The management of construction projects requires knowledge of modern management as well as an understanding of the design and construction process. Construction projects have a specific set of objectives and constraints such as a required time frame for completion. While the relevant technology, institutional arrangements or processes will differ, the management of such projects has much in common with the management of similar types of projects in other specialty or technology domains such as aerospace, pharmaceutical and energy developments.
Generally, project management is distinguished from the general management of corporations by the mission-oriented nature of a project. A project organization will generally be terminated when the mission is accomplished. According to the Project Management Institute, the discipline of project management can be defined as follows:
Project management is the art of directing and coordinating human and material resources throughout the life of a project by using modern management techniques to achieve predetermined objectives of scope, cost, time, quality and participation satisfaction.
By contrast, the general management of business and industrial corporations assumes a broader outlook with greater continuity of operations. Nevertheless, there are sufficient similarities as well as differences between the two so that modern management techniques developed for general management may be adapted for project management.
The basic ingredients for a project management framework may be represented schematically in the figure below. A working knowledge of general management and familiarity with the special knowledge domain related to the project are indispensable. Supporting disciplines such as computer science and decision science may also play an important role. In fact, modern management practices and various special knowledge domains have absorbed various techniques or tools which were once identified only with the supporting disciplines. For example, computer-based information systems and decision support systems are now common-place tools for general management. Similarly, many operations research techniques such as linear programming and network analysis are now widely used in many knowledge or application domains. Hence, the representation in the figure below reflects only the sources from which the project management framework evolves.
- Specification of project objectives and plans including delineation of scope, budgeting, scheduling, setting performance requirements, and selecting project participants.
- Maximization of efficient resource utilization through procurement of labor, materials and equipment according to the prescribed schedule and plan.
- Implementation of various operations through proper coordination and control of planning, design, estimating, contracting and construction in the entire process.
- Development of effective communications and mechanisms for resolving conflicts among the various participants.
The Project Management Institute focuses on nine distinct areas requiring project manager knowledge and attention:
- Project integration management to ensure that the various project elements are effectively coordinated.
- Project scope management to ensure that all the work required (and only the required work) is included.
- Project time management to provide an effective project schedule.
- Project cost management to identify needed resources and maintain budget control.
- Project quality management to ensure functional requirements are met.
- Project human resource management to development and effectively employ project personnel.
- Project communications management to ensure effective internal and external communications.
- Project risk management to analyze and mitigate potential risks.
- Project procurement management to obtain necessary resources from external sources.
These nine areas form the basis of the Project Management Institute’s certification program for project managers in any industry.
Chris Hendrickson is the Duquesne Light Company Professor of Engineering and Co-Director of the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. His research, teaching and consulting are in the general area of engineering planning and management, including design for the environment, project management, transportation systems, finance and computer applications. Prof. Hendrickson is a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineering, an Emeritus Member of the Transportation Research Board and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Hendrickson is also the recipient of many professional awards.