The term construction project management can be used to describe a vast number of tasks, roles and responsibilities. But one thing is always sure. In-depth technical insight, tools, software, techniques, and knowledge are required to deliver today’s complex and quality building projects. Managing complex data in intersecting tasks and teams include confirming a project’s justification, developing project schedules and goals, maintaining commitments for a project, holding people accountable, and avoiding common project pitfalls.
Additionally, the basics and essentials of budgeting, finance, organisation, scheduling, conflicts, and legal issues are also covered by the project manager. In order to execute said complexities in the ever-changing construction work environment, a project manager needs a set of skills and abilities to manage multiple projects and teams.
Construction Management 101
Technically, the Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as “the art of directing and coordinating human and material resources throughout the life of a project by using modern management techniques to achieve predetermined objectives of scope, cost, time, quality, and participating objectives.” For the definition of construction project management, it’s basically PMI’s definition in the construction context.
It encompasses all the planning, coordination, processes and controls over the myriad of tasks involved in a construction project. And it can be any type of construction project — residential, commercial, institutional, industrial, civil, agricultural, or environmental.
Managing a construction project is a complicated role dealing with complex tasks that get modified from project to project. A construction project manager has to be skilled in communication and knowledgeable in building processes and problem-solving.
Construction project management is not one thing — a project manager in construction has to be knowledgeable in finance, mediation, law, and other disciplines.
Construction management starts with a project owner sharing project information to contractors and subcontractors in order to solicit bids. Contractors and subcontractors give project owners their cost estimates for the project to be completed. This may be open (inviting all contractors) or closed (inviting only a select number of contractors).
Once the project owner receives all the bids, a contractor is then selected based on the lowest bid, best qualifications, or of best value to the company. After that, payment contracts can then be agreed upon and could be lump sum (the most common contract), cost-plus-fee, guaranteed maximum price, or unit price.
The bidding process remains the same regardless of the type of a construction project. The business models, though, are of two forms — it’s either design, bid, build where the project owner chooses a contractor after the design phase or design-build where both design and construction phases are done by one contractor.
The construction phase begins once the bidding process has been completed. There are differences in the phases of a construction project when compared to traditional project management, however, the same principles are followed. The Project Management Institute has developed five phases of managing a project that all construction project managers should be aware of.
At the start of any project, a business case must be created and evaluated to ascertain the feasibility of the project. Stakeholders then perform feasibility testing accordingly. Once feasibility is determined and all stakeholders and parties agree to advance the project, a project charter or project initiation document (PID) is then created, which includes the business case and the business needs.
Following initiation, the project team creates a roadmap — the project management plan (PMP), a formal document that outlines the project’s execution and control. The PMP also archives baselines for scope, cost, and schedule. Aside from the PMP, the planning phase also includes the creation of the following documents:
- Scope statement and documentation, which establishes the business need, benefits, objectives, deliverables, and key milestones.
- Work breakdown structure, which visually represents the scope breakdown into manageable chunks.
- Communication plan, which defines communication roles, tools and methods in achieving communication goals and objectives. As there are different teams with different communication styles involved, the communication plan outlines a basic framework to put everyone on the same and avoid disagreements or conflicts.
- Risk management plan, which identifies possible risks like nonviable time and cost estimates, budget cuts, regulation changes, etc.
All work begins in this phase. After the kickoff, the project team assigns tasks and activities to befit stakeholders — allocate resources, execute plans, structure tracking systems, update the project schedule, and refine the project plan.
4. Performance and monitoring
As the execution phase starts, so does the monitoring phase. As the project advances, building progress and performance are measured to see to it that everything is going according to the project management plan.
The last phase is project completion. A post-mortem meeting is usually carried out to assess what went well and what didn’t. The team then generates a punch list of unfinished tasks, calculates the final budget, and creates a final project report.
The construction project management checklist
For beginners in construction project management, here is a basic checklist for most reasonable size construction projects:
- Does the brief cover the purpose of the project, the scope of work, and does it identify any relevant documents driving the project (e.g. master plan, education brief)?
- Did all relevant stakeholders provide appropriate input into the development of the brief?
- Did the client and stakeholders sign off on the project brief?
- Are all works needed to complete the project listed with a clear understanding of who undertakes tasks and jobs, including all items to be obtained by the client?
- Are all project requirements (brief, budget, timeframes, project team standards) ready for collection?
- Are constraints and conditions that will impact project delivery identified?
- What project procurement method (e.g. lump sum, cost-plus-fee, guaranteed maximum price, or unit price) was selected?
- Has the selection of architectural, engineering, and other required consultants been managed?
- Are all required disciplines and specialist advisers included in the project team?
- Are all appropriate contracts executed between clients and consultants?
- Are all contract progress payments to consultants being processed?
- Did the client and stakeholders provide requirements and timing of materials and services, and are they built into the project programs?
- Are feasibility study reports, sketch drawings, and working drawings completed, coordinated, checked, and signed off at appropriate times?
- Are tender calls, tender recommendations and contractor engagement processes managed properly?
- Are all contract documents signed?
- Are site inspection requirements from consultants met and are appropriate instructions given to contractors following site meetings and inspections?
- Are variations and contract instructions made on a timely basis?
- Are project completion and hand-over process managed well?
- Are dispute resolutions, contract defaults, and liquidations supervised properly?
- Are cost estimates and project budget reviewed and managed accordingly?
- Have cost issues been flagged early and discussed with all stakeholders?
- Are variations and extension of time expenditure checked?
- Are contract payments to contractors processed on time?
- Are strategies to maintain the project budget when cost pressure arise intact?
- Are client quality standards well articulated and understood by the consultants?
- Are the quality standards required by the consultants and contractors being followed?
- Are all project risks identified and are there preparation plans to address them?
- Has the project team established a project program and are key strategic activities identified?
- Is the project program monitored and updated per required and are timely provisions of materials and services from other parties flagged?
- When delays are evident, are strategies to maintain the project program in place?
- Are there consultative mechanisms (project meetings and reporting processes) all throughout the construction process?
- Have approval mechanisms for various sign off requirements with appropriate authority been established and well managed?
- Are government and statutory approvals checked, archived, and managed properly?
- Are meeting minutes reported to the appropriate stakeholders?
- Are regular progress reports on project issues (costs relative to budget, progress relative to project plan) prepared periodically?
- Did all team members understand their roles and responsibilities and ensure their ongoing commitments?
Find the checklist you need for your project
Construction project management checklists can help contractors, construction managers, architects, engineers, and other project team members make their work processes more efficient and improve workplace quality and safety.
To help you better and maintain your control over your construction projects, we have compiled a comprehensive library of our construction checklist templates that you can use to organise your construction site workflows and inspection and promote a safer and better construction site.
You don’t only save time by using our site diary template or incident report template to monitor daily activities and report events or accidents, you also save lives through thorough and accurate workplace safety inspections.