Logically, the proper project organization will depend upon the size and complexity of the project. One thing, however, that will never change is the need for there to be one key leader for the Owner on the project.
We noted last week that one of the key findings of research into failed projects is, “Leadership from Owners needed to increase and there is a need for a strong Owner’s representative’s presence.”
Whether it is a single individual as the sole representative for the Owner of the project, or he/she is the leader of a group of individuals representing the Owner of the project, singularly or collectively they must be competent to lead the project from concept to completion. The Owner’s representative(s) must have the ability, authority and responsibility to execute the requirements of the Owner on the project.
This starts with a clear vision of what the finished project will be, and the ability to translate and detail that vision to all other stakeholders in the project. This starts with the development of strong contracts for the Designer(s), Contractor(s) and any other entity necessary for the successful completion of the project.
Collectively, the Owner’s Representative team needs to have the skill set capable of taking a project from concept to completion, ensuring that the best interests of the Owner are maintained. This team may be totally in-house (employed by the Owner), totally out-sourced (contracted Owner’s Representative) or a mixture.
On larger projects, there could be multiple tiers of representatives, each responsible for a different area of the project or for different scopes. It will be critical for the individual who is in charge of representing the Owner, overall on the project, to detail the job functions of the individuals assigned to the project, regardless of which of the three scenarios detailed above are utilized.
The roles that need to be addressed on any project include the following:
- Overall Management of Contracts – This needs to be done in a detailed systematic approach to ensure adherence to the Contract. As any good construction attorney will alert you, if the Owner’s Representative(s) allows latitude in variation to the terms and conditions of the contract this could redefine the contract so the first rule for good Owner’s Representative employees is strict adherence to the contract. This will also include development and management of RFQ/RFP processes.
- Management of Information – On any project there will be a large amount of information that needs to be carefully managed. This requires putting in place a data management system which, in most projects today, is a cloud based project management system. Good Owner’s Representatives should have a strong understanding and skill to manage information on projects. Information includes cost and schedule management tools to keep everyone on task towards the goals of the project.
- Cost Control- A good owner’s rep will know to create a developmental budget at the onset of the project. This will establish the costs for all phases of the project, as well as future running costs. This budget needs to tracked monthly throughout the life of the project by the Owner’s Rep team to keep project on track. Further, the Owners Rep team needs to proactively forecast potential cost increases/decreases (if any) as the project is built to allow for adjustments in scope or budget over the project to maintain the budget.
- Schedule Management- Time is money. Running late on a project costs money. The solution is creating a master schedule that includes milestones, activities and deliverables with set start and finish dates. This controls the cost of the project, and prevents overages. This schedule needs to be updated no less than on a monthly basis throughout the project. Slippages need to be addressed with requested work around schedules as they arise. Risks to the schedule that arise need to be proactively forecasted and addressed to keep the project on schedule.
- Oversight of Design – Poor design is the Achille’s heel of a construction project. While the Owner’s Representative is not expected to handle design management, they should be able to clearly track the design process to ensure the Owner gets a design that will achieve the Owner’s vision and can be built within the budget.
- Oversight of Construction and overall coordination – Many times, the Owner has existing properties that abut the current work. The Contractor will be focused on managing their site. Someone from the Owner’s Representative team needs to provide overall coordination. This individual(s) should also track the schedule status on the project to put the Contractor on notice should they fall behind schedule.
- Inspection of Work in Place – It is critical that there be oversight of the quality of the work in place. This could be done by an outside agent who has the facilities to perform the tests to confirm the work is adequate and meets the standards of the design specifications and code compliant; or it could be individual(s) on the team that performs inspections or coordinates the outside agent. The key is that the Owner’s Representative must put in place some type of quality oversight to track that a project is meeting the quality standards set forth in the design to meet the vision of the Owner.
The organization necessary to achieve these goals as noted will vary based upon the complexity and size of the project but in general the Owner’s Representative team should have a strong Project Manager supported by Assistant Managers, Contract Administrators, Construction Managers and Inspectors to lead the project to a successful completion.