GEM Engserv Pvt. Ltd is an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization, certified by TUV India in accreditation with National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB).
We have observed first-hand how easy it is to mix up these two crucial roles and the impact that this can have on a construction project. This insight has come about over the years, having been involved in dual roles – offering engineering and project management services on one hand as well as providing talent acquisition service for similar roles on behalf of our customers.
Speaking generally, the difference between a project manager and a construction manager should be the same as that between a project and construction work.
To get into specifics, the term Project has much wider connotation and can apply to any sector such as construction, IT, Oil & gas and even film making! Construction is but a sub-set of projects. So, a more precise question should be “what the difference between a Construction Project manager and Construction manager?”
A project management process generally includes four phases: initiating, planning, executing, and closing. Some may also include a fifth “monitoring and controlling” phase between the executing and closing stages. Further, a project requires competent resources in multiple disciplines such as design, costing, financing & cash flow, procurement, contracts, scheduling, construction, quality, safety, and plant & equipment etc.
A project manager is someone who manages the project, from inception till completion or commissioning. While all the disciplines listed above require domain specific expertise, the project manager is a sort of General Manager!
The construction manager is responsible for construction and that requires in-depth knowledge of civil / construction engineering. The project manager is responsible for all phases of the project and is required to ensure that the right domain experts are deployed and work together as a team.
To bring more clarity to this topic, we now consider the difference in approach of the CM and PM across the various phases of project management.
• Define project’s construction objectives
• Understand technical requirements, site considerations
• Identify potential team members
• Focus on overall project objectives
• Determine and benchmark project parameters (budget and timeframe)
• Identify project stakeholders such as designers, engineers, contractors
• Create detailed plan including a master schedule
• Define strategy for procuring construction material, equipment, labour
• Provision for quality and safety plans
• Prepare detailed project budget
• Integrate design phase with overall project schedule
• Define strategy for Risk Management
• Negotiate and engage partners
• Manage construction activities
• Ensure continuity of execution
• Enforce compliance
• Handle on-site challenges, constraints and conflicts
• Ensure availability of information for project continuity
• Implement risk management
• Ensure documentation and reporting in line with expected norms
• Monitor and report progress
• Control project cost to remain within budget
• Ensure compliance to quality and safety standards
• Oversee project-wide performance
• Ensure achievement of crucial milestones
• Communicate project status to owners, leadership and other stakeholders
• Complete construction including minor open issues
• Obtain final approvals
• Reconcile material, equipment, supporting documents for payments
• Reconcile final bills
• Ensure closure of all contracts
• Compile full documentation
• Prepare summary and lessons learnt
• Oversee handover and transition to client / owner / operations team
Naturally, the skills, experience and competencies that a company should look for in a Construction Manager are quite different from the ones that should be sought when hiring for a Project Manager role. Corporations often end up hiring Construction Managers and expect them to play the role of a Project Manager, partly due to a lack of understanding of these differences and partly due to commercial constraints. Based on the roles they will play on a project, it is easy to identify the type of profiles that would fit well in each of these roles across the broad categories of competencies.
Of course, as Construction Managers execute one project after another, from the initiating to closing phases, they come across circumstances that challenge them, train them and help them bloom into Project Managers. It is essential for Construction Managers (and other on-site personnel) to not shy away from circumstances that challenge them beyond their current set of skills. It also serves the leadership of any company to implement programs to identify and nurture promising Construction Managers and help provide a platform for them to grow into a Project Manager’s mould. The most successful companies have historically been the ones who have identified such talent, put them through fast-track training programs and nurtured them into highly effective Project Managers.
One of our customers had engaged us to set up an 8-part training course for guiding and mentoring their cadre of potential Project Managers. The program proved highly successful with most out of this batch going on to lead landmark projects. However, as they say, nothing teaches like experience and this is as true on a construction project as anywhere else.