When we think about a successful project, we tend to think about a project that meets certain time, quality and cost requirements. However, success goes beyond this traditional set of criteria.
With any kind of construction project, there are three phases it will go through in order to be deemed successful: pre-construction, construction and post-construction. In order to efficiently work through these phases towards success, a cross-functional team is continually monitoring the project and planning for the best possible outcome.
We spoke with Director Lee Stuart, Senior Contracts/ Commercial Manager David Clowes and Site Managers Ross Flavin and John Ford to explain what this looks like in practice…
Firstly, what does it take to run a successful construction project?
Lee: You must have the right team in place; allocating the right team members with the right level of experience to each task is paramount.
David: I agree with that. In particular, assigning the right Contracts Manager and Site Manager is very important, especially as different personnel have different attributes and skill sets relevant to the size and scope of a project.
Ross: And once the team has been allocated, communication is key. Each team member needs to be able to take and issue instructions as well as continually looking ahead and planning for any unexpected turns.
John: Finally, I’d add that you need to be organised; have the programme in place and adhere to it. Know your scope of works, procure all materials early and have them ready for when the works are programmed to happen. Most importantly, keep on top of all works and sub-contractors throughout.
What are the most critical factors to consider when managing each phase of the construction project?
David: In my opinion, pre-construction (precon) is fundamental to starting a project on the right note. It comes down to thoroughly reviewing tenders received and issuing the correct information in response. At the tender stage, if packages are comprehensively reviewed and the correct information is given to subcontractors there should be a smooth transition for the delivery team to commence procurement. Any discrepancies and guesswork will cause delays and uncertainty when issuing purchase orders, thus increasing variation orders issued for items that have fallen outside of tendered packages.
Lee: Exactly, providing a fully compliant and competitive tender and dealing with any enquiries quickly. At the precon stage, it’s also important to be proactive in coming up with value engineering ideas for the client as well as providing a detailed Construction Phase Plan demonstrating you’ve thought about the logistics, programme coordination and health and safety.
Ross: Basically, making sure all parties involved understand what the end goal is. Then following the precon phase closely during construction and delivering the project that stakeholders are expecting.
David: Indeed. Projects should be driven from site with Contracts Managers providing support and guidance whilst maintaining client and stakeholder relationships through regular reporting and correspondence. This includes raising subcontractor orders early and undertaking regular contractor review meetings on site to help shed light on any problems that need to be addressed and thus avoiding delays later in the programme.
Lee: Yes, maintaining client and stakeholder relations with swift and professional communication is super important. As is running a safe and tidy site and maintaining the quality of finishes throughout the course of the project to minimise snagging at the end.
John: Absolutely, all projects should be run with a strong focus on financial control, health and safety, site security and cleanliness.
Ross: Then onto the post-construction phase, communication once again comes into play. Ensuring that a detailed handover has been undertaken with the end user and exchanging contact details in case any questions arise. Also, every project should be evaluated to understand what went well that could be carried over into new projects as well as any improvements that could be made.
Lee: Upon completion, it’s also important to provide a full O&M in a timely manner upon completion and settling final accounts swiftly.
David: As well as early receipt of Commissioning Certificates, Life Safety Certificates and building control sign off.
Does success differ across sectors and if so, how?
Lee: No, it shouldn’t make a difference. A successful project is a safe site, happy client, and a healthy profit margin!
Ross: I think success is broadly the same across the construction industry. However, there’s no denying clients prioritise their own set of goals whether it be time, quality or cost.
John: As Lee said, whatever the sector, the goal is always to produce a successful job. At this moment in time the office sector is no doubt being overtaken by the warehouse sector, but success is always a must.
David: Ageed. I see no difference
How can you turn around a difficult project into a success?
Ross: Again, it’s all down to communication. Once a project gets difficult, it’s best to be honest about the failings and communicate them through the project team. Once everyone is aware of the difficulties, the team can start to pull the project around to become a success. Personally, a good tool I use is a backwards programme. In other words, you start with the last trade of the project and work back to where you are currently at. This will give you a realistic time frame for the project to end and should avoid giving unlikely time frames to the client.
David: I completely agree. I firmly believe in honesty with the client and the Contract Administrator to actively encourage a collaborative effort by all parties. Construction isn’t always easy and can be a very pressured environment, so it’s important to remember the human element in people.
John: In the majority of instances, even when it looks like a project is a long way off, it all comes together in the end.
Lee: There is one particular project that comes to mind – Bush Industrial Estate. The project – an extensive refurbishment including a replacement roof and significant hard standing works in the yard – was always going to have its challenges. Throw into that its location between a major Network Rail line, a neighbouring school and residential property ensuing noise restrictions imposed by the local authority and particularly tight timescales, the project became all the more difficult. Despite having all of this thrown at us, the delay in completion was minimal thanks to the cooperative input from the client and the project was successfully handed over.
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