Construction project management: how to make it a success

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Demi-Jo Smith, May 12, 2022

A construction project is always a big puzzle. You have to deal with many different parties, tight deadlines and a budget you have to stay within. In addition, mistakes and delays are costly. In this article you will read what characterises project management in the construction industry and how you can easily respond to this.

Three recurring phases in construction project management

No two projects in construction are the same. Every assignment is unique. And challenges are also different in nature, every time around. Nevertheless, project management in construction is characterised by three phases that keep recurring: the design phase, implementation phase and assessment phase. In addition, there are always variable phases.

Project management in construction

What characterises project management in construction is the high degree of fragmentation. The organisation that “does the project” often hires many subcontractors. These subcontractors in turn also hire parties and specialists. All these different parties have to communicate well with each other. That is quite a challenge for the project manager!

Bouwplaats van boven
Construction site from above.

Duties of a construction project manager

The construction project manager ensures that the finish line is met, on time and within budget. Before reaching the final deadline, there are also checkpoints that the various subcontractors are responsible for.

The main tasks are:

  • Ensuring that the project is completed within the set time frame; 
  • Ensuring that costs stay within the set budget; 
  • Communicate with (and facilitate between) the various parties; 
  • Setting deadlines and ensuring they are met; 
  • Making agreements and making sure everyone sticks to them; 
  • Establishing and monitoring tasks and responsibilities; 
  • Ensuring that construction does not come to a halt.

With so many parties working together, it is critical that everyone knows what they are responsible for.

Tips, pitfalls and areas of concern

Wondering how to make a success of your first project as a brand new construction project manager? Or are you a seasoned project manager in construction looking for some fresh tips? Here you go! 

1. Place extra emphasis on responsibilities

The success of a construction project begins with clarity of responsibilities. Who delivers what? When? And of what quality? 

With so many parties working together, it’s vital that everyone knows exactly what they are responsible for. Therefore, as a project manager, pay extra attention to briefing and debriefing and don’t just assume that everyone knows what is expected. Even if you have worked together before.

2. Create a timeline of deliverables

It is advisable to determine before the start of the project, which documents and reports are expected at what time. This way you avoid losing or forgetting something afterwards.

3. Use a DMS that fits your needs

With a document management system (DMS), you store documents in one central location. This is one of the most important tools in construction project management. You use it to give the parties involved access to the documents that apply to them, to share files with each other and to ensure that everyone is working in the latest version.

But there are many different DMSs to choose from. Workflows and functionalities can differ considerably. So it’s a good idea to look into the right software for document management in the construction industry.

4. Always work with the latest version

Am I looking at the latest version of the document? For many construction professionals, this question is of vital importance. In practice, searching for the correct version leads to unnecessary time loss and delays. Not to speak about what happens when working with the wrong version.

It is therefore smart to choose a DMS with functionalities that take this into account. For example, placing a QR code on a construction drawing is a handy feature. You can scan the drawing and immediately see whether you are working with the latest version or not.

5. Quality assurance is more important than ever

As a project manager, you always want to deliver the best quality. But with prices soaring and consumers expecting a higher standard than ever, you are obliged to do so. Fortunately, many builders are already doing this and you can use smart software to make quality assurance easier.

To measure is to know.

6. Build with data and become increasingly efficient

To measure is to know. We have so many tools at our disposal that allow us to make forecasts. By analysing data from previous projects, we can assess risks and make ever better forecasts. Thus, the challenges of each project become more predictable and manageable.

7. Don’t lose the overview

We’ll close off with an evident one. Because actually, this is important within any kind of project management. But in construction you have to deal with so many different parties. And failing to meet one deadline has direct consequences for the rest of the project. If the structural work is delayed, the finishing work, for example, will start later. That is why it is so important to keep an overview by using dashboards, for example. Dashboards in which you can see at a glance whether all schedules are being met and which tasks are waiting for you and your colleagues. This way, there is always ‘someone’ thinking with you.