4 Key Project Management Functions

Published June 18th, 2024 by Rose Building Contractors, Inc.

Why do you need professional project management services in construction projects? Well, there are many reasons. However, they all ultimately boil down to one thing. A project manager is the person in charge of moving a project (or a programme) along its path to completion.

Put what they do in the context of the six-constraint model of project management. A project manager performs the fine balancing act required to ensure projects remain within expressly set risk tolerances, pass predetermined quality requirements, deliver the expected business value, and are completed on time and within scope and budget.

Project managers accomplish this by fulfilling various functions, including the following:

1. Scoping

Scoping refers to determining project specifications and boundaries. It answers the question, ‘What needs to be delivered?’ It may be a commercial building, a hospital, a hotel, an airport, etc.

Scoping provides detail. It is not limited to a declaration of the deliverable (the structure) but also encompasses characteristics and features. How many storeys will the hospital have? How many hospital rooms, operating rooms, delivery rooms, and clinics will it have? Will it have a helipad for air-lifting?

Scope Statement Inclusions

Project scopes indicate time and cost constraints. When must the building be completed? What’s the budget for the project?

The scope may also indicate the project’s quality. Quality pertains to the characteristics of deliverables and how much deviation from the quality specifications can be tolerated. For instance, parquet wood flooring may be indicated, but the scope statement may include a provision that says engineered wood floorings may be acceptable in case of cost constraints.

Benefit and risk tolerances may also be included in detailed scoping statements. What benefit will the project provide the client? What risks are the client and other project participants willing to tolerate? Specifying business value thresholds and risk boundaries can make it easier to decide later on whether or not a project is still worth completing.

Scoping gives you a firm idea about the scale and scope of a project. Once that’s set, project managers can proceed with other functions, including cost estimation.

2. Cost Estimation

Cost estimation is the process of predicting how much the project will cost. Accomplishing this requires the identification of the specific project tasks and activities, activity durations and the human, equipment and material resources these activities require. Contingency costs are also established.

Project managers use a cost estimation method or technique to arrive at cost estimates. The following are a few cost estimation techniques: 

  1. Parametric estimation: Parametric estimation involves dividing a project into individual units of work, estimating the cost per unit, and multiplying the number of units by this cost per unit. The product is the total project cost estimate.
  2. Analogous estimation: Analogous estimation requires finding one or more similar projects (i.e., those analogous to the current project in specifications and scope) to use as a benchmark for estimating project cost. If the project involves incorporating biophilia in airport design and construction, say, by creating a multi-storey conservatory with a waterfall and thousands of live plants, a project manager can use the Jewel at Changi Airport in Singapore, among others, as a basis for cost estimation.
  3. Bottom-up estimation: Bottom-up estimation involves dividing the project into work packages, each composed of individual tasks and activities. After determining or estimating the cost of individual work packages, individual package costs are added. The sum is the total project cost estimate.

Bill of Quantities (BoQ)

A bill of quantities lists all labour and materials a project will require from start to completion. Individual BoQ entries include a description, specific quantities, the unit of measure used, and itemised cost estimates. They are prepared according to established measurement standards, such as:

  • New Rules of Measurement or NRM
  • Principles of Measurement International or POMI
  • Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement or CESMM

Quantity surveyors or cost management consultants prepare BoQs. They inform potential contractors of the quality, quantity and specific work expected. This helps contractors formulate their project bids.

BoQs, however, can aid cost estimation, especially in large-scale projects. The itemised breakdown of material and labour costs can be used to calculate better project cost estimates.

3. Scheduling

Project managers know when the client wants the project to be completed, the scope of the project and the estimated project cost (and corresponding budget). During the planning stage, they would have divided the project into small work chunks or packages, each composed of related tasks and activities. This would tell them which resources they need (people, equipment, hardware, software, etc.) to accomplish these tasks and complete the project.

Project managers use this information to create an estimated project schedule. They estimate the start dates, end dates and durations of every task. They plot these activities in sequence (or in parallel, if needed or appropriate) on a timeline and adjust start and end dates for dependencies and resource availabilities.

Scheduling is a complicated and complex function that necessitates an awareness of all factors that may impact project schedules. It requires applying scheduling techniques, such as:

  1. Gantt charts
  2. Critical path method (CPM)
  3. Program evaluation and review technique (PERT)
  4. Qualitative scheduling
  5. Line of balance (LOB) 

Scheduling software can make scheduling, particularly the application of complicated scheduling techniques, easier for project managers.

4. Risk Management

Project managers also manage project risks. They ensure that risks can be prevented and, if they cannot be avoided, their adverse impact can be mitigated and resolved.

Risk management involves these steps:

  1. Risk identification. Risks are identified and collected in a risk register.
  2. Risk analysis. Every risk in the register is analysed. Triggers are identified, and potential impact is surmised.
  3. Risk prioritisation. The risks are ranked according to likelihood and potential impact. Highly likely and high-impact risks are assigned top priority, while implausible and negligible-impact risks are deemed least priority.
  4. Risk delegation. Risks are assigned to individuals for monitoring and resolution.
  5. Risk prevention, monitoring, management, and resolution. Top-priority risks are addressed immediately, ideally to prevent them from happening. Procedures are outlined to mitigate their impact, and response procedures are identified. Risks are monitored, and risk management processes are adjusted in response. When risks are triggered, they are acted upon and resolved as planned. Project managers typically relegate low-priority risks to the back burner and deal with them as they come.

Project Management Functions

Project management is a complex role with multiple functions. They determine scope, estimate cost, plot the schedule, and manage risks – and that’s not all they do. Their functions also include cost control, resource management, client reporting, coordination, and many more.

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