Building a Solid Foundation

Anyone who’s worked on a large scale project will tell you success can depend on having a strong project plan in place and the right people on the job. We talk to Prendos Project Management Team Leader Mark Helas, about how to get it right up front.

There are many phases to managing a project – from establishing the scope of the work, to developing a project brief, to engaging the right consultants. And that’s before the project has even begun! But Prendos’s Mark Helas believes it’s this initial foundation work that can really set a project up for success.

“In project management, particularly in the property and construction industry, getting the framework right before the project kicks off is crucial. Our clients come to us wanting to build or develop something, and they generally have firm ideas of what the finished product should look like, when they need it by and how much it should cost.”

“As project managers, we work with them to develop a plan that defines exactly what’s required to bring their ideas to life. This means getting answers to some key questions: why has the project come about; who are the stakeholders; how will the project benefit them; what are the potential risks and constraints; and how does the project fit with the long term strategic goals of the client?”

The project plan details the objectives of the project and includes comprehensive goals, roles and responsibilities, main stakeholders and time frames. It serves as a living document – setting an agreed framework while still allowing for changes to project requirements throughout the process.

Once the plan is in place, the next step is to get consultants on board to complete the tasks identified in the plan. As Mark explains, a project manager typically procures these professional services on behalf of the client.

“In property and construction projects, consultants typically include designers, architects, quantity surveyors, planners and engineers. Project managers drive this tender process through to successful consultant engagements – ensuring everyone understands exactly what’s required of them.”

First, the project manager approaches a number of consultants who are deemed suitable. The way they do this can differ depending on the market they’re operating in – for example, government clients must follow a set procurement process depending on the value of the project.

“For high value projects, a one or two stage procurement process is typically undertaken, using open or closed tender. Single consultant ‘shoulder taps’ are common when a client has a previous relationship with a consultant, or when the project requires a bespoke set of skills.”

Each approach has benefits and issues associated with it, and it’s the job of the project manager to recommend which would be most suitable to the nature of the project.

“Evaluating the pool of consultants typically involves setting up a small evaluation panel, usually including a client representative. Agreed evaluation criteria provides a consistent set of measures that each consultant is compared to, such as price, capacity, capability and experience.”

Once the right consultants have been agreed upon and selected, the project manager issues individual contracts for signing. This marks the final step before the project can move to the planning and design phase: where the larger project team will work to deliver the project, and where objectives are made tangible through plans, drawings and cost estimations.

But, as Mark says, it’s the initial stages that can really make a difference to how a project progresses.

“Without the solid foundation provided by a clear, thorough project plan, it would be impossible to move forward at all. Equally, getting the right people on board is crucial. At the end of the day it’s having a great team, all working towards the same agreed goal, that makes a project successful.”

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