We talk to Prendos Project Manager Mark Abrey about what makes a good project manager, and the benefits of engaging one in your next property or construction project.
Mark joined the Prendos Central North Island team in July this year as a Project Manager and Building Surveyor. Originally from the small town of Port Elizabeth on South Africa’s southern coast, he completed a degree in Construction Management at Nelson Mandela University – going on to achieve a Masters Cum Laude and become registered as a Professional Construction Project Manager.
While he certainly sees the importance of professional qualifications and knowledge in the project management arena, Mark says there is so much more to being a talented project manager – particularly within the built environment.
“In construction project management it’s so important to have a well-rounded skillset – including onsite experience and the right technical abilities. Project managers sometimes tend to overlook this, which makes it hard to oversee projects in such a hands-on and fast paced industry. My plan when starting my career was to do my time onsite, gain technical knowledge and develop a well-rounded combination of skills which would ultimately make me a better project manager.”
For Mark, this meant joining a small real estate firm after graduation, managing all aspects of the construction processes for middle to high income residential developments and large-scale retirement villages, from both a contractor’s and developer’s perspective.
“My title was project manager, but my role was much more diverse! I was the quantity surveyor, construction manager and site manager. I was responsible for company PR, the website and Facebook pages, health and safety and legislative compliance. I was involved in the acquisition of new projects, as well as conducting feasibility and viability studies to ensure they met the organisation’s objectives. It certainly threw me in at the deep end, but at the same time gave me crucial onsite experience and a solid technical grounding in all aspects of the industry.”
One thing he sees as the mark of a successful project manager – apart from the obvious qualities like sound organisational skills, attention to detail, time and quality management – is high emotional intelligence, or EQ.
“Having an innate understanding of people is really what project management is all about when it comes to managing stakeholders and human resources. In any business environment, ethics and integrity are highly valued, but I believe good interpersonal skills are one of the most important things you can have. Conflict resolution is also key – every project has multiple personalities involved and it is your responsibility to bring all of these together to achieve a common goal.”
As a professional project manager, Mark is passionate about the advancement of the profession and the development of those new to the industry. This sees him dedicating his time to mentoring younger project managers – something he says has traditionally been lacking in the industry.
“Sharing knowledge among industry professionals is essential to the development and advancement of the profession. Unfortunately, some old school construction professionals tended to keep their skills close to their chests. I am lucky enough to have a fantastic mentor – a Senior Professor who is a widely published health and safety researcher. He has influenced my professional and personal development, which is why I feel so strongly about developing others entering the profession.”
Mark not only works with project management graduates, but has maintained an academic relationship with Nelson Mandela University through lecturing, conducting post-graduate research supervision and co-publishing research papers in various areas of the construction industry. This not only allows him to give back to and develop the profession, but helps him stay abreast of the latest industry advancements.
“Maintaining a connection with the academic world is important if you want to keep up with current innovations. The construction industry is continuously growing and developing at a rapid pace with the introduction of Industry 4.0 – it’s important to stay on top of it if you want to implement new strategies and technologies to successfully manage construction projects.”
“South Africa was limited in many ways when it came to the application of new technology, tools and systems, so I’m really looking forward to exploring what’s on offer in New Zealand. I know Prendos has an active drone service, for example, which will help monitor project progress and provide clients a visual view of where things are at.”
So what value can a professional project manager add to a property or construction project? Mark says that if you get the right person on board at the right point, they’ll ultimately make sure your project objectives are met on time, within budget and to a high standard.
“On any construction or property venture, a professional project manager can add value from conception to completion. The best time to seek our services is during the initial project stages – so we can develop a clear project brief and identify project deliverables.”
“From there, we can add value in every area, from identifying and procuring suitably qualified consultants and contractors, to developing formal communication strategies that successfully manage the flow of project information. Most importantly, we will help manage and reduce risk, identify opportunities and keep the relevant parties on track and working towards the same vision. This is where that well-rounded skillset is so important. The right combination of construction and project management methodologies, along with technical abilities and people skills, can make all the difference.”