Project Management guide
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What Is Construction Project Management?

There are many different kinds of projects out there, from rolling out a marketing campaign to releasing a new app to planning the company holiday party. But one kind of project requires a special subset of industry skills and knowledge: construction. According to the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA), construction managers (CMs) oversee the construction of a project—be it a bridge, airport, hospital, school, sports arena or any other structure—from the beginning (called the “pre-design” phase) to the end (dubbed the “closeout”). CMs therefore must possess not only the soft skills crucial to the success of any project manager—think exceptional organizational, communication, leadership and risk management skills—but also a deep knowledge of and experience in the building process.

Generally speaking, some of the tasks that a CM might handle include:

  • Design document review and distribution
  • Coordination of onsite facilities
  • Record keeping
  • Schedule maintenance
  • Quality monitoring

What do construction project managers do?

Simply put, construction project managers are responsible for collaborating with and providing oversight to the stakeholders in the project, including the owner, the architect, the general contractor, trade contractors and subcontractors. According to the CMAA, the CM leads a team of specialists through a series of roughly 120 tasks to ensure “the project progresses smoothly and achieves the owner’s business objectives.”

CMAA breaks down these tasks into the following categories:

  • Project management
  • Cost management
  • Time management
  • Quality management
  • Contract administration
  • Safety management

CMAA then identifies 5 stages within each of the above categories. These stages are:

  • Pre-design
  • Design
  • Procurement
  • Construction
  • Post-construction

Tasks apply to each stage. CMs might:

  • Review design documents
  • Coordinate onsite facilities
  • Create and maintain a punch list for construction tasks
  • Conduct operational tests
  • Monitor and report costs
  • Create and maintain the project schedule
  • Participate in quality control

While CMs often don’t engage in the actual construction steps themselves, they are likely to have backgrounds in civil engineering, contracting, or architecture. CMs might work for themselves or for contractors, subcontractors, or other related organizations. One of the increasingly common working arrangements for CMs is the “construction manager at-risk” model, which involves an agreement on the part of the CM to deliver the project within a guaranteed maximum price (itself based on the construction requirements at the time, plus any reasonably inferred items or tasks).

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