When should I use a Project Manger?

Alright, let’s have a frank discussion…

As the client what do you want to achieve? Perhaps some of these tickle your fancy:

  • >20% on your investment in the shortest timeframe possible.
  •  Additional operational capabilities that directly correlate to your ability to generate revenue.
  • Minimum fuss and hassle throughout the process.
  • Satisfaction of any stakeholders.
  • Come in on, or under budget.
  • Mitigate all possible risks.  

We’ve asked a number of organisations whether or not they use a project manager to assist them on their projects. Their answer, from time to time can go a little something like this:

“Na, we’re used them in the past and haven’t gotten much value from them”

“We usually just have a few parachutes of contingencies ready to pull when things go wrong”

“…the ones that I’ve worked with just act as a mailbox and their staff turnover is incredibly high. One week you’re working with person X, and the next it’s person Y who has no idea”

Now, let’s firstly note that the stigma must be born from somewhere, and we get it – we’ve worked to some “mailbox” type project managers in the past. These PM’s collectively don’t add much, if any value to projects, and they certainly don’t do themselves any favours in getting future work.

One could assume that poor performers maintain their business from government organisations who are required to follow a process. Let’s forget the poor performers for a second and assume that a project management firm was offering you real value. What would this look like?

·       Real value is in the ability for the project manager to forecast.

Forecast cost. Forecast issues. Forecast time. Forecast impact. Forecast needs.

·       To do this the project manager needs to peer review all documentation and know better than anyone else what the scope of the project entails.

·       Coupled with their ability to plan, the value in a project manger is nestled in their ability prioritise and review all elements of the project and to discover the risk and opportunity before it costs you.

·       Their ability to communicate, work collaboratively with all parties, read situations, and deliver a message (regardless of its polarity or technical complexity) with a warm response, should be their bread and butter.

·       Their responsiveness is what enables the design team to maintain clarity and timeliness and is what protects you as the client as your representative under the construction contract.

·       Their ability to make an assessment based on industry knowledge and value, over simply price is what saves money in the long run.

·       They begin with the end in mind. Good project managers have the ability to see that the design is adequate for tender and set out what the response to the Request for Tender (RFT) should look like so that an adequate assessment can be undertaken.

·       They have their past clients saying positive things about them.

Project management should be their expertise and should be their main priority…

What is likely to happen when Project Management is a secondary function:

·       You are distracting them from focusing on their main revenue stream, to perform secondary highly consuming an attention to detail task. (no wonder you don’t get the service)

·       In the case of a designer, if any design issues need to be resolved and maybe holding up the project, there is little incentive for the designer to be transparent about this to you.

·       Time bound and critical tasks that run concurrently with their other commitments to you, will not have adequate oversight.

·       In the case of a designer, the builder will be required to report the mistakes of the designer to that designer. This can create a poor working relationship where the result of this breakdown is inherited by you, the client upon completion.

A collaborative approach is always the best outcome for the project.

·       If there are any functional changes that are proposed which also may yield savings for the project, a designer as your project manager may ignore them with the interest of maintaining their own design. This conflict of interest also may cause the relationship to deteriorate.

·       You as the client are the one that must keep the designer accountable and you will need to drive them towards completing their design in the required timeframes.


When the project manager is focused on representing you, here are the benefits:

·       Attention to detail can be consistently achieved.

·       Thorough due diligence can be exercised from the perspective of what is important to you as the client.

·       You inherit lessons learnt and experience from past projects.

·       Get the advantage of early variation detection.

·       Your project manager comes from an agnostic position where decisions are made with your interest’s in mind.

·       The project manager will be well positioned to advise on the appropriate consultants for your needs.

·       The project manager will take care of design coordination, and some can also provide ‘buildability’ advice on your behalf.

·       Procurement, contract negotiation and the recommendation for appointment of your head contractor.

·       Gain the benefit of clarity and transparency, delivered in a non-technical way if required.

·       Benefit from formal project governance.

·       Have your team set the benchmark and monitor quality assurance.

·       Understand the status of the project and enforce good time management.

·       Have an expert in your team to implement financial management, forecasting, and cashflow projections.

·       Your project manager will adequately interrogate technical issues or variations that may arise. 

·       Benefit from relevant and accurate reporting including assessment of contractor’s reports.

·       Sleep easy knowing that your contractual obligations are being met on your behalf.


Take it from us that we have a lot of discussions with prospective clients. What we have found is that roughly 10% of them deeply understand the magnitude of the risks on a construction project.

These are the same clients who need no explanation of the value of a good project management consultant supporting and representing them through their project.

Unfortunately, this is because they have been burnt by a previous experience without this support and then corrected it with a good experience with competent advice.  


You can learn from their mistakes and speak with someone competent or you can roll the dice.

In summary, if you have had a bad experience with a project manager, your not alone. A bad one will cost you money, but a good one will be the best investment you make in a project. 

27 August 2020

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