What Is Construction Project Management?
Construction project management is a specialized professional service that facilitates the planning, design, coordination, and control of a construction project from beginning to end. Not surprisingly, construction projects are complex, involving many stakeholders, steps, and logistical details that could go awry without a detailed action plan.
All project management balances the “triple constraint” elements of time, cost, and scope. However, construction project management also has unique industry-specific factors that must be considered.
How Does Construction Project Management Work?
The management of every project involves five phases: initiation, planning, execution, performance & monitoring, and closure. However, research by Ricardo Antunes and Vicente Gonzalez of New Zealand’s University of Auckland also suggests four phases unique to construction project management: feasibility, design, construction, and operation.
There are clear areas of overlap between these two methodologies. Let’s examine the initial stages of initiation and feasibility to understand what must happen first.
Initiation & Feasibility
Before a project begins, construction management stakeholders often conduct cost estimating feasibility testing to understand how other projects of a similar budget, timeframe, and scope have succeeded. Stakeholders must approve the project; identify a solution, sponsor, and office; decide on a timeline; assess the benefits and costs; and project minimum expenses.
Once all parties agree, the project manager writes a project initiation document (PID) or project charter. This document includes the business case and the project requirements.
Planning & Design
The design phase of a construction project first requires deciding upon plan and project specifications. The structure must then be designed. After the project is approved, a specific plan and budget are implemented.
The project team typically develops a project management plan to lay out the specifics, setting baselines for scope, cost, and schedule. During this phase, the owner defines several aspects of the construction project: why the building is needed, the success and goal metrics, how the goals and expectations affect the design, and scopes for timeline and budget.
The design phase also includes bidding, leading to the next stage: preconstruction.
Preconstruction planning includes submitting early plans for building permits and general contractor bids. Specifications like construction project management contracts and drawings are often included.
During this stage, construction managers hire construction teams – including a project team, project manager, construction administrator, superintendent, and field engineer – and implement best risk management practices to prevent any issues before construction begins. Possible problems may include environmental threats, historical possession, or adverse soil conditions that could interfere with completing a construction project.
Once the construction of the structure is ready, the execution phase begins in earnest.
Construction: Performance & Monitoring
Part of the reason construction performance is complicated is because there are so many moving parts involved in a successful construction project. For example, there are specialists like electrical engineers trained in solar power, plumbers, concrete layers, and construction workers.
All elements must be carefully planned and executed correctly, ensuring each specialist has the time, space, and resources to perform their job well. Therefore, performance must be monitored via contract management software to ensure that each group involved has everything they need, and that work is being performed according to schedule and budget. There are typically maximum expense budgets set for each task, as well—hence the importance of project controls.
Here are specific tasks construction management might monitor:
- Quality control inspections
- Site investigations
- Monitoring general contractor safety programs
- Monitoring insurance
- Answering request for information (RFI) notices
- Reviewing & approving technical submittals
- Coordinating permits
- Managing the budget(s)
- Scheduling payments for completed work
- Ensuring the project is delivered as designed
The tasks mentioned above keep the project going while meeting stakeholders’ expectations.
Operation & Closure
This final stage of a construction project is self-explanatory: teams complete or ‘close’ a project upon delivering the finished project to the customer. During this phase, team members communicate completion to stakeholders and release resources to other projects.
A vital part of closure for construction projects is understanding how a building will operate—often involving construction managers walking the owner-operators through the site, explaining how facilities can best be utilized, and answering any questions that might be had.
This final construction management step also makes time for evaluation and documentation of the project, using any mistakes or successes as the basis for future project protocol and best practices.
The Benefits of Cloud-Based Construction Project Management
LoadSpring has documented the benefits of cloud-based project management tools before, noting the following:
- Reduced implementation time
- No duplicate data entry across systems
- Enhanced communication & productivity
- Increased security access
- Lowered expenses
- Controlled software upgrades
- Improved efficiency & time-savings
However, besides general cloud project management advantages, construction projects involve specific elements not typically as prominent in office-based tasks. For example, specific elements like the need to migrate estimating software applications to the cloud or to update software licenses can impose significant demands on internal IT departments.
In a recent Construction Executive article, Michael Wright addresses some field management-related benefits of cloud-based technology specific to the construction industry:
- Progress Reporting:
- Unlike manual process reporting, cloud-based reporting lets those in the field and those in the office communicate in near-real-time, allowing for more transparency when documenting inclement weather or progress on project milestones.
- RFIs & Submittals:
- Request-for-information notices are essential to the construction process, and cloud-based RFIs improve collaboration and document tracking. RFI submittals in the cloud also speed up the design and preconstruction phases, providing opportunities for more transparent collaboration.
- Employee Time & Expenses
- Leaning on a manual timesheet and credit expense report can cause problems for construction companies’ accurate, readily available record keeping. Mobile cloud technology allows for more precise expense coding and time reporting, enabling easier mobile receipt capture and uploading of financial documentation.
- Plans & Specifications
- Cloud-based storage of plans and specifications is more accessible than manually stored documents. All parties and stakeholders have near-instantaneous access, allowing for better communication, transparency, and document control.
Upgrade to a Cloud-Based Construction Project Management System
Construction management in the cloud has become an enabler for delivering other innovative and emerging technologies. The push toward digital transformation has only increased as the industry navigates the profound changes to business operations worldwide due to the pandemic and ongoing economic uncertainty.
However, if the construction industry embraces cloud-based project management systems, it will be better primed for improved data analytics and business intelligence technologies.
There are many cloud hosting services available to the construction industry. However, LoadSpring is the only platform designed by experts who specialize in industry-specific project management tools and processes. LoadSpring boosts efficiency, productivity, accessibility, security, and convenience—delivering financial gains to construction firms of any size.
LoadSpring’s cloud-based project platform can provide numerous benefits for companies working in the construction and AEC space to work smarter and become more successful. LoadSpring enables intelligent project controls housed in the cloud.
If you’re looking for innovative construction project management, contact us to build your dream cloud today.