Three important factors in choosing the right project manager for your next building project
Project managers play a leading role in the whole lifecycle of a construction project, from the owner’s vision to post construction defects liability period. They are accountable for planning, executing, monitoring and controlling the entire project budget, scope, project delivery team, resources and thus the quality of the final building product.
Hiring an effective project manager, therefore, can differentiate between a good project outcome and a bona fide disaster for developers and/or building owners.
In the following article, we discuss three critical criteria that clients should focus on when considering a project manager for their next construction project, namely price, experience and soft skills.
1. Price compatible with the proposed scope of services
Typically, a commercial building project requires one overarching aspect above all others: the bottom line. Price is therefore certainly an important factor in the decision-making process.
However, as the industry is fragmented and there are little service standardisation, clients should vet project management firms beyond the face value of the quotations provided. A spreadsheet should be prepared to ensure apple-to-apple comparisons of price vs scope are made.
While deciding levels of project management services required depends on how sophisticated in building construction each client is, it is recommended that clients consider a project manager with a full solution, end-to-end project management approach.
This offers the benefits of single contact-point project control and accountability and allows clients to disengage from the construction project and maintain focus on their core businesses.
2. Relevant industry experience
Whether a shopping centre, a church, a residential apartment high rise, a manufacturing facility or a school, each category of building construction has specific and usually different characteristics and challenges.
A project manager who is suited for a given type of projects will possess the relevant past experience and technical expertise necessary to understand the characteristics, manage the challenges and eventually help deliver a new facility that not only meets the owner’s desired specifications but also realistic cost and time constraints.
Relevant experience is also reflected by the project manager’s demonstrated track record of selecting and working in partnership with a high calibre project delivery team of architects, engineers, specialist consultants and building contractors.
Like the project manager, having an incapable and/or unfitting team member among any of these stakeholders can lead to seriously detrimental repercussions, e.g. poor service, time delays, hidden costs, changes orders, to name just a few.
When assessing past experience, clients should go beyond company’s profiles and drill into the resume’ of the particular project management personnel proposed for their project.
3. Well-honed soft skills
Soft skills refer to the human skills of project management including leadership skills, negotiation skills, communication skills that go beyond hard technical knowledge, or simple organisational skills.
Studies show that high-quality project managers often spend 60-80% of their time on interactions with people and resolving human-related issues while average project managers only spend 8-12% (Ellis, 2020).
Project managers with potent leadership abilities often command respect from other team members and stakeholders. They are able to bring out the best performance from them, whether by taking up the role of a coach, helping everyone else work together or engaging in motivational conversations to inspire people in putting their best foot forward and utilizing their strengths.
In times that conflict arise due to differences in opinion, sheer negotiating skills of the project managers would help settle the issue and maintain harmony in the team.
Success to inspire and empower people or resolve conflicts are often the results of exceptional communication skills. As the central focus-point for all the communications that go on surrounding the project, an affective project manager must be able to communicate well verbally, in writing, in front of a group or in one-on-one conversations with each team member.
Broken down communication is, on the other hand, often cited as one of the most frequent reasons that a construction project has failed, i.e., failure to achieve deadline, cost overrun, and/or with marginal performance (AMA, April 2019).
Having a project manager equipped with such a bunch of soft skills as the leader of a project delivery team will no doubt significantly contribute to the project success. Clients should take time and effort to personally interview potential candidates and follow up with reference checks when evaluating this criterion.
In summary, although definitely a critical criterion, a decision to choose a project management firm should not rest solely on price alone, especially where clients are faced with a glut of service providers many of whom are eager to cut deals, and possibly corners in kind, to maintain their annual turnover. More evaluation effort should be focused on the relevant experience and soft skills of the potential project manager before a decision is made.
Ellis, G, 2020, 10 Tips: Hiring For Construction Projects, viewed 15 Aug 2020:
AMA, 2019, The Top Three Project manager Team Leader Skills, viewed 15 Aug 2020,
Who can I talk to about hiring an effective project manager for my construction project?
Xinvest Quantity Surveying has a highly professional and experienced project management team who can efficiently manage the full process for your building project from the concept and planning stages to the completion and hand over.