The Role of Construction Project Manager Explained

The Role of Construction Project Manager Explained

The process of developing a project from scratch to completion involves a workforce of hundreds. Among them, the Project Manager is among the top men who help bring the design to reality. To learn more the role and responsibilities of a Project Manager, Construction and Property Magazine spoke exclusively with Mr. Chin Hok, Chief Executive Officer at Diamond Island City which manages dozens of property developments on the island.

Holding a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from Japan, Mr. Hok has been immersed in the construction industry since 2006 and has been appointed as Project Manager for various projects on Diamond Island since 2010.

Riviera Condominium, Toyoko Inn, Butterfly Bridge and the twin bridges are just some of his most outstanding achievements on the capital’s prime real estate island.

What steps are involved with developing a project from start to finish? Where does the project manager have a role?

To make a project into reality, there are various steps, starting from the feasibility study; the preliminary design; the project planning which defines the steps on construction, the budgeting and time frame; the soft drawing on the master plan; the construction stage which devises into foundation works, soil analysis, structural works, architectural works and finishing; and the last stage is to hand over the project to the client. A Project Manager usually starts the role from the project planning stage onwards until the project is completed and handed over to client.

Project Managers’ roles differ based on the nature of companies. At Overseas Cambodian Investment Cooperation-OCIC, which is both the developer and constructor of projects at Diamond Island, the Project Manager isn’t involved at the feasibility study stage as there is a design department to handle this work. Here, the project manager usually kicks off works from the project planning stage which includes organising the budgeting, timeframe, project management and organisation chart, etc. After the planning is approved, he or she can start on the site preparation then construction. But I think a Project Manager should be involved in everything related to the project as they will handle things since the conceptual design because he or she will have profound experience in construction so can give good recommendations at the project design stage.

A Project Manager also doesn’t oversee the sales and marketing issues of the project. However, he or she also needs to coordinate with the sales and marketing teams when there are bookings from clients on particular units and needs to speed up the construction to handover to the client.

For other projects in which the developer and contractor are not a single entity that require a bidding stage to select the contractor, the Project Manager of a contractor is the man to prepare a package of tender documents sent for the bid which means similar to the project planning.

After you are assigned to be the Project Manager of a development, what are the basic things that you need to think of and take action on?

Being a Project Manager, we need to consider everything related to the project. But the basic things to consider are; survey of the location of the project, study the conceptual and preliminary designs of the project to check if the project is buildable including the feasibility study to see if we can complete the project within the budget, the timeframe along with whether it is high quality or not.

What are the day-to-day roles of the Project Manager on a construction project?

For the day-to-day role, the Project Manger must ensure all the works go smoothly. He or she must ensure all of the people related to the construction knows what to do and are fully active for their daily work to meet the project goals. He or she must monitor and approve on all kind of tasks in a project, no matter who organises or handle it. He or she needs to ensure three main things on a project: budget, timing and quality.

Do you report your works to only the contractor or also to developer?

There are different levels of reporting on a construction project. The head of workers, and engineers for each unit are required to report daily to the Project Manager, but the Site Manager needs to submit the weekly progress report that summaries their progress and planning to the Project Manager.  The Project Manager needs to submit the periodic progress report, usually once per month, to both the contractor and developer.

Since the Project Manager is under the direct supervision of contractor, there are no direct orders from the developer. In the case that the developer and contractor are different entities, sometimes the developer requests information from the Project Manager regarding the timeframe, work progress and budgeting issues. 

Can you explain some of the challenges and difficulties that a Project Manager usually faces?

In the case of OCIC, the major challenges for the Project Manager are the late purchasing of construction materials and equipment to serve the construction as the project can’t finish on time due to the late process in ordering and delivering the materials to the site. The adjustment on project design amid the construction process also poses another difficulty as the Project Manager will face the timing pressure. The requirement to prepare many documents is another headache.

As a Project Manager, do you just follow the project master plan designed by the architect and engineering team or can you examine their designs and debate adjustments during the construction process?

It is one of the main roles of a Project Manager to examine the master plan designed by the architects and engineers to see if it is correct or not. If we find errors, we can request adjustments. As the Project Manger of Riviera Condominium, I used to request to change the design for the Riviera plaza roof to save budget as well as beautify the mall and they agreed with us.

What professional skills and competenciesshould a Project Manager have? Does the positionneed a specific certificate from the government or any agency or any specific requirements?

To be a competent Project Manager, he or she must pursue a good academic education in a construction major either in design, architecture or engineering. Then he or she must have extensive experience in various positions on construction projects, so that they can review the works and decide quickly without having to rely heavily on the professional skills. For the leadership, it is just the individual skill only, but it is good to have this skill so that he or she can ensure the team work effectively without management problems.

In Cambodia, there is no legal criterion or requirements in order to become a Project Manager. It is the appointment from the contractor or company after recognisingan individual’s performance. However, there is only the Board of Architects Cambodia and Board of Engineers Cambodia where architects and engineers can register as professionalsrecognised by the government.

Do Project Managers originate from an architecture or engineering background and why? Do you think Cambodian universities are able to produce qualified project managers?

Both architects and engineers can be appointed as a Project Manager. These two professions vary slightly in their academic education and skills, but as they work on project sites for years, they will need to learn skills from each other. So when either of them becomesa Project Manager, they will gain both architecture and engineering skills.

There are no schools in Cambodia that can train students to become a Project Manager. In other countries, there are schools providing Construction Management majors, but I don’t think there is this kind of major at engineering schools in Cambodia yet. To my observation, among the many graduates from Cambodian engineering universities, only a few of them can work competently as architects and engineers. Now, there are too many low quality architects and engineers.

What have you observed about the frequent false practices of some Project Managers in Cambodia?

In general, I notice some Cambodian Project Managers lack project planning skills. I see most foreign Project Managers or overseas contractors coming to handle a project in Cambodia, usually spend a lot of budget and time doing a thorough survey on a project to scan for the potential impact and solve them before construction starts. But for Cambodians, they will start construction first and will solve the problems on the way.

What are your recommendations to students or people who wish to become the Project Manager?

To my recommendations, they should keep working hard, focus on details, and learn from the work experiences and mistakes as well as continuing to learn new things and skills. If they can improve all these skills, they will improve their competencies as well.

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