If you are contemplating a new construction project, you might be wondering “why do i need a project manager?” This is a fair question, given that construction project managers represent an additional expense that must be factored into the total cost of a project. If you aren’t familiar with what a project manager does, you may not have a firm understanding of the benefits of having a project manager.

There are a variety of benefits that are associated with hiring a project manager for your construction project. Project managers add value to projects through effective oversight, coordination, and communication. They serve as a guiding force for the various parties that are involved in bringing a project to completion. Effective project managers will work closely with their clients to ensure that the full scope of the project is understood and communicated to each of the stakeholders in the project completion.

While construction project managers can be hired at all stages, in this article, we’ll explore the role of a project manager in the construction process. We’ll look at how project managers help streamline the construction process through an intimate knowledge of creating and executing a project from beginning to end. We will also discuss how project managers engage and interact with other parties involved in the construction process on behalf of a client. In doing so, we will highlight the importance of project manager in construction, particularly when it comes to ensuring that the client’s vision and objectives are met. Project managers are vital for ensuring projects are completed on time and adhere to budgetary guidelines, which provides an important level of security for project owners.

Throughout this article, you will note that a large part of what construction project managers do is listen closely to what the client’s wants and needs are, and work in managing the project to achieve the clients’ end goals. Project managers must have a varied skill set, including effective communication and a deep knowledge of all aspects of the construction process. Project managers will work closely with a variety of entities during the construction process, including designers, engineers, and general contractors, and serve as a liaison between these parties and the client. Because of this, it is important to work with a project management team that has demonstrated experience in bringing complex projects to completion while meeting budget and timeline objectives. Due to the fact you will be working closely with your project manager, it is also important to work with a project manager that you communicate well with, that you trust and that shares the same project goals as you do.

What is a Project Manager?

The first step towards figuring out if you need a project manager is to understand what a project manager is. Project managers are often mistaken with general contractors by individuals outside of the construction industry. Project managers are distinct from other entities in the construction process by fulfilling an oversight and coordination role. Project managers help plan complex construction projects and coordinate between different parties involved in a project including design and engineering teams, as well as the general contractor themselves.

Throughout this process, project managers maintain a supervisory role that ensures that project guidelines outlined in the strategic plan are met. In short, project managers are tasked with ensuring that the client’s desired outcome for a project comes to fruition. This includes the responsibilities of meeting budgetary and timeline guidelines, which are an important factor to consider when determining whether a project manager would be beneficial in your situation.

What Does a Project Manager Do?

In order to highlight the importance of construction project management, it is helpful to gain a better understanding of what construction project management services include. To be clear, this isn’t meant to be a complete list of everything a project manager does in the course of a construction project or every service that a project management firm may offer. Rather, it is meant as a high-level overview and introduction that will outline the fundamental role that a project manager plays. This overview will demonstrate that throughout the construction process, project managers play a vital role in ensuring it is smooth from beginning to end.

Strategic Plan Development

One of the first things that a project manager does is meet with a client and determine what the project is. From there, the project manager will work with the client to develop a framework that provides a clear sense of everything from the scope of the project, budgetary guidelines, and the timeline for completion. The creation of the strategic plan will provide the foundation for the construction project as a whole. In particular, desired occupancy dates and budgetary guidelines are important markers that help define the scope of the project. In order to avoid any creep in project size or costs, this information should be clearly understood by all parties involved in the project from the outset.

Building Tours and Evaluation

In order to develop an accurate budget, the project manager will want to conduct a tour of the potential space that will be utilized. This tour gives the project manager a better foundation from which they can calculate a budget. It will also provide an important context for space constraints and is an important part of the strategic plan development process. Understanding the space that will be under construction is an important factor in developing an accurate timeline for completion and a fundamentally sound strategic plan.

Team Selection

Selecting the right team for your construction project can have a big impact on your success. You want to work with firms that have demonstrated experience working on projects of similar size and complexity and have a track record of completing projects on time and within budgetary guidelines. Accomplishing this can be challenging. Project managers help this process by doing the legwork to select the right project team for you to ensure that at the end you have a successful project completed.

With your guidance, a project manager will put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) with selected general contractors. Once these proposals have been received, the project manager will create a summary of the proposals received and offer a recommendation of which firm best suits the client’s needs. In order to do this effectively, project managers will need to be familiar with all aspects of the construction process, including design and engineering principles and the work and processes utilized by general contractors. Once potential firms have been selected to work with, the project manager can conduct contract negotiation, which is an important step during which the expectations and requirements of the work are clearly outlined, defined, and communicated to both parties.

Vendor Coordination

Some clients want to take a hands-on approach to coordinate with the vendors that are necessary for project completion. For those clients that don’t, project managers can step in and provide client vendor coordination services. Project managers can offer targeted recommendations for vendors that they have worked with effectively in the past, serving as a valuable resource in the client selection process. Successful project managers will also have insight into the most effective ways to integrate vendors into the project schedule to ensure that necessary materials and items are on-site when they need to be. This can help reduce delays and streamline the construction process. At the same time, having a project manager serve as a liaison between the client and vendor helps maintain client involvement in the process while reducing the tedium associated with dealing with a variety of vendors.

Schedule Management

No one wants a construction project to go on forever, yet the construction industry is plagued with delays and missed deadlines. Project managers help address this through the development and rigorous management of a project schedule. Project managers work with the client to clearly define the project completion timeline early on in the process. Once a schedule has been created, project managers are tasked with monitoring the team’s progress towards completion of its goals. No construction project is completed without some challenges. Effective construction project managers can enhance the resiliency of a project through working closely with team members when issues arise, creating recovery plans and ensuring that those plans are implemented to ensure adherence to the overall completion timeline.

Construction Oversight

The physical construction process is fraught with challenges that result in delays and cost overages. Navigating the physical construction process effectively to ensure that your project remains within the confines of your schedule and budget requires oversight. Project managers fill this role by conducting regular monitoring and oversight of construction activity. Through regular visits to the work site, the project manager will monitor and provide regular updates of construction progress.

In order to be effective in this role, project managers need to have an in-depth knowledge of the construction process from end-to-end. Many project managers spend years working as or with general contractors, giving them insight into potential pitfalls or challenges that can arise during construction. Ideally, project managers will identify any problems early and work with the general contractor to develop a recovery plan that keeps your project on schedule and within your budget.

Project Accounting

Invoice tracking and management are an important aspect of the service that project managers provide, yet this is often overlooked. Projects of the scale and complexity that require a project manager present unique challenges for monitoring and tracking all expenses. This is due to working with a variety of entities throughout the construction process, including the design and engineering teams, general contractor, and vendors. There are also fees associated with permitting that you’ll want to be mindful of. Project managers fulfill a vital function by closely tracking all invoicing to ensure that your invoices match up to work completed and the contractual obligations that each party is responsible for. Through thorough tracking and documentation, the project manager will also keep the client abreast of ongoing expenses associated with the project.

Communication and Documentation

Keeping track of all of the various entities involved in a construction project is often tedious, yet is essential to ensuring that projects remain within their proposed schedule. One of the challenges that are often present is a failure to communicate between entities involved in the process. For example, if a general contractor is waiting for updates from the engineer, who is waiting on an update or revision from the architect, this can result in lost work time and project delays. Project managers address this issue by monitoring communication between the different parties involved in the project in order to ensure that each entity has the information they need when they need it. Project managers will also create extensive documentation surrounding the project, keeping track of updates from all team members and ensuring that they are providing information to other team members in an effective and efficient manner.

Closing Thoughts

Project managers fulfill a vital role throughout the construction process. Project managers add value to construction projects through an active oversight role. They work closely with the client to determine a strategic plan for project completion, including a timeline for completion and a project budget. Then, throughout the construction process, the project manager will ensure that each party adheres to these guidelines. This helps avoid costly delays and project cost creep.

Utilizing a project management team results in a streamlined construction process throughout. Project managers will help the client with the selection of the design and engineer teams and can assist in selecting the general contractor that will be utilized as well. Through effective oversight, the project manager will ensure that any delays in the design and physical construction processes are addressed before they become a larger issue. Effective project managers will also monitor communication between the parties involved so that each entity has the information they need when they need it. This also includes providing the client with a full-field view of the construction process on an ongoing basis.

Due to the important role that a project manager plays in bringing your project to completion, you will want to be selective when hiring a project manager. You will want someone in the project management role that has a demonstrated record of completing projects of the size and complexity of yours. At the same time, they should have deep expertise and knowledge of the entire construction process. This proves invaluable in identifying areas of risk or delay and quickly working to mitigate those so that they don’t impact the project completion timeline or budget. Working with an experienced project manager can make a world of difference when it comes achieving your desired outcome within your budget. If you are interested in the benefits of working with an effective project manager, please contact Gilliland Construction Management today.

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By Kirt Gilliland

Nov 30, 2018