Challenges faced by Project Managers in the construction industry

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Construction worker carrying planks and wiping his forehead on construction site

Specialised skills of project managers are extremely valuable when it comes to managing and controlling the variables that will influence the timeous and cost effective delivery of the project.

According to one of the specialized project management specialists at Vertias, today’s economy presents project managers with the ideal opportunity to tailor make their offerings and ensure that they provide a well packaged, client-centric service.

“With financial institutions becoming increasingly risk averse, making mistakes is simply not financially viable, which is why it makes sense to bring in a project manager from the outset to ensure everything is done correctly, the first time,” he believes.

In a tough economy, there is always the temptation to cut certain roles and functions in order to better meet the client’s budget. Franck warns that the temptation to exclude the project manager can have dire consequences.

“The more complex the demands of the project and the tighter the profit margins, the more you will need someone at the helm to ensure these stringent demands are being met,” he points out.

It is to the benefit of clients that the project management industry has become more formalised in recent years.

Traditionally, it would have been the architect who took on the role of project manager as part of his scope of work.

However, as projects became more complex, a greater need for project managers with formal training became apparent. To this end, as a means of managing and regulating the industry, formal governing bodies such as the International Project Managers Association (IPMA), Project

Managers Institute (PMI) and Project Management South Africa have come into existence. In addition, all professional project managers are required to belong to the legislative body, the South African Council for Project and Construction Management Professionals (SACPMP). “These bodies have been established to set a standard for the industry at a national and global level,” Franck comments.

He is confident that the governing and legislative bodies, as well as the various tertiary qualifications available, will provide the industry with better qualified professionals.
The state of the economy has prompted an increased demand for project managers across the board.

Complicated projects with low profit margins require greater restriction control and delivery within specific parameters – and who better to deliver on these requirements than a project manager?

Franck adds that despite the increased demand for their services, projects managers are faced with a number of challenges in the market.

“Tough competition in the market has caused certain professionals to offer discounts on their standard fees and use innovative methods to offer services to clients. As a result, we’re seeing a significant number of firms merging and pooling their resources, resulting in a contracted industry- there are less firms out there and consequently less jobs.

This trend has also caused a reduction in the quality of services offered by certain players. By offering clients reduced fees in order to compete in this market, they are forced to skip essential steps in the process to save time and consequently money – which is ultimately to the detriment of the client,” says Franck, adding that fortunately the industry regulates itself and this type of firm rarely survives.

Ultimately, Franck explains, the project manager needs to be ahead of every other member of the team, anticipating problems before they occur and finding viable solutions. “Quality control is another important aspect – a project manager will ensure all systems are in place: from the right contractors on the job to effectively communicating to the team so that every member understands the client’s expectations and delivers a quality end product.

Moreover, the project manager is able to improve performance, manage risk and work innovatively, all the while earning greater returns for their clients,” he continues.
For Franck, a project manager must live and breathe the project, thinking through every possible scenario, understanding the deliverables, anticipating what variables will affect them and having procedures in place to mitigate challenges.

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