Project Management...Who's in Charge?
With so many complexities within any given project, from design prep through conception, it can be easy to overlook critical tasks. Managing a construction project is no small undertaking, especially when you consider a typical project takes anywhere from one to two years to begin construction from inception.
Fortunately, we have many different systems available to help minimize this issue, from skilled construction management professionals to utilizing current technology.
Projects typically begin with conceptual designs to help establish market feasibility, cost, and potential return on investment. Once the decision has been made to move forward, a qualified civil engineer works closely with an architectural firm to help determine site restrictions, design layout and civil complexities such as soil types, drainage and local codes. Assuming the client determines the project to be profitable, after the initial concepts have been properly analyzed, the design team grows and concepts begin to develop into reality. It's at this time where communication begins to become more complicated and responsibilities tend to be undefined, and as a result, the product that has been created on paper isn't necessarily the project that goes to market.
So, what does this mean to the end user? Well, for starters, many projects see their first change order when a building permit has been issued, or shortly thereafter. Although this cannot always be avoided, it certainly can be greatly reduced when using techniques to promote stronger communication and assigning clear roles. Projects need many players involved to ensure its success, but how successful the project is will greatly be determined by the processes that were used in the approach. Here are a few techniques we have found successful within our firm.
A construction manager (CM) comes in two primary forms, CMa and CMc.
A CMa, or Construction Manager Adviser, assumes the role of client liaison from design conception through construction. Their role may include many facets of the project, including communication between designers, permit technicians and contractors. Additionally, they typically oversee contractor pricing, quality control and may be involved in change order negotiations and risk management. A CMa does not carry contracts with vendors and typically works directly with the client. CMa rates vary from fixed sum to percentage of project value, however, in my experience the cost is greatly offset by the savings from the additional experience.
CMc's on the other-hand are Construction Manager Contractors. A CMc can assume the same responsibilities as a CMa with the added scope of performing as the General Contractor. This can be quite attractive to the client due to the inherent assignment of responsibility given to the CMc. CMc's will not only advise the client of appropriate matters, but will also carry the risk of hiring and managing the subcontracts through construction.
Technology has come leaps and bounds in our industry over the past 20 years. Project documentation alone has moved from handwritten forms to advanced online automated distribution systems which create a significant increase in communication and accuracy. There are many different programs that can handle all aspects of construction and choosing the right one can be a daunting task. When searching for an automated management system, keep in mind the type of work you perform, the average number of project participants your jobs require and any special services your firm my provide. Most software on the market tracks everything from estimates, submittals, change orders, subcontracts and plan revision. As with any system, however, you must have corporate systems in place to consistently utilize the software with each respective employee as appropriate.
However you choose to run your projects, communication with key personnel and utilizing current technology is imperative in avoiding costly mistakes while keeping up with our fast paced industry.