme.

The first of the tools is the “Stress Tests. These provide a basis for improving programming. The stress test consists of a number of discrete tests that can be performed on the programme and a scoring system to provide a pass or fail.

In addition the nature of the tests impose a certain structure and good practice on the creation of the programme itself.

The second tool is the “Programme Narrative” and a template called the “suggested items to include in the Programme Narrative.”The programme narrative is to be read alongside the programme and explains the programme’s structure and the assumptions that have been used to develop it. The suggested items are a number of  requirements that should typically be included in contract programmes. These include a mixture of contractual dates, dates by which certain events need to happen or things are to be provided but also requirements as to how the programme is presented and its content.

Through these tools the protocol provides a suggested basis for programming content and evaluation but does not go so far as setting out any contractual status of the programme or its purpose or the consequences in contractual terms of it failing the stress test.

For those using NEC contracts which do give contractual status to the programme it might also be of interest. Some or all of the content of the protocol could be adopted by employers as having contractual force if they chose to or it could simply form a basis for approaching the evaluation of programmes.

To those familiar with NEC ECC contracts the  Planning Protocol requirements will look pretty similar to the contract requirements for the programme under clause 31.2. The suggested items to include as defined in the Programme Narrative  probably do not add significantly to the NEC clause 31.2 requirements and so a Programme Narrative document is not something which an employer would need to include in an NEC contract. That said if you wish to borrow from it then that could be done by including the relevant aspect of it in the Scope. Indeed the ECC contract invites such an approach.

Where the CIOB planning protocol could be useful and adds to the programming requirements, as compared with NEC contracts, is possibly as a method for the approval or rejection of the  programme.  A programme in an NEC contract should be rejected by the Project Manager if it does not meet certain contractual requirements. One of these is that it contains the information which the contract requires as set out in clause 31.2 or the Scope (NEC4). That is a fairly straightforward test. But there are other tests.The NEC ECC permits the Project Manager to reject a programme if;


·       the Contractor’s plans which it shows are not practicable or

·       it does not represent the Contractor’s plans realistically”.

Although these tests are intended as objective tests there is an element of ambiguity in the application. Where the Planning Protocol may be of assistance is in the stress tests and for Project Managers to use these as an objective basis of programme evaluation. A “Planning Stress Test” could be an additional basis for review which could be achieved by including drafting to that effect.

It remains to be seen how programmer’s respond to the suggested stress tests but given the provenance of the document it should be a useful addition to the materials available to effectively manage projects and assess programmes.

The protocol can be downloaded at the CIOB website free of charge.

CIOB Planning Protocol 2021 (CIOB PP21)

Tim Willis MA FCIArb APA