Construction project management: The key role in the successful realisation of construction projects
Effective construction project management is the key to the successful realisation of construction projects of any size and complexity. In an industry characterised by constant change, tight budgets, technological advances and tight schedules, careful coordination and monitoring of all aspects of a project is crucial. From planning to completion, thoughtful project management is critical to ensure that goals are met – whether in terms of time, budget or quality.
What is construction project management?
Construction project management (CPM) describes the systematic planning, organisation, monitoring and control of all aspects of a construction project from start to finish. It does not necessarily refer to a single project but can also mean that several projects are realised simultaneously. It helps project managers to plan project work, monitor work processes during construction, assess results and bring the project to a successful conclusion. The aim is to ensure the efficient utilisation of resources, time and budget to achieve the defined project objectives. It includes the organisation of employees, contractors, materials, and processes to carry out the construction process smoothly and purposefully.
Special challenges of construction project management
Construction projects are generally classic projects. This is because, by their very nature, they have to follow a fixed sequence of activities. For example, no house can be built if its foundations have not been completed first. In addition, special attention must be paid to the project specifications and safety during construction to ensure successful completion. What makes construction projects very special, however, are the many different people who have to work closely together, sometimes across functions. In addition to the project manager, these include the site manager, clients, engineers, architects, various subcontractors such as tradespeople, urban planners, civil engineers, and many more.
The following challenges are of particular importance:
- Communication: Clear communication is important for every project. In construction project management, however, it is even more difficult to coordinate than in many other projects due to the large number of different stakeholders. Without good communication, however, misunderstandings or problems can arise.
- Deadlines and dependencies: Most construction projects have clear deadlines by which they have to be completed, which is why individual activities also have to be implemented by fixed dates. This is particularly important in construction project management, as many activities are interdependent. A delay on the critical path of a construction project can therefore jeopardise the entire project.
- Scope: Even smaller construction projects are often very extensive and their realisation takes a long time. Large construction projects, however, are realised over several years. This makes the planning of such projects very complex and requires a project manager to think about the next steps weeks or months in advance to be able to provide the necessary materials in good time, for example. What’s more, the scope of the project can change during realisation.
- Risk Factor: The extended realization phase in construction projects entails significant risks that necessitate early consideration in project planning. From potential weather disturbances to price hikes or the withdrawal of crucial service providers, numerous risks abound. Good risk management is therefore essential.
- Project costs: In addition to punctual project completion, project costs are a particularly important factor in determining whether a construction project can be successfully realised. However, due to the size of the projects and the long implementation phase, it can be difficult to keep an eye on costs at all times.
- Authorisations and regulations: For construction projects, it is particularly important to obtain all necessary permits and to adhere closely to (local) building regulations, for example about occupational safety or environmental requirements. Especially when a project is perhaps already delayed, you might be tempted to turn a blind eye to these points. However, this is not advisable, as failures in these areas can result in a construction project being cancelled completely.
- Shortage of resources: It is often cited everywhere: the shortage of skilled labour. In construction projects in particular, however, it can cause problems if skilled workers are unavailable or too few are available, as a project cannot then be realised within the deadline. However, a shortage of important materials or equipment and machinery has equally serious consequences for the progress of a project.
The phases in construction project management
The project phases in construction project management can be divided into five main stages, from initiation to completion.
Construction projects also begin with the initialisation phase, in which it is determined what the requirements for the project are and how these should be met. Particularly in the case of construction projects that are likely to be large in scale, it is advisable to carry out a feasibility study in this phase to find out whether the project is feasible at all.
- Project idea: The idea for the construction project is developed in this phase. This could be based on needs analyses, market research or other influences.
- Project goals: Clearly defined goals are set to measure the success of the project. This includes time frames, budgets, quality standards and more.
- Feasibility study: A detailed analysis is carried out to assess the feasibility of the project in terms of finances, technology, legal regulations and environmental impact.
- Project concept: A clear concept is developed to outline the scope and direction of the project.
Once the first phase has been completed, it is time to take a closer look at project planning, as this can prevent numerous difficulties that may arise during a construction project. The main aim of project planning is to obtain the best possible overview of the deadlines and tasks of a project, the resources required and the costs. This makes it easier to monitor the project later on during realisation and to communicate with all stakeholders. In addition, delays can be quickly recognised or avoided altogether in this way. Such a project plan includes:
- Project definition: Detailed specifications that identify the project scope, requirements and key stakeholders.
- Schedule: A detailed schedule covers all phases of the project, including milestones and the critical path. The project plan is often presented in the form of a Gantt chart, as this allows important deadlines and dependencies to be shown. Detailed task planning can then be implemented using a Kanban board, for example.
- Resource planning: All necessary resources, including labour, materials and budgets, are allocated and planned to the phases of the project or the individual tasks. This determines who has to fulfil a certain task at what time, but also, for example, which materials have to be provided when for a certain task.
- Budget planning: Determining the budget is one of the most important cornerstones of a construction project, as adherence to the budget determines whether a project can be successfully realised in addition to adherence to the schedule and completion of the construction. Precise budget planning helps to keep an eye on project costs more easily during the realisation of the project.
- Communication plan: To ensure that communication works well during the realisation of your project, you can draw up a communication plan during the planning phase. This will define when and how you will keep the numerous stakeholders in your construction project informed about the project.
- Risk management: Construction projects are usually exposed to numerous risks due to long construction phases and their complexity. It is therefore important to identify potential risks as early as the planning phase, assess their impact and develop strategies to minimise or overcome them. It will probably not be possible to avoid every difficulty, but you will at least be prepared for the biggest risks.
Now that the project has been precisely planned, tasks distributed and risks analysed, it is time for the actual construction phase.
- Site management: The actual realisation of the project begins in this phase. The site manager monitors the construction site and coordinates all those involved.
- Quality control: At the same time, it is important to continuously monitor whether the construction work meets the specified standards and quality requirements.
- Communication: One of the most important tasks of the project manager in this phase is to ensure effective communication between all project participants. Only if there are no misunderstandings or communication problems, even very complex construction projects can be realised smoothly.
- Project monitoring: The regular monitoring of project progress and compliance with the schedule, costs and quality are also part of the tasks of a construction project manager. Adjustments are made by the project manager if necessary.
- Change management: Changes to the project scope or requirements may also occur during the realisation of a construction project. In such cases, the project manager is responsible for planning and communicating the changes and thus ensuring that the project remains on track.
4. Commissioning and handover to the customer
As soon as the building has been completed, it can be put into operation and handed over to the customer. This phase is often divided into three steps:
- Internal inspection: To ensure that the construction project fully meets the requirements, an internal inspection is carried out first. Time is invested here to inspect and test the building in detail before it is presented to the customer. If there are still faults, these are collected in a list of defects, which must then be dealt with.
- Inspection with the customer: The finished construction project can now be presented to the customer. The client will also inspect it closely to identify any defects before accepting the construction work.
- Taking possession: Once all defects have been rectified, the finished construction project is handed over to the customer. Depending on the construction project and contract, however, the project is not yet finished, as warranty provisions still apply.
Once all warranty periods have expired, construction project management is complete, as all obligations to the customer have been met. The final step is to finalise the project documentation. To this end, a final project report should be prepared and a project debriefing carried out. This will allow you to optimise the knowledge gained from the completed project for the next construction project.
- Documentation: Creation and compilation of all relevant documents, such as construction plans and final reports.
- Final report: Evaluation of the success of the project, including the fulfillment of objectives and budget targets.
- Project closing ceremony: A project closing ceremony should not be missed as an official end to the project and to recognise the teams involved.
Construction project management plays a crucial role in the successful realisation of construction projects. From initiation to completion, it requires careful planning, effective coordination and continuous monitoring to meet schedules, control budgets and fulfil quality standards. The specific challenges associated with construction projects make structured project management all the more necessary in order to minimise potential risks and ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Comprehensive project management software such as myPARM can provide valuable support in the project management of construction projects. The software simplifies the efficient planning, monitoring, and control of all project aspects and at the same time enables communication with all stakeholders via a centralised location. The integration of functions such as time and resource planning, budget control and risk management also makes it possible to manage large construction projects. At the same time, the multi-project Gantt chart, for example, provides a quick overview if you are managing several projects at the same time.
Particularly relevant for the construction industry, however, is the option of storing sales rate tables and fee schedules in the software. This enables precise and transparent budgeting and invoicing that meets the specific requirements and standards of the construction industry.
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