An Understanding of Program Management
by Bill Timmer
The primary reason for a client to consider an outside
program manager is the significant size and complexity of the proposed work.
In practice, the program management role works in cooperation with the client’s
existing engineering and construction management staff. The additional resources
and experience of the program manager permit the existing staff to focus on their
traditional functional roles. The program manager provides the coordination, priority
setting and overview perspective necessary for a successful project. The position can
provide skills that are not normally used in the performance of the standard project mix.
In some situations, the program manager can also serve as the lightning rod for problems
and concerns, permitting the project staff to function as key stakeholders, working openly
to achieve the best solution.
Although many clients are experienced in the management of construction projects, the scope
and multiple phasing of large projects suggest that a program manager will augment the
client’s capabilities. In addition to technical skills, the characteristics of an
effective program manager include:
- Helping the team to develop goals and objectives on the project to meet the
contractual requirements agreed with the customer. Using facilitative rather than administrative skills
- Acting as the catalyst to direct team members to focus on goals and objectives
- Relying on the expertise of team members
- Developing, maintaining and motivating team members
- Encouraging all members to participate in the decision making of the team
- Removing barriers and roadblocks that interfere with team progress
The program manager should have strong technical skills to support the design and pre-construction
phases of the project. These skills should include experience in Value Engineering/Management,
constructibility, cost estimating and cost/schedule control. Value management, started early
in the conceptual phase and carried through to the successful completion of a project, leads to
significant savings in the project schedule, staff time required to manage the project, capital
costs and lifecycle costs. The use of value management enables well founded collaborative decisions
on program/project strategy, scope and key components. Members of the program manager’s team should
have extensive experience in value management studies.
Case study data from the Business Roundtable’s Construction Industry Cost Effectiveness (CICE) Task
Force supports the beneficial impact of early scope clarification and constructability input on final
project cost and quality. Their analysis indicated that, on average, design deviations make up 79
percent of the total deviation related cost on a project. These design deviations also resulted in 9.5
percent of the total installed cost of the project. Early program leadership helps to provide both the skills
and resource time to focus on these details when only re-engineering costs are involved.
Value management studies resolve the questions of maintaining or increasing functionality and quality while
reducing the costs of a project. Constructibility Reviews ensure that the final design is “buildable”.
In a manner similar to the value management studies, and sometimes in concert, the program manager will
ensure that periodic constructibility reviews are initiated. The reviews may not need to be formal, but
should be carried out at the design deliverables milestones.
At the 95% construction document (CD) issue, a formal review should be held, facilitated by the program manager.
This review will insure that the documents are ready to be issued for solicitations, that there should be minimal,
if any, addendum’s during the solicitation period and that there will be minimal change orders during the course
of the construction of the project.
The program manager should have knowledge of the construction industry, impacts of costs in the current dynamic
marketplace and the ability to conceptualize costs during the early phases of the design process. This
knowledge is also important during the construction phase in the review and negotiations of change orders
or claims that will arise. This knowledge base is also important in developing and monitoring the program
schedule, from the programming phase through completion of the project.
We would suggest the following program management services be considered by a potential client:
- Facilitate development or review of the preliminary program schedule and budget.
- Support the client with internal and external stakeholders:
- Identification of key stakeholders
- Preparation of a communication strategy
- Resolution of firm project scope and performance description
- Facilitation of key project progress reviews
- Coordination of permit and zoning issues
- Facilitation of final building acceptance and requested changes
- Completion of Certificate of Occupancy
- Coordination of move in and celebration
- Represent the client with the architects:
- Ensure that the design concept represents the stakeholders requirements
- Formalize the scope of work
- Establish and / or verify the design budget and schedule
- Identify and facilitate key checkpoints and reviews
- Schematic/concept – 30%
- Design development – 60%
- Construction document issuance – 95%
- Facilitate communications with sub-consultants
- Augment the client’s project management group during the Construction phase
- Advise the client on the construction contracting strategy
- Review the proposed construction contract terms and conditions
- Participate in the contractor selection process
- Review construction schedule
- Monitor construction progress and payment requests
- Manage the change order process
- Coordinate construction quality monitoring
- Facilitate construction completion issues
Industry experience suggests that the above services require a blend of proficiency in the following
skill areas: architectural design; facilities, cost estimating; scheduling; value management;
communication and facilitation; construction management, risk mitigation and business management.
The above services generally cost between 2˝% – 5% of the total project budget. These services can be
customized to meet the specific needs of a client’s project and the skill and experience set of their team.
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