It is the purpose of this report to provide a critical appraisal on the development, scope, benefits and influence of project management with particular reference to how custom and practice in different countries can influence the role and responsibilities of the project manager.
The Project Manager In Brief
A project manager is appointed by a client who has a project that requires to be implemented. It is the project managers duty to solely represent the client and ensure that all decisions and actions are in the clients best interests. The project manager should ideally be involved at the earliest possible time and his role is to communicate, lead, organise and delegate from inception of the project to completion of the project. The project manager must communicate primarily with the client, and subsequently lead and organise everyone who has an input on the project based on the clients needs. The project managers duties don’t stop there, organisation includes project timeframe and a programme of work detailing how the work is carried out. The project manager must delegate any activities or responsibilities to appropriate personnel such as notifying a plumber that a heating pipe requires relocating. It is not the clients responsibility to tell the contractors what to do, it is the project managers role under the clients instructions.
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Why Do Clients Need A Project Manager?
Project managers are employed by clients to save them money, time and hassle. Many clients are unaware and unsure of construction procedures, building design, construction costs, building contracts and particularly, managing a project. The project manager at the inception stage of the project, i.e stage ‘A’ of the RIBA plan of work, can partake in discussions with the client to obtain the clients ideas, objectives and needs of the project. This will include primarily, a budget, a timescale, a brief outline of their design requirements such as metres squared of office space or number of seats in a football stadium. As the client may have had ideas regarding this project for a period of time now, it will be likely they have a particular ‘design scheme’ in mind, and the feasibility of this ‘scheme’ can be discussed with the project manager to ensure that client has a realistic design within their desired budget.
Many projects are designed by an architect and are taken through to site operations, i.e part ‘J’ / ‘K’ of the RIBA plan of work without any input from an experienced site contractor / project manager. This can lead to feasibility / cost issues on site as unfortunately not every architect has the concept of how buildings are constructed in detail. However the appointment of a project manager can eliminate these types of problems prior to site operations as his opinion on the architects proposals can be sought at the planning stage, i.e part C / D of the RIBA plan work.
The RIBA Plan of Work
Below is a list of the various stages of the RIBA plan of work with a small description of the project managers role at each stage:
A – Appraisal – Determine feasibility of clients requirements. Design/Cost/Quality.
B – Strategic Briefing – Receive strategic brief from client.
C – Outline Proposals – Develop brief, prepare outline proposal & approximate cost.
D – Detailed Proposals – Develop proposal, provide information on cost estimate, consult local authorities, gain approval from client, submit planning application.
E – Final Proposals – Develop proposal to full working drawings, obtain further cost estimate, obtain approval from client on construction methods, specification & cost. Apply for building warrant & Advise on a programme.
F – Production Information – Organise the preparation of a detailed cost such as a bill of quantities quantifying all the required work to enable a contractor to insert rates.
G – Tender Documentation – Send out tender documents to main contractor(s).
H – Tender Action – Once received the tenders back from contractors, study & compare prices and discuss with client. Select clients preferred contractor based on advice given to client.
J – Mobilisation – Provide any additional information to CDM coordinator and contractor prior to construction works.
K – Site Operation – Site visits, provide further information to contractor as required, review design information received from specialists or contractor. Prepare as built drawings for health and safety file. Advise on maintenance of building. Communicate and organise with all project contributors.
L – Completion – Inspect building for defects, provide information for final payment to be made to contractor.
M – Feedback – Study suitability of the buildings design for required use.
The project team can be large in number and each member of the team has different roles to play and time to perform that role. Based on the above stages A to M of the RIBA plan of work the following project team members are involved at the following stages:
Architect – A to M – Designs, produces drawings, instructs contractor.
Quantity surveyor – A to M – Provides cost information at outset and detailed bill of quantities at stage G. Measures construction work carried out at stage K to calculate payment to contractor.
Project manager – A to M – Leads, communicates and organises rest of project team.
Engineers (Structural / M+E / Civil) – D to J – Provides detailed structural drawings / details. Advises on services and ground conditions etc.
Builder / Contractor – D to M – Constructs and completes project.
Duties, Responsibilities, Tasks & Skills of The Project Manager
The project manager is involved at all five stages of a project:
Defining – Definition of client objectives and project strategies.
Planning – Preparation of specifications, schedules and budgets.
Implementing – Monitoring of site performance of contractors and any specialists etc and taking necessary corrective actions.
Completing – Delivering project output and finalising project input.
Evaluation – Gaining experience from the project, learning from mistakes / problems to try and improve future performance / organisation.
A project manager provides a service to the client to take the clients project idea through to completion. It is the number one priority of a project manager to look after the clients best interests from inception of the project to completion. It is his duty to discuss any necessary changes to the project with the client and advise on the possible solutions, the associated costs and the implications of the changes should there be any. Having fulfilled this duty it is then up to the client to make the decision and inform the project manager how they wish to proceed.
It is his duty to discuss the feasibility of the clients design ideas to ensure construction costs can match the clients set budget. The project manager collects information from the client to make sure their needs are met throughout the whole project.
The scope of the project managers works is as follows:
Establishing clients objectives, priorities, preferences, budget and ideas.
Liaise with the client and discuss a feasible design to take to the clients architect. A design which works and can meet the clients budget.
Design of project organisation structure, i.e plan construction activities and responsibilities etc.
Identify how the client is integrated into the project.
Advise on the appointment of contributors to the project, i.e consultants, professionals, contractors etc. Look for those with experience of similar work, with a good reputation, who are available, who can integrate with others and who produce quality work. A large factor in selection can also be their location.
Advise client on the Architects proposals and make recommendations based on what the clients objectives and preferences are.
Prepare a project programme, i.e who does what, when and for how long. This is a plan of all the construction processes of the project from start to completion.
Establish appropriate information and communication system between client and contributing parties. (Contributing parties refers to people / organisations employed by the client such as the architect, engineer or main contractor.) Generally specialists or sub contractors are employed by the main contractor however this does not mean that communication with them is not key.
Monitor design and feasibility. Is the design progressing as per the clients requirements? Is the cost in line with the budget?
Play a role in major and crucial decisions regarding construction, budgeting, timekeeping and organisation.
Advise on building maintenance and everyday running.
Commission the project on completion.
In addition to the scope of works above, the project managers general duties, responsibilities and knowledge include:
Attainment of land.
Many skills are necessary for a project manager to be successful and these are detailed below:
Leadership – The project manager requires leadership skills to take charge and be confident in his decision making for delegating to the project contributors.
Organisation – Organisation is critical to a project and a project manager will therefore require excellent skills in this field to ensure all members of the project team know what they are doing and when they are doing it.
Integration – This is essential as all the other skills can be deemed useless if the project manager cannot integrate with the project team.
Delegation – Not everything can be relied upon the project manager and it would be impossible for him to do everything therefore he must pass on work, tasks and responsibilities to others.
Communication – Communication is vital in any construction project and is necessary for any project to be successful.
Conflict resolution – Making judgement in a dispute between parties is extremely important as in most construction projects there will be some sort of conflict and it is the duty of the project manager to attempt and resolve these issues in the first instance.
Motivation – Construction projects can be repetitive and lengthy and it is key that the project contributors are well motivated to carry out their work and to meet their deadlines.
Construction And Project Management Abroad
All of the above refers to custom and practice in project management within the United Kingdom which differs greatly in other regions of the world such as The United States of America & Japan. Both The USA and Japan have different procedures and sequences in their construction procedures and therefore this can influence the roles and responsibilities of the project manager.
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Construction In Japan
In Japan it is very common for a client to seek a design from a building contractor, as opposed to the UK where an architect would be appointed in the first instance and a contractor at a later date. This method has both positive and negative points that are worth mentioning. As we know here in the UK, from taking an integrated approach to the supply chain as described in BRE Digest 450, partnership can be a very efficient method of project procurement as the contractor has a say in the practicality of design etc at the beginning. This in theory is no different in Japan except the process is carried out by the majority, rather than the minority here in the UK. As the design is contractor designed, it is very practical using standardised components or modular construction which gives the contractor an extremely buildable project. Generally due to the practicality and standardisation of this method, many of the buildings appear to be very similar lacking attractive intricate details and finesse. Although in the opinion of many the designs are unexciting, this design and build method sets parameters of the clients need, quality, budget and timescale. This therefore enables the chosen contractor to design a building with the intention to ensuring that it can be built to the clients desired quality, on time and on budget. Design and build is widely used in the UK but with the lack of standardisation and a simplistic approach to design, cost and time over runs are always inevitable. Japan generally is a quality driven nation and the construction industry within Japan is no different. The contractor market is controlled by the ‘big six’, six major construction firms which share long term relationships with their clients, suppliers, specialist contractors, general contractors and sub contractors. The Japanese construction industry is extremely efficient and the “construction industry operates with stealth, precision and control of a ninja”.
‘Constructing Excellence’ reported after two trips to Japan having visited five of the ‘big six’ construction firms that Japan gets “a score of 100% for productivity, compared with 50% for the UK”. Japan is renowned for its excellent health and safety records and their “attitudes to health and safety is ‘pragmatic’ “, it is not a requirement to wear steel toe capped boots when working on a construction site in Japan due the excellent organisation of the project. On the typical Japanese building site “there’s hardly any debris, so there is little chance of dropping anything on your feet”. This seems insane but the figures speak for themselves as “92% of projects in Japan achieve a zero-accident rate, compared with 62% of UK schemes”. The differences between UK and Japan are enormous and this can be reinforced further by their training, morning briefing and pre-exercise warm up. It is a requirement for staff to train for a full year before operating on site and there is a briefing at the beginning of each day where the project manager discusses the days tasks and goals.
Project Management In Japan
Having researched the topic of construction in Japan, it is plain to see that the roles and responsibilities of the project manager will differ greatly when compared to those in the UK. In the UK project managers have to deal with a number of individuals in the project team, there may be issues of conflict between the contractor and the architect along with confusion and anger towards cost and timescale of any changes, which can make the project managers job difficult, as it is his responsibility to ensure that work is done on time, on budget and as per the clients requirements. In Japan things are a little different, the designers and the constructors are all part of the same organisation so conflict is unlikely and so is change. The contractor has priced, designed and scheduled the job based purely on the clients needs. The clients need is unlikely to change but should it change the contractor may file for extension to time, additional costs etc which makes this option very unlikely. All in all this makes the project managers life a lot easier and with less time spent on conflict resolution it gives him more time to concentrate on leading, organising, integrating, delegating, communicating and motivating.
The project managers role is further improved due to having less young incompetent or inexperienced site workers. Less time is spent repeating himself, as the site workers of Japan have had one years training before starting work on site, therefore are much more competent than the young site workers of the UK who walk on site with little training and experience. Levels of offsite construction and prefabrication is very high and in general due to less erection on site, the project manager should have less complications to deal with and can focus on erecting the prefabricated panels once delivered to site. It is also worth noting that if there are any problems with the prefabricated units if the suppliers fault, for example wrong dimensions, there is no stress of having to re-erect a panel onsite and wait days for it, instead all that is required is to phone the supplier and they have the stress of rushing out a replacement.
Construction & Project Management In The United States of America
In the USA, the construction process differs dramatically from both the UK and Japan and subsequently the role of the project manager differs too. The client or developer is generally producing high rise buildings, not for occupation but as a financial investment. It is their role produce these large scale buildings at lightning speeds with as low a cost as possible. As a lot of clients are developers with excellent knowledge of the industry, they take the leading role. The architects main role in the project is purely to come up with an outline proposal to meet the clients requirements of appearance, layout and budget. It is not the role of the architect to produce working drawings or detailed design, this is the role of the project engineer. The engineer takes the design and develops it with regard to construction & services. In the USA specialist contractors are used to design their own components and install them themselves which ensures there is no conflict which might have been encountered with the main contractor installing an unfamiliar product. Similarly to Japan, a lot of prefabrication is used with the design of a building, for example standardised computer generated components which can be easily be duplicated and altered if necessary rather than drawing everything from scratch. Due to this standardised system full construction drawings can be produced very quickly and there is more certainty of project costing and timescale. Coordination of the project initially is the responsibility of the client. The design stages are organised by the engineer and sometimes the architect. The project manager or construction manager as they are referred to in the USA is responsible for organising the specialist contractors work.
It is the developers responsibility to monitor the feasibility of the project, especially the architects design and the cost estimates. It is up to the client to ensure that they are aware of any planning authorities as they are responsible for ensuring the legalities of the project.
Architects it would seem have a small role to play in the US construction process however it is their role to provide advice on estimated rental value of the property, cost of the build and taxation. It is also the architects role to assess the success of the project based on the above. This reduces the responsibilities of the project manager at the early stages as in the UK it is generally the role of the project manager to provide advice on rental value, rough cost, taxation etc.
Similarly to the UK, the construction manager as known in the USA is employed to provide advice and coordinate the construction phase. There are two methods of management used from here. The Project manager could be paid a fee for his services and also be paid for employing the specialist contractors whom he has to pay, this method is known as management contracting. The other option is that the client employs the specialists and pays them direct and the construction manager gets paid for managing the project, this is called construction management. In theory it makes no difference to the workload of the construction manager as either way it is his responsibility to ensure that the specialists know what they are required to do. Although an onerous task, it is not any more complex than a large project in the UK. This is due to the fact that the specialist contractors are in theory more than just contractors, they are designers installing their own specialist products and in turn are responsible for their own work under supervision of the construction manager. Although in the UK the project manager is responsible for the key decisions in the project, in the USA the construction manager delegates these decisions where appropriate to the specialist contractors. The USA is highly driven on completing projects on time and specialists will not hesitate to bring in hired work if necessary which provides an additional requirement for the construction manager to be flexible and coordinate the project contributors.
In the USA there is little pre-construction input from a project management point of view and the main role and responsibility is to make sure everyone is one hundred percent sure of what they are to be doing and when it is to be completed. It would appear that the USA get the best out of their specialists with the fierce competition and by the way in which they approach a project and are managed.
Having researched project management generally, it is evident in my opinion that there is a great benefit in having a project manager on board in a construction project. However having also researched in more detail the ins and outs of project management in the USA & Japan, and comparing it to practice in the UK, it is evident that the differing construction processes in each country dramatically affect the role and responsibilities of the project manager. The benefits of a project manager are endless and in my opinion, the whole scope of the project managers work is all a benefit to both the client and the contractor even though he is solely representing the client. The project manager is the middle man between the client and the rest of the project contributors. It is a benefit to the client as complex decisions are required when managing a construction site and knowing the lingo is extremely important. Unfortunately it would seem that in the UK the clients are not overly experienced with construction therefore its vital that they employ someone who can translate the terms into English and explain the pros and cons, for example, pros and cons of different options available. This role may be possible to be fulfilled by an architect however the main difference between an architect and a project manager is the project manager spends most of his time on construction sites and has greater experience in project programming, cost implications and construction techniques. The project manager is a benefit to the contractor as with his expertise, solutions to construction issues can be discussed and his advice may be beneficial for speed, cost or even just general ideas.
Ultimately it is evident that custom and practice in different countries does affect the role and responsibilities of the project manager. It is crucial for a inexperienced client to have a professional such as a project manager from the beginning of the project if the client wants the project to be finished to his desired quality, on time and on budget.
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