Some construction projects are completed late, go over budget, don’t meet the required quality standards or specifications, or don’t achieve the desired outcome for the owner or client. Over the last 2 weeks I have looked at the role of the client in the success of the project (read: How can clients ensure their projects meet their expectations), and the impact of the design team (read: How designers can make construction projects more successful). In this article I look at the role of the client’s or owner’s Project Manager.
Should the owner appoint a Project Manager?
I’m sure most of us have watched television shows like ‘Grand Designs’ or ‘Moving to the Country’ where home owners tackle a major home renovation or build a new house. Somehow many muddle through and the end product looks good, but usually the project is way over budget and takes twice or three times longer than expected. This is usually because the owner didn’t have the building experience or knowledge. This is where a competent Project Manager can assist.
Depending on the size and the complexity of the project the owner may elect to appoint their own Project Manager to manage the construction process. This may be an individual already employed by the company or one recruited especially for the project. In some cases the owner may engage a project management company to manage the process. In many cases the owner appoints the engineer or architect as the Principle Agent which usually means that they are not only responsible for the design but also act as the owner’s Project Manager.
Whatever the case, the owner’s Project Manager or Principle Agent can play a vital role in the success of the project.
How can Project Managers help?
Preferably the project manager should have previous experience with a similar project. The following are some items the owner’s Project Manager should attend to:
1. Ensure all permits and permissions are in place so as not to delay the project.
2. Guide the owner so that appropriate decisions are made on time and that these decisions take cognisance of the budget, legislation, available resources and the end use of the facility. Sometimes clients have grandiose plans or impossible time-lines that may have to be tempered to fit the realities of the project.
3. Put in place an overall project schedule (program) and monitor it on a regular basis, ensuring all parties understand the schedule and work in accordance with it.
4. Coordinate the various contractors and ensure they interface with each other as required so as not to delay the project.
5. Assist the client to appoint the most suitable contractors. This assistance should include adjudicating quotes and tenders and then appointing the contractors using well prepared contract documentation.
6. Assist the client with preparing the project budget, ensuring all costs have been budgeted for (including permits and permissions, design fees and connection of all services) and allowing sufficient contingency to cover project risks.
7. Ensure the design team provides information on time and in sufficient detail and accuracy to enable construction work to begin and then responds promptly to contractor’s queries.
8. Take swift action to resolve problems or to overcome delays in the schedule.
9. Ensure the owner/client pays for all services and work delivered, on time.
10. Advise the client as soon as major claims become evident, when there is a possibility of project delays, or budget over-runs.
11. Adjudicate claims fairly – this can often be difficult if they aren’t independent and try and protect the party that’s employs them. Claims which aren't dealt with fairly can escalate into expensive disputes and legal claims. To do this they should have suitable contractual knowledge.
12. Ensure that all services and connections such as power, water, sewage, roads, to the project site are in place, so that commissioning and operating the facility isn’t delayed.
13. Ensure that access to the site and various areas are handed over to the contractors on time.
14. Ensure the project complies with the best safety practices and legislation, preventing injury to persons and damage to property.
15. Ensure the project meets the required quality standards and specifications and that a suitable quality management system is in place and documentation is kept.
16. Ensure the owner/client doesn’t delay the project, make late changes or delay in providing answers to questions or approval of drawings.
To carry out these duties effectively the Project Manager needs the owner/client to delegate sufficient authority to them. This authority should be in writing so there are no misunderstandings. Unfortunately sometimes owners unduly restrict the powers and authorities their Project Managers have which can hamper and delay the project. Sometimes Project Managers exceed their authority, particularly when it comes to items impacting the owner's budget, which can often have major repercussions for the project.
The client’s or owner’s Project Manager is like a symphony orchestra conductor who needs to manage different musicians, ensuring they understand the piece they are playing, have the ability to play their instruments, then blend them together, all at the right time, as required, to deliver a seamless piece of music. Even with the best musicians, without proper direction you will end up with a poor sound. So too with construction, the Project Manager needs to coordinate the owner, design team, contractors and other stakeholders, ensuring they all work together to deliver the project on time, to the required safety and quality requirements. I would also add so that there are no losers.
Other useful articles by the author
Will your construction project be completed on schedule?
What does it take to manage a construction project?
Did you make a difference on your construction project today?
(Written by Paul Netscher the author of the acclaimed books ‘Successful Construction Project Management: The Practical Guide’ and ‘Building a Successful Construction Company: The Practical Guide’. Both books are available in paperback and e-book from Amazon and other retail outlets. This article includes information from a third book which will be published later this year)
© 2015 This article is not to be reproduced for commercial purposes without written permission from the author.