Project Management in the Construction Industry

One of the topics we have been discussing in class is scopes of work. When writing subcontract agreements in the construction industry, writing the various scopes of work for each subcontractor is a critically important task. In general, each subcontract would include what is known as the “boilerplate” agreement, standard contract language that stays the same on every project. Then the scope of work section of the contract agreement is written, specific to the tasks you expect that subcontractor to perform during execution of that individual project. Writing the scope of work effectively tasks a lot of skill and communication, and I’m sure it is the same in many other industries. It is a balance between being too specific and too general. If you write the scope of work too specifically, and you make a mistake or omit an item, you as the general contractor bear the responsibility (and costs associated with it). If you make the scope of work too general, the subcontractor will add cost to his or her price for things you may not want him or her to do, things you may have already purchased from another subcontractor. Creating well-written scopes of work is one of the most important responsibilities of a project manager in the construction industry. Do any of you have experience writing scopes of work in industries other than construction? Do you follow any specific strategies when writing them?

There are numerous tools available to assist a project manager with organizing and managing the numerous tasks required on a large construction project. One important tool that we use is the project plan. Developing a project plan like we discussed in class is not only a good idea but a requirement at my firm. It requires a tremendous amount of work to produce, but it can be an invaluable tool used throughout the life of the project. Some of the items the project manager must determine and then include in our project plans are the project schedule, monthly gross billing projections, general  conditions budgets, project risk analysis, contingency budget, profit analysis, staffing requirements, and many other items. Clearly it takes a lot of effort to create the project plan during the start-up of a project, but it helps organize and present the critical project information in a format that is consistent and comparable throughout the firm. Is creating a similar project plan document used in your firm to manage projects? If so, have you found it useful and worth the effort to create?

While discussing project management in the construction industry, I also wanted to share an exciting new tool that is currently revolutionizing the way commercial construction projects are managed. The tool is called Building Information Modeling, commonly referred to as BIM. The benefits of BIM are limitless and have changed much of the way construction projects are managed. BIM is essentially a computer program that creates a 3D model of the construction documents (blueprints and specifications). Combined with cloud technology, the benefits of BIM modeling are tremendous. Since the tool is not applicable to all industries, I have attached a link to a short video from Devenney Group regarding BIM if you are interested in learning more.

Project plans for the rest of us

There are very few people I have encountered in my career that have seen project planning as a truly joyful exercise.  Some professional consultants live and breathe projects, and therefore the prospect of a well executed project plan may elicit anticipation of success, or a sense of accomplishment in a plan in a well designed plan.  And there are others that can simply crank plans out in their sleep; having done so many throughout the course of their careers that it becomes second nature.  And perhaps a select few project management professionals eagerly anticipate putting together that next glorious plan, the next chance to show off their skills.

But for the rest of us, project planning is often a necessary evil.  So evil in fact, that I have seen many projects within my own corporation fail or miss project targets because the project champion decided to do as little as humanly possible in planning.  These pseudo-plans contain the bare minimum tasks, responsibilities and due dates, without much else.  And this comes out of successful managers and contributors, even star employees.  Because project planning is only done as a perfunctory step, rather than actually managing the plan.

From what I’ve seen, this is most often due to managers not realizing that an in-between project plan is possible.  That it doesn’t have to be either a list of tasks or a monumental MS Project disaster.  That is the reason most often given when the managers I’ve worked with (and myself included) discuss why a better plan was not created.  “The plan will take longer than the project” or “I don’t know how to use MS Project” or “No one follows those things anyway” are all common excuses given.

So instead of pushing my colleagues towards a full blown project plan, I believe there are a few key additions that could take the basic task list to a true project plan:

1. Add links between tasks & precedents-

Many projects have been postponed or delayed only because the sequence of events was not well defined.

2. Include actual effort estimates in the task, not just calendar days to complete-

Many people don’t actually add up the hours needed to complete a task – they just pick a random calendar day

3. Make more detailed tasks-

Broad tasks that people don’t even remember what they mean two weeks later don’t help anyone


These simple additions can go a long way towards taking a task list and making it a reasonable plan.