Does A Construction Development Project Manager Add Real Value?

Posted by MDA Projects on Thursday, January 19, 2017 with 8 comments
The Construction development industry has existed since the beginning of civilization and, like other industries, has evolved and grown over time. Historically, the “master builder” was the carpenter or stone mason, who performed the tasks of project manager, architect, quantity surveyor, engineer, and builder. In fact, the master builder oversaw the entire building process.

Over the years there has been an evolution of additional complexities burgeoning the construction development industry, which requires management and facilitation beyond historic development project requirements: hence the need for professional qualified project management to align these factors. These evolving complexities include among others:

  • Construction development industry fragmentation and specialisation
  • New regulations and legislative requirements
  • Industry skills shortage
  • Technological advancement
  • Materials innovation
  • Economic constraints and risk management
  • Contractual claims environment
  • Stakeholder and community involvement
  • Additional construction industry management services
Construction development industry fragmentation and specialisation

Evolutionary construction industry growth, particularly in the last 50 years or so has fragmented industry roles from core construction disciplines (architect, engineer and builder) into a multi-faceted and growing list of specialised disciplines. With the built environment becoming increasingly specialised (and fragmented) it becomes more difficult for all these disciplines to work together to produce one cohesive product in line with the client’s expectations.

New regulations and legislative requirements

There is also increasing concern about important issues such as environment, health and safety, BBBEE (broad based black economic empowerment), green building, sustainable buildings, and heritage. This has resulted in new legislation leading to new disciplines within the built environment, which produce additional independent silos that need to be coordinated.

While critical in tightening up industry practices and conduct, building laws, codes and regulations are onerous. They add another layer of  industry ‘rules’ to the built environment project management process. The application of these rules requires precise and specific implementation and management expertise from within the industry and on each construction development project.

Industry skills shortage

As new disciplines splinter and emerge, the demand for skilled and specialist labour increases. However, skill levels in the South African construction industry do not always meet this demand.

Top professionals such as architects are lured away by better opportunities overseas. Reduced standards of education and insufficient training and experience yield lower levels of competence among professionals, sub-standard contractor supervision and poor workmanship. This places greater pressure on the project manager to monitor and ensure that the various construction disciplines are delivering on a given project: to enforce high standards and exceptional quality workmanship at an affordable cost.

Technological advancement

Technological innovation helps to advance construction efficiencies, building quality, and asset longevity. For instance, BIM (building information modeling) has become the worldwide standard in engineering and is fast becoming the international standard for construction and project management. That said, technology is best executed, and delivers the best results, when complemented by human endeavour.

While IT systems provide management tools to enhance efficiency, they do not reduce the time required to manage people nor do they obviate the critical people management aspect of project coordination and facilitation.

Materials innovation

Whereas materials selection options were limited in the past, the more recent explosion of materials innovations, has resulted in a multitude of materials and finishing options. While exciting for the industry this necessitates far tighter management of the materials procurement process. If improperly managed, too many choices lead to indecision, more and more samples requested, unnecessary time wastage and unforeseen costs.

Economic constraints and risk management

The demand for greater efficiency in a constrained economy, means that the construction industry is compelled to work with tighter budgets and competitive tendering. This means stringent and exacting cost management. Add to this the proliferation of industry specialist materials and the increased complexity of construction projects. The result is more construction work being taken on at far greater risk.

In the current economic climate, the professional project management consultant is expected to carry more risk work at no additional cost to the client. Construction projects are undertaken, sometimes with years of non-paying foundational risk work with no guarantee that the project will proceed. Risk management is a critical and fundamental scheduling process, and requires meticulous detail and a great deal of expertise and time to mitigate risk for the project as a whole. As such, it forms an integral part of effective construction project management.

Contractual claims environment

With clients demanding more for less to meet the demands of an increasingly regulated development environment, contractors and consultants charge significantly reduced fees. Reduced contractor mark-ups and professional fees are a prevailing and problematic local and national economic issue. As a result, professional consultants and contractors need to become more conscious of this and claim for additional expenditure. However, the claims process requires monitoring, mediation and facilitation. The tighter the budget, the greater is the need for professional risk management.

Stakeholder and community involvement

Given the chequered history and demography of the country, there is a growing need for more community participation and other stakeholder involvement in construction projects. BBBEE is important for the country to encourage the participation of previously disadvantaged groups to further economic growth.

That said, while important for the country, stakeholder engagement and the responsibility to ensure government BBBEE and community involvement targets are achieved becomes the domain of the project manager.

Additional construction industry management services

There is an increasing demand for project managers to take on additional built environment functions over and above the ‘standard’ project management services. These functions often constitute all or part of the role of a separate construction discipline, such as the development manager’s role or the design co-ordination function. In fact, they become part of the project manager’s standard portfolio of services. Consequently, the project manager’s scope of responsibility increases significantly, often at no additional fee for the added service.

The glue that binds it all together

While professional project management is a specialist standalone built environment discipline in its own right, it is multifarious. In other words, true project management requires sufficient knowledge of all construction development disciplines and cross sector experience. Professional project management is the glue that integrates the combined knowledge and experience so that all parties involved work as a cohesive entity to deliver a successful project outcome. With the myriad of expanding complexities and risks in the construction development industry can you afford not to have a professional project manager overseeing your project?