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What is Construction Project Management?



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What is construction project management and why do you need it?


Construction project management refers to the planning, coordination, and control of resources to achieve project objectives within constraints such as time, cost, and quality.


The project manager oversees every aspect of a construction project, from conception to completion. This involves managing diverse teams including architects, engineers, contractors and clients, coordinating various stakeholders, whilst adhering to regulatory requirements.


Ultimately, proficient construction project management involves the efficient allocation of resources, risk mitigation, and effective communication to drive successful project outcomes and client satisfaction.


Typical challenges facing construction projects

A typical construction project involves numerous challenges that demand effective handling for a successful outcome.  These challenges include tight deadlines, complex logistics, and evolving client requirements, all of which can strain project schedules and budgets.


Managing diverse teams and contractors whilst maintaining clear communication, risk management, and ensuring compliance with safety standards and quality control measures, adds further layers of complexity. Furthermore, navigating through stakeholder conflicts and resolving disputes requires diplomacy and effective problem-solving skills.


Addressing these challenges demands a proactive approach to ensure project success.


Two project managers look at plans on a building site

The key components of project management

Construction project management entails several key components to ensure the project scope is successfully delivered within the budget and schedule constraints.  These components are:


  1. Project initiation - defining goals, objectives, and feasibility assessments.

  2. Planning - creating schedules, budgets, and resource allocations.

  3. Execution - coordinating teams, managing contractors, and overseeing delivery.

  4. Monitoring and controlling - tracking progress, managing cost, managing change, and ensuring adherence to quality standards.

  5. Risk & issue management - identifying and mitigating potential risks and issues.

  6. Project closure - final inspections, documentation, and client handover.

  7. Communication plays a vital role throughout, ensuring stakeholders are informed and aligned.


Project Initiation

 

Preparation and briefing

The project initiation phase lays the groundwork for a smooth transition into the execution phase. In this phase, the project manager is responsible for:


  • Comprehensive planning, feasibility studies, and budget estimations to clearly define the project scope and objectives.

  • Site selection, permits acquisition, and environmental assessments.

  • Liaison with stakeholders including clients, architects, and engineers, to establish project requirements and success criteria.

  • Risk assessments and mitigation strategies to anticipate potential challenges.

Clear communication and documentation are essential during this phase to ensure alignment and avoid misunderstandings.


Project scope and objectives

The project manager plays a pivotal role in defining a project's scope and objectives, collaborating closely with clients and key stakeholders to understand requirements and expectations. Project managers use their expertise to align objectives, assess feasibility, identify constraints, and establish realistic project boundaries. By leveraging their knowledge of industry standards and best practices, they help define clear objectives that are achievable within the given constraints. Ultimately, the project manager's leadership ensures a well-defined scope.


Project Planning



A close up of a Gantt chart


Budgeting and Cost Estimation

Project managers play a crucial role in budgeting and cost estimation by using their expertise to ensure financial viability of the project.


With support from an experienced cost manager, the project manager analyses project requirements, resource needs, and market conditions to develop accurate cost estimates. At this stage, potential cost-saving opportunities are also identified, and financial risks mitigated.


Throughout the project lifecycle, the project manager monitors expenditure, tracks cost, and implements cost-control measures to ensure adherence to the budget. This proactive approach to financial management leads to successful delivery of the project scope within budget.

 

Schedule

A key duty of the project manager is developing a schedule to ensure efficient project execution. Using industry-standard scheduling tools and methodologies, they develop realistic timelines that align with project objectives and client expectations, taking various constraints into account such as planning permission, permits and material lead times.


Through effective communication and collaboration with stakeholders, project managers coordinate activities, sequence tasks, and allocate resources strategically to optimise workflow and minimise delays. They also proactively monitor progress, identify bottlenecks, and implement corrective measures to keep the project on schedule. Their skill in project programming ensures that projects are completed on time, on budget and on brief.


Project Execution



tiny model figures of construction workers complete various construction tasks on a carpet of Euro bank notes


Procurement

Project managers play a central role in procuring resources for construction projects, ensuring timely project delivery. Making good use of their industry connections and negotiation skills, they source materials, equipment, and contractors whilst working to obtain competitive prices and high-quality services.


The project manager then directs procurement processes, including bidding, contracting, and supplier management, to ensure compliance with project specifications within the budget constraints. Through careful planning and coordination, they ensure that the necessary resources are available when and where they are needed. This means that the project can be delivered efficiently, avoiding potential delays.

 

Performance Evaluation

Performance evaluation during the construction phase is essential to assess project progress and identify areas for improvement. Project managers can use key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure performance against predetermined benchmarks, such as schedule, budget, quality, safety and environmental standards.


Project managers provide constructive feedback to project teams and stakeholders, recognising achievements and addressing deficiencies promptly. By nurturing a culture of accountability and continuous improvement, they drive ever-increasing quality. This rigorous performance evaluation ensures transparency, accountability, and the successful delivery of project objectives.



Monitoring and Controlling


Monitoring Progress

During the construction phase of a project, project managers use various progress tracking tools to ensure project milestones are met. Through regular site visits, meetings, and progress reports, they assess project progress against agreed benchmarks, identifying deviations and potential issues. This allows project managers to make informed decisions and implement corrective actions to keep the project on track.


This careful progress tracking ensures transparency, accountability, and timely intervention, which means the project is much more likely to successfully deliver scope on time and on budget.



A close up of a medication bottle. The labels says: Change Management, 50mg, Plan Before Use


Change Management

Robust change management during the construction phase of a project is vital to accommodate evolving requirements and limit potential disruptions.


Project managers assess proposed changes, evaluating their impact on scope, schedule, and budget. They use transparent communication and stakeholder engagement to facilitate consensus-building and decision-making regarding change implementation.


Additionally, project managers update project documentation and revise plans to reflect approved changes. By proactively managing change requests and ensuring alignment with project objectives, they maintain project integrity and minimise risks associated with scope creep.


Quality Control

Project managers play a critical role in ensuring quality control throughout a construction project, safeguarding against defects and maintaining high standards.  With support from specialists from the relevant disciplines, they establish comprehensive quality management plans, outlining procedures and criteria for evaluating workmanship and materials.


Inspection and testing protocols are used to monitor compliance with specifications and regulations throughout the project. In addition, project managers implement corrective measures to address deviations and non-conformities promptly. They drive a culture of accountability and continuous improvement among project teams, ensuring quality in all aspects of project delivery.


Risk & Issue Management


Risk Management

The role of the project manager is crucial in managing risks effectively throughout a construction project.  The project manager conducts comprehensive risk assessments during the initiation and planning phases, identifying potential threats to project objectives, such as unforeseen ground conditions, safety and environmental hazards.


Through proactive planning and contingency strategies, they develop risk management plans tailored to these project-specific challenges. They collaborate with stakeholders and experts to ensure that risk mitigation measures are implemented and risk indicators are monitored to prevent or minimise adverse impacts.


Project managers build appropriate flexibility and adaptability into the risk management plan, enabling prompt responses to emerging risks and uncertainties. This safeguards project outcomes and promotes resilience in the face of challenges.





Issue Resolution

Project managers are adept at resolving issues promptly to mitigate disruption. They establish clear processes for issue identification, escalation, and resolution, which allow for effective problem-solving.


Stakeholders are encouraged to report issues, enabling prompt intervention. Project managers assess the severity and impact of each issue, collaborating with relevant parties to develop viable solutions. By prioritising critical issues and allocating resources efficiently, they ensure issues are swiftly resolved whilst minimising project delays and cost overruns. This helps maintain project momentum and allows stakeholder confidence in project outcomes.


Closeout and handover phase



A close up of two people shaking hands


Final Inspections and Client Acceptance

Final inspections and client acceptance are critical milestones in the handover phase of a construction project. Project managers coordinate the final inspections to verify that all work meets quality standards, regulatory requirements, and contractual obligations.


They facilitate walkthroughs with clients, addressing any concerns and ensuring alignment with project expectations. By carefully documenting completion and addressing snag list items promptly, project managers help smooth the transition to client occupancy.


Project Handover

Project handover is a crucial stage at the conclusion of a construction project, ensuring a seamless transition of ownership and responsibilities.


Project managers oversee the compilation and organisation of comprehensive documentation including as-built drawings, warranties, and operation and maintenance manuals. The transfer of this documentation to the client provides clarity on project specifications and maintenance requirements.


Additionally, project managers will coordinate training sessions to familiarise clients with any new systems and procedures.


Lessons Learnt

During the post-construction phase, project managers conduct a lessons learnt session to review project successes, challenges, and areas for enhancement. By encouraging open dialogue and reflection among team members, project managers extract valuable lessons to inform best practice. Identifying strengths and weaknesses allows for refinement of processes and strategies, enhancing performance in subsequent projects. Through this iterative approach to project evaluation, organisations can continuously evolve and adapt to changing industry dynamics. Embracing a culture of continuous improvement drives innovation and ensures ongoing success in construction project management.


Communication



Two paper cups joined together by a string


Project managers add value to construction projects through effective communication, fostering collaboration, and productivity. Clear channels of communication with stakeholders are established and maintained, ensuring that project objectives, expectations, and progress are communicated promptly and accurately.


This culture of open communication facilitates the resolution of conflicts and the sharing of insights, driving innovation and problem-solving.


Project managers are skilled at leading project teams, assigning roles and responsibilities based on strengths and expertise. They promote a cohesive team environment, providing support, motivation, and guidance to maximise both individual and team performance. The strong communication and team management skills provided by the project manager ensure understanding and cooperation, leading to successful project outcomes.



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Author


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Darren Hewitt


Darren has over 25 years experience in the construction industry. Within this time he has led and delivered construction projects for major blue chip clients.


Darren has held senior roles in both client and consultant organisations. This gives him a full understanding of the construction process and level of stakeholder engagement required to ensure successful project/programme outcomes

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