When you’re managing a construction project, it helps to understand the methods and activities of construction project management. Construction projects are highly structured endeavors with a lot of moving parts and people, and there are a wide variety of types of construction projects. There are also multiple phases to manage in every construction project, from design to planning to scheduling to the build itself.
Construction project management requires technique and tools in order to be successful. In this growing field, it’s important to keep up with your management skills to stay competitive. So, whether you’re already familiar with managing construction projects or are just exploring the field, our quick guide has all the answers you need.
What is Construction Project Management?
In brief, construction project management is the process of managing construction projects. But when you’re talking about managing a construction project in comparison to other types of projects, the distinction is mostly that construction is mission-based. That means that the project’s organization ends with the end of the project build.
While generally project management is defined as managing resources over the life cycle of a project through various tools and methodologies to control scope, cost, time, quality, etc, when working in the construction industry your outlook must be broader. It usually includes a wider variety of constraints to consider specific to design, build and construction projects, and can interact with a variety of different disciplines in the lifetime of a project, from architecture to engineering to public works to city planning.
There are a variety of different types of construction projects, depending on the different construction sectors. There are two sectors in construction: residential and commercial. Depending on the sector, there can be up to four different types of projects:
- Residential home building and renovation
- Heavy industrial construction
- Commercial and institutional construction
- Engineering construction
That means there are a wide variety of types of construction projects that require construction management in order to be successful. Construction management might be required for a simple home to a large bridge, from engineering a dam build to an airport seismic retrofit project. Construction project managers, then, manage the beginning and end of a project build, often managing on-site to ensure the safe, successful construction.
Construction project management requires a broad variety of skills and the ability to interface with a diverse range of agencies and people in order to lead the project from concept to build. It’s important that construction project managers follow the principles of project management during every phase of the project.
Conceiving and Initiating the Project
You can’t start a project unless you know you’ll be able to finish it. First comes the due diligence to determine if the project is even feasible. How do you figure this out? You want to go through a feasibility study or what is often called a business case, in which you look at the goals, cost and timeline to see if you have resources to reach a successful project end within those constraints. You also want to define the reasoning behind the project and make sure its sound. If so, then you create your project charter to help initiate the project. Don’t even at this stage, you’ll be identifying potential issues and risks.
Define and Plan the Project
You have approval, now how are you going to achieve success? Outline the tasks within the timeline, noting project milestones, and the resources needed to do those tasks within the budget allotted. Be transparent in your plan, so everyone is on the same page and understands what needs to be done over the life cycle of the project. That includes detailing the cost, scope, duration, quality and communications used in the project. This is also when you’ll be able to conceptualize the best team for the project and begin the process of assembling them.
Launch the Project
Now you’re executing the project, taking the plan and implementing it, along with all the changes and issues that can arise during such a process. Whatever deliverables you promised must come through in the timeframe you noted. Now you must deal with stakeholders and customers and teams. The latter have tasks must be completed, which means workload management and resource allocation. You’ll be setting up meetings and reporting frequently throughout this stage. This is where your project management tool will really be tested, but more on that later.
Track Project Performance
You can’t know the progress of your project if you don’t have a way to monitor it. You’ll be doing this during the previous stage of the project, but it’s important enough to demand its own separate stage in your management. You’ll want to have a way to note the progress, which is why you need to set up key performance indicators for cost, time and quality and see how they measure up in real-time as compared to what you had planned for. If you can stay on top of these figures, it’s less likely you’ll manage a failing project. Therefore, stay flexible and communicative throughout so you can adapt quickly to change when it occurs, and it always occurs.
The 4 Stages of Construction Project Management
When you’re managing a construction job, like any project, there are certain objectives you should consider. You reach them in stages. Just like in any project, you accomplish it by breaking it down. The following are four steps you can take to organize a successful construction project management project.
There are four parts to designing a construction project. It’s the responsibility of the project manager to make sure your design meets with building codes and other regulations.
The first step is the concept. What are the needs, goals and objects of the project? You’ll be making decisions based on the size of the project, the site allocated for the build and the actual design of what your building. This is comprised of a list for each room or space under consideration, including all critical data.
Next comes the schematic design, which is a sketch that identifies all the various parts, materials, sizes, colors, textures, etc. It includes the floorplan, elevations, etc., even a site plan.
Now you’re going to work on developing that design, which means first research. What are the materials to use? What equipment will be needed? How much are the materials? You’ll be refining the original drawings from the previous stage now to reflect these decisions. Knowing local building codes and adhering to them will be important at this stage.
Finally, you want to get the contract documents together, which are the final drawing and construction specs. These will be used by outside contractors to bid on the job.
Once the bids are accepted, but before ground is broken, you’ll have these four steps to work on. The first being the assignment of a project manager, if it hasn’t already been determined. Sometimes a project manager is on board early and participates in the first stages of a project, while other times they aren’t hired until the design is complete.
Next you need to determine who the contract administrator will be. This is the person who help the project manager. A superintendent is needed now, as well, who keeps everything on schedule in terms of the materials, deliveries and equipment. They’re also on site to deal with construction activities. Finally, you want to have a field engineer, which is more an entry-level position to deal with paperwork.
Besides these personnel appointments, there’s also the need to investigate the site to see if anything needed. The site must be ready for the construction, which might mean dealing with environmental issues, such as the suitability of the soil for construction.
You have people and you’ve planned for the construction and materials necessary to complete it. Now you must purchase those materials and equipment. This might be the responsibility of the general contractor or subcontractors, depending on the organization of the business doing the construction.
This is the stage you’ll be working with purchase orders, which are used as an agreement between the buyer and the seller.
Finally, you’re ready for the build. But first you have a preconstruction meeting to deal with work hours, the storage of materials, quality control and site access. Then get everyone on site and set up.
You’ll need to create a schedule of payment and a process to deliver them on whatever schedule you determine is necessary. This information needs to be transparent, not only to meet financial obligations, but to maintain a happy and productive workforce and environment.
The last part of the project is after the construction is complete and the occupants move into or take ownership of the site. You must make sure all their requirements have been met, and usually provide a warranty period to make that arrangement official and binding.
How to Choose Construction Project Management Software
Just as you need the right tools to build a structure, you need the right tools to manage that construction. Project management software provides construction project scheduling, construction project planning, construction vendor management, cost management in construction projects and other features that allow you to work more efficiently and productively.
When you work with an interactive online software construction in project management because that much easier. You create a platform on which teams can collaborate and assigning them tasks and tracking progress becomes that simpler. You need a construction management solution that has the following features:
- Gantt charts
- Team scheduling
- Resource allocation & management
- Task lists
- Online file storage
- Email alerts
- Mobile app
One thing you’ll want to have is an online Gantt chart, which provides a visual timeline for your construction project. It also makes editing construction project schedules super easy. You simply drag and drop a task bar to change the task’s deadline, and you can also see the actual progress in real time as the task bar is shaded each time the status is updated. Also look for a Gantt chart with task dependencies, so you can connect dependent tasks like steel delivery with the build phase automatically. That way, everyone knows the status of the different phases and aspects of the project.
Team scheduling and resource management are other essential features you’ll want, to help you chart the availability, skill set, cost and allocation of your workforce and your construction materials in real-time. You can also monitor their workload and create calendars to help you manage team members’ hours, knowing when they’re going to be out, so you can plan. It also helps with tracking other resources and their costs, such as construction equipment rentals.
Another way to manage your team’s hours is through timesheets. No matter where your team is located, either onsite or in the office, they can update their timesheets fast. They submit in seconds, and managers can easily review and approve all with a keystroke. And you can notify them that timesheets are due with automated emails.
Not only your team, but the many vendors you employ on a construction project can be managed anywhere and at any time, with cloud-based construction project management software. They can send updates while in the field and you can monitor their progress, track costs and performance.
When your construction software is cloud-based you should also get unlimited file storage for all your documents, and there are even more documents in a construction project than the already paper-heavy regular project. You can then attach those files as needed to any communication or even task, and track updates to the documents.
You need a tool that can do the basic planning, monitoring and reporting that you expect from a PM tool, but has the power to deal with the scale and other demands put on it by a construction project. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that can scale with the largest of projects, giving you the control you must have to track the progress of all the parts to a project’s successful completion. See what it can do for your construction project by trying it free for 30 days with this trial.