Over the last several years, with the economy in decline, the process of designing, permitting and constructing a project has become increasingly more complicated. Unfortunately, while the fees paid to architects, engineers and general contractors have been steadily falling, so has the scope of services they provide for those fees. This has left the client exposed and there is now a gaping hole in the management of this complicated and very risky process. In response, more and more companies are turning to professional construction project managers for assistance with their projects. A professional project manager acts as the client’s representative and manages the entire design and construction team from start to finish, ensuring that the project stays on budget and on schedule. As you can imagine, not all project managers are the same and selecting the right manager for your project is a crucial front-end decision. The following checklist includes a number of critical items a company needs to consider when selecting the right construction project manager.
First, although there are exceptions to this rule, you should be looking to hire a firm and not just an individual to manage your project. The selection process often comes down to a gut level decision about an individual that the client trusts, which is great, but a company needs to ensure that their project manager has a team of professionals to support the project. Many projects can last six to twenty four months or longer. Choosing an individual with limited or no back-up or support staff is very risky. What happens if that individual ends up having medical or personal issues? You may find your company vulnerable or looking for a new construction manager at a critical phase of the project, and you will have lost the continuity of leadership. By selecting a qualified firm, you will have the option to bring along another project manager from that firm with the same policies, procedures, forms and management philosophy as your original project manager. For example, at Hughes Marino CM, we meet regularly as an internal team and debrief regarding client projects, so no project is ever proceeding in isolation.
Second, you need to evaluate the project manager dedicated to the project by that firm. You want to ensure that they have worked on similar types of projects. If you are embarking on the design and construction of a new manufacturing facility, you will want to know that the project manager has experience designing and building that specific type of project. Each project type has its own unique requirements and issues. Choosing, for example, a project manager that has a great deal of retail experience to manage your lab project creates, once again, undue risk, and can set you and the project up for failure. Second, you should expect that you deserve to be assigned a senior project manager as the lead and main point of contact for your project. One of the reasons you are hiring a construction project manager is to benefit from their years of experience. This experience has helped season the project manager and exposed them to all sorts of issues and lessons learned. Some firms will sell you a senior project manager, but then once the project starts, assign a junior project manager as the day to day contact for the project. Without the senior manager’s direct involvement – from the initial stages of scheduling, design and budgeting, and his continued involvement reviewing issues, walking the project and solving problems – you won’t be getting what you need to guarantee the success of your project.
Third, we believe it is key to hire a firm that embodies a team approach. Some project managers seem to think that they add value by pounding on their chest, raising their voice and beating up vendors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your construction project manager should be working to assemble the best team possible for your project and managing them with a firm, but fair approach. This type of working management style will help ensure you get the full cooperation of each team member and get the best value for your money. Team members that are continually berated and ground down to unsustainably low margins will be less likely to perform when needed and will simply be forced to look for ways to cut corners to ensure they make a profit.
In closing, it is crucial to do your research. You will want to select a firm that has experience with similar types of projects that provides a senior level project manager who approaches every project with the intent to build a strong team focused on meeting or exceeding your goals and expectations. Incorporating these key components in your selection process will help ensure that you select the right construction project management firm and manager for your specific project.
© 2011 Hughes Marino, Inc. All rights reserved.
Hughes Marino’s industry leading Construction Management team has unmatched expertise in every type of commercial building project from tenant improvements to ground-up build-to-suits. With decades of experience in California and beyond, our project managers, engineers and LEED APs offer practical insights for the construction management professional.