Top Tips for Reducing Risks as a Construction Project Manager

In an ideal world, every project that you oversaw would go according to plan. But, any project manager will quickly tell you that’s not the case. Every project brings a whole lot of risk and uncertainty with it — particularly in the construction industry.

That’s why an efficient project delivery system is so important. When construction projects involve owners, designers, and contractors, the project delivery system exists to describe “how these participants are organized to interact, transforming the owner’s project goals and objectives into a finished project,” explains an article for ProjectConnections.

Put simply, the system keeps everybody on track. But, even with one in place, surprises can still crop up. It’s in those circumstances that the project delivery manager has to swoop in and course correct. 

So, let’s dig into the key responsibilities of this role, what typical project risks they’ll need to mitigate, and how they can successfully navigate around those common roadblocks. 

What is the role of a project delivery manager in construction?

The keyword in this job title is “delivery.” People in these positions are highly focused on the completion of projects. They plan, control, and optimize the project delivery process in order to ensure a high-quality result — i.e. a project that meets expectations and is completed on schedule and under budget.

As this job description describes, some core responsibilities of a project delivery manager can include:

  • Creating development standards
  • Hiring skilled team members for a project
  • Completing data analyses to ensure the project is on schedule
  • Developing a lasting relationship with clients

For companies that use a more formal project delivery methodology (for example, Design-Bid-Build or Construction Manager at Risk), the project delivery manager is responsible for overseeing and managing those delivery methods. 

What common risks are associated with project delivery in construction?

Every project has its risks, but they can seem particularly intimidating for construction projects. That’s because safety concerns are always at the forefront of every project manager’s mind. The Bureau of Labor Statistics rates construction as the riskiest industry in terms of fatal work injuries.

Safety is undoubtedly paramount, but there are several other common risks that project delivery managers find themselves saddled with. While they might not be quite as threatening as the wellbeing of workers, they can wreak havoc on construction projects if they aren’t successfully mitigated. 

Risk #1: Labor shortages

It’s a struggle that far too many project managers are familiar with: there aren’t enough hands available to complete the job.

A shortage of people resources is especially common in the construction industry. One survey from the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found that 80% of contractors say they struggle to find qualified workers. And, in April of 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were a whopping 404,000 unfilled construction jobs available. 

Unfortunately, inadequate staffing can quickly send projects into a nosedive. According to Project Management Institute’s 2018 Pulse of the Profession survey, 21% of projects fail due to taxed resources. 

Project managers in the construction industry need to keep a close eye on employees and workloads to ensure that projects can be completed as scheduled. 

How to reduce this risk

Successful staffing starts at the planning stage, and a project management platform will help project managers get clear visibility into team members’ workloads and schedules so they can assign tasks accordingly.

Wrike Resource is great for this. With Task Effort, project managers can plot how much time is required to complete a task (which is helpful for tasks that might span a few days, but only require a few hours of work). They can also use Workload Charts to get a full grasp on team availability.

The result? A project plan that accounts for your construction team’s actual bandwidth — rather than an overly-optimistic plan that’s rooted in your best guess. 

Risk #2: Deadline delays

Labor shortages can lead to a snowball effect of other construction project risks, including missing deadlines. That same AGC survey found that 44% of respondents report that projects have taken longer than anticipated.

Plenty of other data backs this up. McKinsey states that schedule overruns are the norm in the construction industry, with large projects taking 20% longer to finish than scheduled. 

This presents a major hurdle and stress point for project delivery managers, whose main focus is to, well, deliver the completed project as expected. 

How to reduce this risk

This is another area where a project management tool can significantly aid the process, particularly if it includes functionality to create a Gantt chart.

A Gantt chart displays project-related tasks compared to time. It’s an incredibly helpful visual for understanding and tracking the project timeline, as well as grasping its overall flow.

Wrike offers a Gantt chart feature to help you plot out your project’s timeline and monitor progress. Using this tool is far better than using manual methods (like spreadsheets) because updates will happen automatically. If a certain task runs over a deadline or you need to swap out the order of some project steps, your timelines and even task dependencies will shift automatically — without any added effort from you. 

Risk #3: Budget overages

It’s not surprising that when projects run over schedule, they also end up costing more. They require more labor hours and more resources, which means budget overruns are inevitable. 

As the AGC survey reveals, 43% of respondents say that costs of construction projects have been higher than anticipated. McKinsey also found that up to 80% of large construction projects end up over budget. Yikes. 

How to reduce this risk

Unfortunately, there’s no way to eliminate budget overages altogether (hey, things happen). But, project management tools like Wrike offer features that can help prevent budget issues from even cropping up.

For example, being able to define workload expectations, map out resources, and identify potential bottlenecks gives project managers a more realistic grasp on what their construction projects entail so they can allocate the budget accordingly. 

Risk #4: Outdated processes and documentation

With all of the potential project risks in the construction industry, you’d think that they’d be ahead of the curve in terms of using technology to prevent those pitfalls. But, this sector has actually been surprisingly slow to adopt innovations.

“Project planning, for example, remains uncoordinated between the office and the field and is often done on paper,” explains research from McKinsey

Unfortunately, sticking with these outdated and highly manual processes open project delivery managers up to a lot more risks that could have been avoided with technology. 

How to reduce this risk

The good news is that 29% of contractors are now investing in technology to automate processes.

Implementing a project management solution offers numerous benefits to construction project delivery managers, including templatizing their project plan, streamlining repetitive tasks, improving the quality of their timelines, and ensuring more detailed and adequate reporting. 

The key to mitigating construction risks and improving your project delivery system? A project management tool

From safety hazards to budget and schedule overages, construction project delivery managers are charged with planning for (and hopefully avoiding) a number of potential risks.

That task is daunting, but it becomes a lot easier when you have the right technology in your corner. A project management platform will give you increased visibility into workloads, timelines, resources, and budgets, so that you can stay focused on what matters most: the successful delivery of your construction project.

Ready to get started? Sign up for your free trial of Wrike now

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