Was it a Project Manager you were looking for when you hired a Construction Manager?

A large volume of construction projects go through an extended period of conceptualisation, financial planning, master plan development and governmental sanctions. This initiation phase of the project could well be as long as the time taken to construct it. Along this initial phase when the project is discussed over the drawing board, many changes may take place. Sometimes the size, nature and concept of the project may change. It is therefore not uncommon for promoters and developers to “start afresh” once this phase is successfully crossed over and to bring on board a new set of consultants for the construction phase.

There is a need for architects who can detail the plans, for suppliers and contractors to build and for that one team that can manage the construction phase – the Construction Manager. At the outset though this quest for a Construction Manager seems well thought of, a closer look at it will throw up critical gaps.

What is seemingly required is a team that coordinates with all appointed contractors and architects to ensure that construction progresses seamlessly, on-ground decisions are timely, quality enforced and project is completed on time and within budget. Therefore, what is needed is to manage scope, time, cost and quality.  In a recent workshop that I conducted at the Big 5 Construct India, I asked the audience to define their expectations from a Construction Manager. Most answered that a Construction Manager must deliver the project as desired by the client.

This necessitates a deeper understanding of the project objectives and the environment – design rationale, requirements, government stipulations, building regulations, contractual obligations of client and contractor, stakeholder capabilities and so on.  It is not enough to be able to read a drawing and know how to execute. But it is important that the framework of the project and the conditions under which the project is executed and above all the goal of the project itself is well understood.

In the above context, the Construction Manager falls short of the overall expectations and relies heavily on the client for success. Why is that? The Construction Manager by definition is restricted to start at the start of construction. The larger picture of the project, the overall framework and understanding of the environment that was instrumental in shaping the project decisions eludes the Construction Manager.

What is needed is a team that is able to understand and translate the goal into reality, one which brings its expertise in influencing decisions and thereby becomes an extended arm of the client. This team then manages the project from conceptualisation to ‘being put to use’. And that is what is currently defined as the Project Management.

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