Construction project management is vital to ensure the smooth running of a building project.
Embarking on a construction project requires careful planning and a clear vision of what you want to achieve. One doesn’t just start building on a whim. Whether it’s building a small family home or a high-rise office building, all construction projects imply a degree of complexity one shouldn’t ignore and they all come with their unique challenges.
There are many variables that come into play and knowing how to put all the pieces of the puzzle together is absolutely essential for the success of the project. In many cases, lack of experience and poor decisions can lead to disastrous outcomes. Things can go wrong at any stage of the process and even seasoned builders can make costly mistakes if they lose sight of their main objectives. That’s why construction project management is vital for ensuring the smooth running of a building venture.
We’re going to go through the do’s and don’ts of construction project management to highlight the most important aspects that independent builders and construction companies have to take into consideration when starting a building project.
A project manager to run the show
As we’ve mentioned in the beginning, no matter how big or small the construction project, there are countless elements and activities involved in it. This obviously calls for a skilled professional capable of holding the reins and running the show from beginning to end. That’s where the project manager (PM) steps in. Extensive knowledge and experience in the field, strong communication skills, a problem solving mindset and the ability to work well under pressure are just some of the qualities a good PM must have.
A construction project manager’s job is to bring together all resources, coordinate all activities, ensure the good development of the construction work and deliver the project on-time and on-budget. It’s like conducting an orchestra. If someone or something is out of tune, ii can ruin the entire show. As can be inferred, a PM’s life is not exactly easy since he must wear so many hats. To offer a more accurate idea on the extent of their responsibilities, The Construction Management Association of America identified 120 tasks a PM usually has to take on, classed into seven categories: project planning, cost management, time management, quality management, contract administration, safety management and team management.
When starting a construction project, don’t assume that the pieces will simply fall into place by themselves and hiring a PM is not necessary. There’s only one outcome when someone chooses to begin the construction process without the supervision of a PM and relies on several uncoordinated professionals and teams of subcontractors to get the job done: complete chaos. Therefore having a good PM is crucial. However, keep in mind that before hiring a PM, you must make sure he checks all the boxes listed above.
Balancing scope, budget and time
The success and quality of a construction project is determined by three main factors: objective, budget and time and how well these factors are kept in balance. Before putting a shovel in the ground, one must have a clear understanding of the scope, the budget allocated for the project and the time limitations. Otherwise the whole process can go haywire. It’s easy for things to get out of hand, lose track of time and spend more than you might expect when you don’t have a solid plan and clearly defined goals. Errors can creep in at any point, with one mistake leading to another in a domino effect.
To steer clear of such unpleasant scenarios, construction companies usually employ construction project management accounting software, so they can stay on track, monitor the progress and avoid going over budget. Apart from that, the golden rule in the construction industry is to follow the Waterfall methodology, dividing the process into six consecutive stages:
- Design – the initial stage, when the owner has to look at different designs presented by architects and choose the best one for the construction. It’s also the right moment to assign a PM that can analyze the project and work out all the requirements for the future building.
- Pre-construction phase – once the design has been chosen, it’s time for the bidding process to begin. Several contractors will enter the competition, and usually the winners are the ones that can prove they have the resources and expertise to complete the project as required, while also offering reasonable prices.
- Procurement – the next step is to purchase all the resources, materials and equipment needed for the construction project.
- Execution – this is when the construction work actually begins, but not before the PM gathers all subcontractors for a kickoff meeting to discuss their roles and responsibilities and make sure they are all on the same page.
- Commissioning – after the construction process ends, the PM makes sure all requirements were fulfilled and hands the building over to the owner.
- Project closeout – the final step is to write a project report and take care of all the necessary paperwork.
The PM also plays the role of the mediator during a construction project. The challenge arises from the fact that all building ventures, especially large-scale ones, bring together professionals from different backgrounds, domains and lines of activity that very often find it hard to communicate and cooperate efficiently. PMs also have to deal with different stakeholders each one having their own interests and going in separate directions. Needless to say, when the parties involved speak different languages, the risk of having the project come apart is high.
Ignoring these aspects is not the best approach. A PM must have the skills and the presence of mind to take action when such situations occur. Whenever problems arise, he must step in to calm things down, help those who are in conflict find a middle ground and keep everyone happy. The bottom line is, when people work together to complete a construction project, they must act like a real team and join their efforts to get the job done at the highest standards.