How Do You Know When You Need an Owner’s Project Manager?

Project Management best practices tell us that the Project Manager is an integral part of the project team. The Project Manager should be identified as soon as a project is identified. Initial tasks of the PM are to identify, procure and engage the right team.

So why is it Project Managers are often brought into a project after the architect and CM has been selected?

#1 One possibility is that most companies think they can get the project started and bring the Project Manager in once the scope as been identified or the schedule and budget are approved.

#2 The other is they hadn’t adequately identified their internal and external resource requirements.

Both of these are common pitfalls. Not having a Project Manager involved from the onset of a project can cause a number of issues as you move along the design and construction path. These are a few of the key deliverables your PM should ensure

  • Create a Project Charter – in this effort all stakeholders are engaged and the scope of work, measures for success and key project constraints are identified.
  • Create a Master Schedule and Project Budget. Your project is more than managing construction. Ensuring design milestones and client approvals are accounted for, identifying risk and mitigation strategies, and ensuring the project will meet your business needs is critical.
  • Establish the right team. Making sure the best architects, engineers, and contractors are engaged is crucial – and ensuring their understanding of the scope, schedule and budget is the PM’s job as is often making sure their respective contracts fall in line with these requirements.

So what can a PM do in situation #1? If the PM is brought in once the design is underway and the construction team is in place, the best the PM can do is track progress and changes. At this point, any missing scope items are likely to incur additional cost and/or time delays. Adding in scope during construction, while often needed to account for changes in the client business, will interrupt the flow of construction.

We all sometimes need the PM to course correct the design and construction. It is the role of the PM to identify when the design or construction is going off course. If the PM has the benefit of having been involved from the beginning of the project, this will be an easy thing do to and will be an advantage to the team.

In Situation #2, the PM is then asked to learn all about the project in a short amount of time. Once internal resources are over-extended it becomes a rush to bring in a PM and get them up to speed. In this case, it’s likely key elements of the Project Charter will be missed, and again, changes to cost, budget or quality are impacted.

Some of the benefits of engaging your PM early in the process is to give them the ability to effectively lead the team. This is the soft skill most seasoned project managers have. Being an effective leader, ensuring all team members have the information and resources they need to made recommendations and decisions, and keeping the team moving in a unified direction is a critical skill for a PM.

Setting the tone for how a project is to go happens by the PM at the onset of a project. When this doesn’t happen, you have your contractors and consultants taking up your time and resources. And a team that’s at odds means a project that is disjointed, uncoordinated, and likely to be late and/or over budget.

Managing resources is a difficult challenge. Making the decision to bring on an outside OPM can be a risk for companies that are used to doing it on their own. However, the right PM should be able to bring value Day One.