A construction project is an undertaking that is multi-phased, time-consuming, and challenging. Since a project may differ in scale and scope, construction project managers have distinct roles and responsibilities to fulfill, where coordination of several moving parts is key.
To ensure smooth progression — and that every contractor and on-site crew remains on schedule — construction project managers are turning to project management tools to simplify collaboration and address issues head-on.
A construction project manager could oversee more than 100 different tasks at a time.
Source: CMAA (Construction Management Association of America)
In this post, we’ll look at the major ins and outs of construction project management, including how the right software can help you succeed in future projects. Let’s dive in.
What is Construction Project Management?
Construction project management entails the direction, regulation, and supervision of a project from conception to completion. It is a broad discipline that requires close interaction with architects, engineers, city planners, contractors, and other key stakeholders.
Construction project management helps streamline the entire process, from planning and procurement to costing and scheduling. The goal is to deliver a project that meets the client’s demands – whether it’s a commercial, industrial, or residential structure.
Avoiding costly mistakes is a top priority considering the magnitude of a construction project. This is where the role of a construction project manager becomes crucial as their goal is to ensure the entire process runs according to plan.
Construction project managers are responsible for the success of a project, serving as a liaison between the on-site construction crew and the client.
Construction project managers organize and direct each stage of the project lifecycle from the “pre-design” phase to the very end, often referred to as the closeout.
The entire lifecycle entails a considerable amount of documentation, collaboration, and tight timelines. As a result, construction project managers must continually address pressing concerns around scheduling, cost control, quality, and procurement.
Ensuring day-to-day work is completed on time is perhaps the most challenging task because of the coordinated efforts that need to happen between many stakeholders. However, a construction project manager can efficiently manage this process by centralizing information and streamlining communication.
5 Stages of managing a construction project
An effective construction project management strategy starts with a detailed plan. The plan would typically involve identifying the equipment in use, how much labor is required, coordinating teams, and procuring of necessary building materials.
Due to the complexity, there are many ways a construction project can get off track. However, a well-crafted plan can go a long way toward preventing and resolving problems before they occur. To understand this process, let’s look at the five stages of managing a construction project and the role a project manager plays in these phases.
- Initiation stage: Let’s assume you are the project manager in charge of constructing a 500-bed hospital. The initiation stage entails all the steps you must take before a project is approved and any construction begins.
This stage includes defining the goals, objectives, and needs of the project. A feasibility study or business case is usually developed at this point to help plan the outline of the construction project, determined by critical factors such as:
- The size and scope of the project
- Location and accessibility
- The architectural design of the structure
- Industry regulations and risk assessments
Once these decisions are final, a project initiation document (PID) is put together. At this point, a sketch detailing the space is drawn up to identify the materials and equipment needed for the project. Lastly, the final drawings and specifications are created, used by those placing bids to work on the project.
To develop the right design, you need to communicate with the client, architect, suppliers, and engineers. Deciding on the best way forward is impossible without a robust platform to visualize the design changes and provide instant feedback on how those changes might affect other areas of the construction. When data is instantly updated, the team stays on the same page and can have an accurate picture of the finalized project.
- Pre-construction stage: Once the overall vision for your construction project is established – in this case, the construction of a 500-bed hospital - you need to assemble your team, including field engineers, contract administrators, and health and safety managers.
At this point, before you ‘break ground,’ the project team will prepare the site, dealing with issues such as environmental matters and soil testing. When the inspection is complete, the city authorities evaluate all plans and findings.
Once the budget, design, and timeline are decided, you will start planning the labor and resources needed for the project. Although many use project management tools to list down tasks and track progress, specialized construction project management tools provide a more visual approach that reduces data errors.
- Procurement stage: During this phase, you must ensure that all materials, tools, and services needed to start the construction process are bought or rented ahead of time, so the project can begin as scheduled.
Purchasing too much or too little will cause a less-than-ideal cost-benefit ratio for your organization. You can decrease your margin of error with a tool like SpaceRunner, which allows you to visually plan and calculate the exact purchase requirements of your equipment, printers, computers, or more. This step ensures you buy the right quantities to stay on track of your budget.
- The Construction Stage: This is the project execution phase, where all your planning pays off. The contractors and subcontractors can now move onto the site to start the actual construction journey.
However, even the most detailed plan cannot predict every challenge. Regular monitoring and evaluation are essential for staying on course during this phase. As the central point of communication for the project, you must work alongside the architect, engineers, and other project managers to perform quality control inspections, review technical submittals, and manage Requests for Information (RFIs). The goal is to ensure that the contractor completes the project as planned.
- The Post Construction stage: This is the last step in a construction project’s life cycle. The project manager and engineer go on a physical tour of the site and list everything still pending. After producing a list of unfinished work, the project manager teams up with the contractor to resolve the issues.
As the construction project manager, it is your responsibility to ensure that all project resources, such as equipment rentals, are returned to their rightful owners and that the worksite is safe to enter. All information about the project must be submitted to the owner. Manuals, as-built drawings, bookkeeping, and insurance are examples of closeout documentation. As a practice, it’s best to conduct a post-project assessment to better understand the successes and challenges for future improvements.
Challenges faced by Construction Project Managers
In an industry where a project has several stakeholders, a construction project manager must be prepared to face a spectrum of challenges, from budget limitations to scheduling issues.
These challenges may arise directly from construction operations or indirectly from peripheral activities such as government regulations. Sometimes, the challenges are escalated by areas that a construction project manager is all-too-familiar with, including:
- Lack of Structure: It becomes difficult to get things done efficiently without deciding on a common goal. Running over budget or falling behind schedule are a few examples that might occur if the team doesn’t have a clear goal on what they need to achieve. Without these targets, the challenge becomes twofold, as holding people accountable for their part in the project becomes unclear.
- Poor Communication and Collaboration: Communication is critical in the case of a construction project, where work is delegated amongst multiple parties.
Important tasks can slip through the cracks with no clear communication or transparency between parties, resulting in the team being unaware of an issue until it’s too late to rectify it. For example, contract documents, including drawings, specifications, and floor plans, establish the basis for all project data and construction communication. Any changes must be communicated quickly; delays in the flow of information can bring the entire project to a halt or result in ordering incorrect equipment, mismanaging workers or rework.
The success of a construction project primarily depends on the effective and extensive exchange of information among its stakeholders. Over the last few years, technology has had a tremendous impact on improving communication and promoting greater collaboration, from Building Information Modeling (BIM) to SaaS-based construction project management software.
Forward-thinking construction project managers are turning to platforms like SpaceRunner to centralize collaboration and avoid the pitfalls of conventional communication channels. From speeding up reviews to allowing project partners to mark up, annotate and collaborate on the same floor plans in real-time, this timely feedback from project stakeholders has proved crucial for avoiding costly changes during construction.
- Slow technology adoption: Technologies that solve construction-related problems are being developed at a breakneck pace. Today, BIM for planning and drones for monitoring are deployed and used at sites worldwide.
As these technologies change and shape the construction landscape, many construction companies are taking steps to digitize and connect the various aspects of their businesses. Yet, adoption is happening at a slow rate.
Outdated tools are no longer adequate for the job; manual or paper-based activities do not report changes in real-time. As these processes become more complex and lengthier over time, project managers will struggle to make sense of the data to make meaningful decisions.
Traditional construction companies no longer have a choice. To stay competitive, the adoption of new construction project management technologies is inevitable. Already, early adopters are experiencing a significant edge over more conservative companies.
- Siloed data and lack of real-time data for change management: Gathering and sharing vital information with the right people is crucial but has little value if the data is outdated. By nature, construction projects are dynamic works-in-progress. Real-time data is needed to stay on top of the latest changes or address challenges before they occur.
Likewise, decentralized data results in projects rarely going according to plan, affecting timelines and hampering collaboration. New technologies can help break down data silos by bridging the gap between project teams in one centralized hub. SaaS software like SpaceRunner provides a centralized visual platform, allowing project members to quickly access, upload and review the latest design documents. Learn more here.
Every construction project manager handles things differently, but it’s critical to keep track of those processes as efficiently as possible—especially when managing multiple teams. Based on the challenges listed above, without a reliable solution to coordinate different projects and teams, construction project managers are forced to rely on spreadsheets, emails, phone calls, and other manual tools, leading to inefficiencies.
Considerations when choosing construction project management software
SaaS software has revolutionized the construction project management industry. Owing to this booming technology, construction project managers now have a range of software to choose from. But since the field covers many building blocks, you need to use the right software to support efficiency and keep teams better connected.
In an industry with a million moving pieces at any given moment, construction project management software depends on adaptability just as much as capability. Based on our 10+ years of experience in the industry, here are some of the key areas we’ve identified on what you need to look for in construction project management software:
- Configurable: Due to the changing scope of each construction project, a “standard” template of functionalities can be inadequate. At its very core, construction project management software should be highly configurable. This way, companies across different industries can rely on their unique processes to improve productivity.
- Real-Time Communication and Collaboration: One of the most essential functions of any construction project manager is making sure everyone is communicating and collaborating effectively. With a centralized system in place, every team member has access to a single point of collaboration—ensuring real-time feedback and review are considered between clients, contractors, architects, sub-contractors, and on-site crew members.
- Digitized Data Management and Interactive Floor Plans: The construction industry was and still is document-heavy, with sheets of drawings that need to be referenced for different areas of construction. A single platform to collaborate on floor plans improves productivity across your project teams and other stakeholders. The right construction project management software will also deliver capabilities such as version tracking to keep track of any changes made.
Leverage SpaceRunner for your next construction project
SpaceRunner allows you to go paperless with a single source of truth. The web-based platform combines construction drawings with layers of data for a comprehensive view of your project.
By centralizing all data, the powerful tool connects your team with critical project information so you can make informed decisions faster. A few of our customers are using SpaceRunner to visually assess floor plans and populate them with data to plan equipment, furniture, fixtures, electrical outlets, and more.
Here’s a quick overview of what’s on SpaceRunner once you get started:
- Represent your data on floor plans with smart icons. Each icon can represent anything you want, including your IT equipment, power outlets, data ports, or more. You can add limitless information to each icon, such as model, serial number, or asset tag. Smart icons can also be used as a documentation tool to store data such as warranty documents, equipment specifications, and even images for greater transparency.
- Leverage a suite of industry-standard markup tools for easier collaboration. You can easily mark up and collaborate on the same documents in real-time and review the latest plans or specifications.
- Use a single platform for the duration of a construction project. Throughout the design, build, and go-live phases, SpaceRunner can be used as a spot and dot tool to improve collaboration and transparency between the internal team - architects, engineers, and construction teams - and the external team, which includes the client, project managers, and subcontractors. The platform can also create accurate equipment counts, manage deployment and keep track of equipment issues.
For a closer look at how SpaceRunner can digitize the collaboration and planning process in construction projects, schedule a demo here.