Why managing a construction project is like making a movie

December 11, 2013 / By  

40–50% of all major construction projects overrun on timing and/or costs, according to a survey by the Construction Management Association of America.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, a recent survey concluded that a shocking 92% of construction projects overrun on time or budget.

In any market, construction projects can easily go off track. Appointing a professional construction manager can significantly reduce project risk. As a result, in recent years, the use of professional construction managers has increased significantly across Asia Pacific.

So what is the difference between a project manager and a construction manager? When researching this, it became apparent that a good definition is hard to find.

‘Producing and directing’ real estate projects

While project management is well understood and is usually considered critical to the success of a real estate project, the importance of construction management is often still overlooked and undervalued.

The relationship between a project manager and a construction manager can, to some extent, be compared with the producer-director relationship during the creation of a movie. While the responsibilities of the two roles during filming are very different, both share the goal of successfully completing a movie. Both roles must be performed to reach this goal, even though they could both be carried out by the same person. Similarly, the project manager and the construction manager share the goal of successfully completing a construction project. Both roles are required, and each has a specific area of responsibility.

The graphic below shows the importance of both roles as well as the key distinction: A construction manager, as compared to a project manager, gets into the practical details of construction and site activities and, at the same time, provides expert consultancy throughout the project lifespan.

The Roles of Project Manager and Construction Manager

Local market nuances can put business at risk

As multinationals continue to expand rapidly into emerging regions where they often don’t have sufficient experience, this consultancy angle has been one of the key reasons for the strong uptake of construction management. Understanding local market nuances is one of the critical success factors of any capital works project.

The most obvious example of differing local market conditions is the quality of the available workforce. The skills of trade contractors can vary significantly by country, directly affecting the level of expertise and control required. Local nuances also include the level of transparency and ethics, logistics and infrastructure, cost of trade contractors and materials, legislation such as health, safety and environment (HSE), as well as taxes and authority approvals.

If not properly managed, all of these factors could easily translate into delays, unexpected costs, onsite accidents or poor quality workmanship.

In situations where market knowledge proves insufficient, integrating local, on-the-ground expertise and best practice management—through, for example, the employment of a construction manager—is required.

Unfamiliar local market dynamics is just one of the many hidden risks throughout a project delivery. The soon-to-be-released paper, entitled ‘Who’s Protecting Your Blindside?’, explores why involving a construction manager early on in a project can protect business from project risk. For more information on this subject, and to receive a copy of the upcoming paper, please visit Jones Lang LaSalle’s SlideShare channel.

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