4 Key Strategies Used by Successful Construction Project Managers
For those of you who are familiar with project management, you know all too well that the role of a PM can consist of several different responsibilities which can vary greatly depending on the industry they are working in.
In terms of construction, we’re talking about an average of 120 responsibilities for an individual project manager! This means that PMs in the construction industry must be very strategic in terms of working in an environment with several moving parts, each with their own unique challenges.
Fortunately, construction project management has become more and more technologically advanced over the past few years, especially with the development of new and innovative tools such as those that utilize brand new technologies and methods like CWA (Construction Workflow Automation).
Although the simple digitization of our workflows has provided tremendous benefits to several different kinds of contractors in the construction industry, the work doesn’t just stop after purchasing a software platform. PMs and other executive team members must also figure out the best way to implement and deploy these tools into their day to day operations, all while balancing their existing workload. All the more reason to take your time in selecting a software to ensure that it is as easy to use as possible and meets your specific needs.
Furthermore, a software platform is only as good as the data that is being fed into it. So in order to navigate this maze of responsibilities effectively, every PM should have a toolkit of tools and strategies at their disposal that allows them to manage their towering tasks in an efficient manner.
In a previous article, I went into detail about some specific project management techniques that PMs can use to help make their jobs easier. Whereas now I'll be focusing more on the key strategies that every PM should be holding at the center of their core values.
Below I’ve listed out four key strategies that are consistently being used by all top performing PMs in the construction industry:
1. Create an Accurate Budget
The budget of your project is arguably the heart of everything as it directly dictates the time and resources allocated to every aspect of your project.
For some small projects, this may seem like a waste of time and resources to track. As a former PM in the electrical contracting industry, I can totally relate.
With the traditional ways of tracking budgets being a combination of various spreadsheets that are manually updated or archaic software that is confusing to use, this aspect of a project is often overlooked for smaller projects. This is a huge mistake!
No matter the size of your project, the importance of an accurate budget is the key to success. This of course starts with the estimate or proposal set forth for the initial bid. Oftentimes, however, PMs are not even the ones who were in charge of estimating the project, so for them to rely on information that may or may not be accurate may seem like it’s pointless.
To some degree this is true, but the only way to refine the machine and complete the feedback loop is to break down the estimate into a budget that makes sense to you and your team. This way you can report back to your estimating team during project closeout and allow them to refine their estimates to ensure they are more accurate in the future.
No matter how high-level the estimate is, at the very least you should be able to determine how many hours are allocated to a project along with the material costs and overhead expenses. This can then be broken down into smaller and smaller chunks.
I recommend doing all of this in a startup meeting which happens well in advance of the project start date, with all team leaders in attendance. This allows you to not only realize if the current number of budgeted hours is sufficient for what the team believes is required, but also grants you the ability to create goals for your team so that they have a target to shoot towards instead of shooting in the dark.
2. Create a Communication Channel
When you think of a typical construction project, it normally involves a variety of different contractors and teams of workers who must work together to build something. Now of course this is an oversimplification, as anyone in the industry knows ‘working together’ means that things are going smoothly, which typically isn’t the case in most projects. But why is that?
Simple, it’s because the communication channel either doesn’t exist or is broken, which means things aren't going as planned and people are not working as a team to get things done. This is good for no one, and can be avoided by using a simple concept called discipline combined with the help of a construction management platform such as OnTraccr.
As mentioned before, one of the easiest ways to create a communication channel is through the use of a digital software platform. By syncing documents, comments, photos, deliveries, schedule items, and all other related events in one platform, any stakeholder can view the latest information in real-time.
This ensures that nothing is missed and everyone has the latest information the second it is made available, leading to less re-work which we all know is so costly.
The key to creating these channels is to make sure every single end user, down to the field worker, has access to the communication channel. This, combined with creating a culture of speaking up, is the recipe for success. A well-built communication channel can potentially help you avoid issues before they become unavoidable icebergs that sink your projects.
3. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
Planning should commence long before the actual start date of a project as there are so many things to consider such as material purchases, price increases, labour allocation, and prefabrication, all of which can greatly impact the schedule of a project. Furthermore, no plan is ever perfect after the first attempt so therefore it’s essential to continuously refine it as more and more information is acquired.
Sometimes it is very hard to easily visualize this information, especially if it’s found in several different spreadsheets. This is where you can utilize project management tools such as kanban boards to help facilitate the status in a clear and concise manner. For more details on the benefits of kanban boards, check out this article!
By using kanban boards you’ll not only be able to plan, but you'll also give all stakeholders a live view on the status of each item in a project. This allows team members to chime in anytime they think things need to be expedited, or if there are any delays.
We all know the more we plan something, the better it will likely turn out. There is no reason that this planning needs to be boring or tedious though! This is where kanban board views come into play as they allow you to visualize the status of anything and share it with anyone you choose in a fun and playful view.
Finally, always remember that a bad plan is always better than no plan, so you really have no excuse to not get something done.
4. Observe, Ask Questions, and Visit the Site
It’s often difficult to visualize the difficulty of an installation from behind the desk at the office. This is why it’s so important to get on your feet and familiarize yourself with your construction project site. From RFIs to change orders, there will be several occasions where you’ll find yourself needing to actually see an issue in-person before you can resolve it.
When you do get to site, it’s critical that you ask lots of questions and have your team members and fellow contractors with you along the way so that you can gain every perspective. Although a lot of the communication can be streamlined, a construction project still requires regular site visits to ensure that the PM is always up to date with current conditions on the ground.
As you can see above, using a construction management software platform can make your life a lot easier, but it isn't the solution for everything. There is no supplement for getting your boots on the ground and engaging with your team to ensure that you have the best understanding of your project.
Continuous planning and creating channels of communication are extremely important as they allow you to engage all stakeholders and mitigate problems before they become major issues.
If you're interested in adding construction workflow automation to your set of project management tools, book your demo here!