Construction project management is fraught with challenges and problems by its very nature. Every day, project managers are responsible for anticipating, preventing, and overcoming challenges to ensure that projects are delivered on-time, within budget and to the agreed quality. As challenges are commonplace across all building projects, the success of each project is often defined by the way in which construction project managers respond.
In this article, we explore:
- What construction project management is
- The key challenges
- How it has changed in response to COVID-19
- How to counter inadequate risk management
- How the lack of project structure can be addressed
- What effective communication looks like
- Avoiding unrealistic expectations
- The impact of the skilled labour shortage
- Tackling under-capitalisation
- The impact of the rising cost of land & materials
- The slow adoption of new technology in construction.
What Is Construction Project Management?
Construction project management is the process and activity responsible for directing and coordinating human and material resources throughout the lifecycle of a project. In order to successfully achieve this, the very latest management techniques and processes are deployed to deliver on set objectives in terms of cost, scope, time and quality.
What Are The Key Challenges In Construction Project Management?
While every construction project is unique in terms of its scope, scale and deliverables, many projects share a number of key challenges/problems. In this section we explore the key challenges faced by construction project managers.
Poorly Defined Objectives
Poorly defined objectives are a significant challenge for many project managers. If a project starts with unclear objectives, it can be set to fail from the start. Projects will well-defined objectives are significantly more likely to result in a successful outcome for all project stakeholders, including the end client.
Budgetary pressures are a significant challenge that is becoming ever more critical in a sector that faces significant cost increases. As building project managers strive to remain within set budget constraints, the desired level of quality may not be achieved or an overspend may occur. Projects that go over-budget are incredibly common across the construction sector, which has a negative impact on all the stakeholders.
Time has always been of the essence in construction projects. However, despite this, time management remains a critical challenge and one that causes far reaching implications in multiple areas of a project. A significant number of stakeholders identify time constraints as a primary cause of defective designs, high rates of accidents and loss in revenue. Due to the serious nature of these implications, time management is a focus area for improvement for many projects.
Unrealistic expectations are often the initial cause of a multitude of construction project management challenges, including time and budgetary constraints. Stakeholders may impose unrealistic deadlines and unreasonable requests in the hope that the project team will respond to the challenge and deliver the desired outcomes. However, in most cases they result in lower morale and reduced productivity.
Hazards are omnipresent in construction projects. This makes anticipating, preventing and managing hazards a real challenge for project managers. The construction industry involves significant and costly risks, especially when compared to other industries. Managing hazards plays a critical role in keeping each and every member of the project team safe. Hazards are a serious challenge in construction project management and are set to remain so.
How Has Construction Project Management Changed Due To COVID-19?
Construction project management and the wider construction sector has had to respond to the new environment created by COVID-19. In common with many other sectors, construction and its project managers have responded to COVID-19 with new ways of working and increasing the use of technology.
Firstly, communication has shifted in and outside of projects. Traditional communication methods including face-to-face on-site meetings and stakeholders meetings were replaced by digital communication. Popular methods of digital communication include online meetings, collaboration platforms and remote video tools.
Secondly, issues management required construction project managers to think creatively and seek novel workarounds. A wide range of project issues resulted from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as an unexpected event which allowed for no preparation time. In the short run, many project teams focused on maintaining critical processes and infrastructure while many non-essential projects were put on hold. Project managers responded to the situation using creative problem solving and seeking new workarounds in place of long-established solutions and ways of working.
Thirdly, the necessity of change management and the emerging wave of projects required building project managers to maintain a flexible approach and rework project plans, processes and deadlines to suit the ever-changing situation.
How Can A Project Manager Counter Inadequate Risk Management?
Inadequate risk management is a reoccurring issue across most projects. It is often something that is viewed solely from a legal compliance perspective rather than as an effective way to achieve objectives and deliver a successful project outcome. Skilled construction project managers have an ability to foresee risks based on years of project experience, making them an invaluable member of the project team.
Creating a risk management plan helps to prepare your project and its project team for risks that may arise in the future. In many cases, careful prioritisation of risks in terms of likelihood and expected impact helps to counter inadequate risk management and focus risk related resources to where they will have the greatest impact. By effectively dealing with uncertainties, the project manager can minimise extra costs by saving valuable resources including time, income, assets and people.
How Can A Lack Of Structure Be Addressed In A Project?
Addressing a lack of structure in a project requires strong leadership and project management with both areas working closely together. Adopting proven project management methodologies such as PRINCE 2 or a more contemporary methodology such as AgilePM can introduce much needed structure into a project. Each methodology has a documented way of planning, managing and assigning responsibility for each given stage in a project.
What Does Effective Communication Look Like In A Construction Project?
Effective communication is vital to the successful completion of any construction project. Good communication in a construction project is clear, timely and proactively maintained between all the relevant parties for the issue in hand. The impact of good communication on a project is clear and it is known to have a positive impact on teamwork while also improving project-wide collaboration.
Whereas, poor communication has a notably negative impact on a construction project and results in misunderstandings, delays and issues further down the road. If these are unresolved their impact and severity increase to the detriment of the project as a whole.
How Can Unrealistic Expectations And Bad Forecasting Be Avoided?
Communication is key to avoiding unrealistic expectations and bad forecasting. If clear and robust responses to unrealistic expectations are made and expectations are revised accordingly, it is possible to avoid bad forecasting. Maintaining a detailed programme that is continuously monitored will help to pre-empt such expectations and, in many cases, lessen their impact.
What Impact Is The Skilled Labour Shortage Having On Projects?
The skilled labour shortage is causing a range of safety concerns across the construction sector and for building project managers. Safety concerns can be directly linked to the hiring of less qualified individuals to staff the ever-increasing number of projects. As construction is such a high stakes sector, there is a very real concern that a lack of skills will cause at best poor project outcomes but at worst devastating results with serious implications for everyone involved in a project.
In addition to safety concerns, the labour shortage has also resulted in rising costs for project owners and all the contractors involved in a project. Project owners/end clients are being forced to pay more in order to secure the project team required to complete their project on time. Meanwhile, contractors have found it necessary to increase the pay that they offer to current and prospective employees to retain and attract the best possible talent.
How Can Under-Capitalisation Be Tackled In The Construction Sector?
Under-capitalisation is an ever-present problem in the construction sector. The most effective way to tackle it is by developing a comprehensive and accurate project plan. The project plan will help you to accurately determine your labour, equipment, and capital requirements in advance. This significantly increases the likelihood that your project will be successful.
Project planning is a great way to avoid overestimating your team’s capabilities or underestimating your capital requirements. By accounting for machinery, tools and labour requirements correctly, it is possible to limit periods of downtime and decreased productivity. It is also important to consider when each resource is needed as part of your project plan. Once a project plan is created, the project manager will need to continually monitor and review it to respond to any delays or situations that you face throughout the project.
What Impact Is The Rising Cost Of Land And Materials Having?
The rising cost of land and materials is having a profound impact on many types of projects. Rising material prices are prompting developers to carefully consider whether or not to proceed with new projects that have not already been commenced. This applies to both residential and commercial construction projects.
As material prices continue to increase steadily over an extended time period, additional tariffs are coming into force for manufacturers, which will ultimately affect the construction sector at the point of purchase. This development alone is likely to cause project delays and budget overruns, which impact projects of all sizes across the sector. Furthermore, this also has a very real human impact in the form of potential job losses.
Fortunately, many solutions to rising costs including in materials and labour are available. The objective of such solutions is to prevent the material prices for a project from surging to protect the project budget. Firstly, designs can be modified and optimised to either use fewer materials or make use of materials in a smarter way. By conserving materials and reducing waste, efficiency savings can be delivered that positively impact the ROI of the construction project.
Secondly, advances in technology including in controlled environment manufacturing are starting to revolutionise the construction sector by creating improved processes and ways of working. The combination of new technology and processes helps to mitigate current and future rises in material costs.
Is The Slow Adoption Of New Technology A Challenge In Construction Project Management?
The slow adoption of new technology in the construction sector persists as an issue. Many companies are slow or very reluctant to adopt new technology due to the contract structure employed by most major projects. This traditional contract structure does not incentivise innovation and technological advancement. Instead, it often results in the costs for this being borne by a small number of stakeholders, which can make it unaffordable or unattractive to proceed with.
Construction Project Management Services In Hampshire & London
The proactive and professional construction project managers at JB Associates can help you manage every aspect of your project. At JB Associates, we have a team of experienced project managers that can guide your building/construction project to a successful outcome. Our building project managers are experienced in all areas of the construction industry and are ready to join your project team. By choosing JB Associates, you will be in great company with some of the UK’s most recognised brands. Our client base includes Kier, Balfour Beatty, Interserve, Telefonica, SSE, CBRE, Pick Everard and Ramboll.
Why not contact us for a no-obligation discussion about our construction project management services? Find out how we can help with construction and building project management with our agile and creative approach to projects. Complete our contact form or call us on: 01590 688 928.