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Does Your PM Really Have Your Best Interests at Heart? – Part 4: Added Value

May 19th, 2015

Added Value

I hope that the points posted so far have provided a beneficial perspective on what to look for when hiring and evaluating your current project management firm.   These values and skill sets should be a standard part of basic services, so it is important to thoroughly research what you, the Owner, are actively seeking.  However, there is one area that does not necessarily have a fixed price and is also difficult to calculate.  This is the area of added value…………or the extra benefit that your project manager brings to your project that does not have a separate cost line on your invoice.

But how do you define added value?   Every Owner will have different convictions, but if your PM is truly looking out for your firm’s best interests, then they will have knowledge outside of their immediate area of responsibility.  Have they made attempts to understand how your business operates so that the project has a limited impact to the day-to-day business?  As the project moves towards completion, they should offer solutions and suggestions that not only benefits the project, but also is an added benefit to your firm.   Does your PM interact with other departments and other leaders?  Do they communicate ideas and suggestions in areas of the project that might be lacking attention from your internal groups?  Do they ask you questions to get you thinking about other areas of the project that perhaps you have overlooked?  Are they responding to your immediate needs and forecasting future concerns?  Your PM should be your project PARTNER as well as your firm’s partner and have a vested and genuine concern about the success and failure of the project.  Basically, providing you exceptional service when and where you least expect it (or when and where you never see it) is an authentic sign of added value.    

Respect

At the end of the day, only you, the Owner can state whether or not your PM has provided any added value to their fee and services.  If your preferred firm has a reputation of extensive add-services, this might be a sign that they perceive any extra benefit to only be defined by dollar signs.  When the contract was signed, did you review the fine print?  Does their contract allow for you to terminate them at any time of the project without any additional fees?  Some project management firms have a clause that compels you to pay them the remaining term of the contract even if you choose to dismiss them from your project (even if you believe that their service is sub-par).  Is that type of clause in your project’s best interest and is this representative of added value?

Hiring a PM firm is a supplemental cost to any project, but one that has the potential to have remarkable positive impacts on your project’s success (and damaging impacts if the wrong PM is chosen).  Although the normal method of thinking is to cut costs early, sometimes these additional costs can be a benefit and actually save you money, time, and your project (you have to be smart where to apply your capital dollars).  Remember, in most cases you are hiring a project management firm to handle an area where you either have no expertise, or do not have the man-power to effectively lead a project.  Sure these costs might appear to be outside of your budget if they were never accounted for early on, but consider your situation and consult with your team on the overall impact that this will have on your firms project (i.e. investment)  Whether you’re hiring a new PM or are reviewing an ongoing contract, all of the issues reviewed in this 4 part series should be addressed and discussed to insure that you’re getting the most out of your capital dollars and out of your PM.

 

Does Your PM Have Your Best Interests at Heart? – Part 3: Budget, Schedule, and Honest Feedback

March 24th, 2015

In Part 1 and Part 2, we have reviewed some important aspects that you, the Owner, should expect from your project manager on your project. The professionalism, their collaborative ability, their organizational skills, and your PM’s ability to foster a positive team environment are essential to your project’s success. But, alongside these are the meat and potatoes of your project that define success…….your budget, your schedule, and honest feedback.

Jobsite with people 1-a

During the development of your project budget, has your PM reviewed your proposed costs and given you real world cost examples? Did your PM rely upon their experience and knowledge of the construction market along with the requirements of your project – architectural fees, legal fees, IT costs, furniture, etc.? Did they contrast and compare similar projects to yours? There is nothing worse than getting a third of the way into a project and realizing that you’re 20% over budget or that you have not identified major costs prior to moving forward. Hopefully your PM has scrutinized every line of your budget to limit any potential misses. Each week, your budget should be a topic of conversation and your PM should be providing you consistent updates to indicate any changes (and potential changes) to your budget. If there are cost overruns, your PM should be able to be capture these and communicate to you early.

Budget 1

As your project moves forward, there may be cost changes due to unforeseen infrastructure conditions, to design changes, to code requirements, and to furniture upgrades. Unexpected changes like this can wreak havoc on a budget that has not been monitored consistently. Is your PM providing you with regular budget updates and off-line conversations about your money? Does your PM question additional fees from vendors as well as provide cost saving solutions? These should be expected from your PM as well as consistent review and tracking of invoices. Keeping track of who is being paid is just as important since liens can be filed against the Owner (or Owner’s landlord) if contractors are not paid within a certain amount of time.

As your project schedule is developed, your PM should be providing you with realistic dates that utilizes historical data along with timelines provided from other vendors of the project team. Hopefully you PM is not attempting to “guess” at overlaps or delays between construction completion and furniture installation without feedback from your project team members. Open discussion in meetings is the best method to insure that everyone is aware of the project deadlines as well as the intended completion date. And, as the project moves forward, your PM should be providing you with scheduling concerns that impact your expected completion date. There is always the potential to have delays with any project, but hopefully your PM is updating you, the Owner, with any schedule changes that need to be communicated up the ladder.

Schedule

When you first start to budget and schedule your project, your hired PM should provide you with honest feedback and be able to tell you the truth about unrealistic deliverable costs and dates early on. Honest feedback can be a blunt, “No way that can happen” or even a, “Not very feasible, but here are some options and let’s review the potential costs”. Is your PM afraid or unable to tell you the truth about your expectations? And do you receive weekly updates on budget and schedule statuses or just on changes and delays? A professional project manager will brief you on the status of the budget and schedule regularly, not just when there are overwhelming obstructions. And, when you, the Owner, are wanting to approve costs for a “want” and not a “need”, your PM should address this with you and make you aware of the potential impact…………regardless if you like it or not. This gets down to managing the scope of the project. If your scope your creeps away from the original plan, then so does your budget and so does your schedule. Your PM should confront you when your scope has exceeded the original intent and they feel that some items are out of line.
Feedback def

Without accurate and consistent updates to the budget or schedule, any project has the potential for failure. Hopefully your PM is providing you with consistent information and updates as well as giving you honest feedback that you need. Sometimes these conversations are not easy to listen to, but don’t forget that you hired a PM to manage your company’s project and to look out for the best interests of your firm.

Next post,  we will conclude this series with Part 4 – Added Value…………getting more value than what your fee suggests.

Does Your PM Really Have Your Best Interests at Heart? – Part 2: Organizational Skills and Attitude

February 27th, 2015

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed the importance of professionalism and ethics from your hired PM. From professional attire, to providing transparency, to being free from any conflicts of interest. In Part 2, we will review organizational skills and attitude that you, the Owner, should expect to receive from your Project Manager.

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ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS

Every project has multiple moving parts that involve large amounts of data, drawings, records and files. These include, but are not limited to, meeting minutes, budgets, schedules, plans, contracts, reports, emails, tasks, etc. One of the jobs of the project manager is to manage these project documents in a manner that provides the owner easy access at all times. And while managing these documents, the project manager should also maintain a positive attitude towards the owner’s project and also one that creates a strong team and not one that divides the team.

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Disarray and Confusion

Does your PM issue meeting agendas the day prior to the meeting and do they arrive with copies to distribute to the project team? Are they prepared with pen and paper? Do they issue meeting minutes within 24 hours following the meeting? This should be a standard deliverable, but it is shocking how many project managers operate in this capacity. If this is reflective of your PM, what does this indicate about the project manager’s organizational skills and their attention to your project?

When specific project tasks are being assigned, how does your PM handle issuing the assignments? Do they assign specific team members with dates and have consistent follow-up at meetings, or are the tasks dropped off from any future discussions? Your PM should review tasks at each weekly meeting and keep track of what is being accomplished and what is still outstanding. This consistent review will keep your team on track and your project moving forward instead of backwards.

Are the documents you receive presented in a readable and professional format that could assist you as you provide updates to Board members and/or the CEO? How does this reflect your position and your office to your high level stakeholders on this project? Your weekly reports from schedule updates, to meeting minutes, to budget reviews need to be presented in a manner that should not require editing on your part. After-all, you are paying for these services.

Order and Structure

Order and Structure

What is your PM’s attendance record to project meetings? Are they consistently late or do they arrive 5 to 10 minutes before the meeting begins? Hopefully your PM attends all of your meetings, or at least provides communication if there is a conflict. As your eyes and ears on the project, you should expect that they attend any meetings impacting your project. And of course, they should be providing you with correspondence to update you about the meeting discussion and the outcome.

ATTITUDE

Does your Project Manager attempt to work with the project team or do they like to yell, scream, and throw team members under the bus? Do they communicate with slang, foul language, or improper jokes?  How does this performance reflect on you, The Owner?  What does this kind of communication reveal about the confidence and skill of the project manager?  As professional project managers, they should be inclusive of everyone on the team and attempt to foster a team like atmosphere with all participants. There are many methods of addressing problems and issues that do not require belittling an individual. If this is typical on one of your projects, then these might be key indicators that your PM has lost his ability to communicate and lead the project team.

Positive Attitude Fosters Collaboration and Cooperation

Positive Attitude Fosters Collaboration and Cooperation

These characteristics are often overlooked by owners and this can have a negative impact on your project’s success. An Owner should request samples of previous deliverables, from minutes to reports to schedules, as well as a clear expectation of what will be provided on their project. It is also beneficial to follow up on references and review how the PM performed on past projects. And utilization of the internet from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media outlets can provide good insight on the person you might hire as your Project Manager.  And most importantly, do your research and call their previous clients!

 

Next week – Part 3 – Budget, Schedule, and Honest Feedback

Does Your PM Really Have Your Best Interests at Heart? – Part 1: Professionalism and Ethics

February 9th, 2015

IMG_2874In the construction industry, project managers are hired across the country to assist Owners with their projects.  They are hired to help you, the Owners, with team communication, managing budgets, scheduling/coordinating vendors, providing recommendations, having the difficult conversations, facilitating meetings, managing important notes and files…………….to the contractor and architect they are the Owner and should perform in the best interests of their Owner’s firm.

However, have you ever questioned whether or not your project manager is performing these duties and actually looking out for you, the Owner’s best interests?  Perhaps the following list of concerns might bring you to question whether or not your project manager is the best fit for your project.  In this series, I will point out some potential indicators that you should consider in evaluating your current and potential project manager.

PART 1 – Professionalism and Ethics

Does your project manager dress professionally and represent a positive image for your firm?  Are they dressed in business suits, or sports coats, or do they come to meetings in worn out golf shirts and faded jeans?  A professional project manager knows that they are an outward projection of their owner, and their Owner’s company, and should project this image to the project team………professional dress and actions should be maintained at all times.

The outward appearance of a project manager can also indicate possible biases or allegiances.  Is your project manager wearing shirts and hats with logos from contractors, consultants or vendors?  Although this might sound irrelevant, it could reveal hidden loyalties.  What does this mean about their ethics and objectivity? Owners should insist on professionalism from their project managers.

There are many real estate and property management firms that also provide project management services to clients.  These services can be top notch, but does this have the potential to cause interference with your company’s best interests?  This arrangement has the potential for the PM to work on behalf of their company (the landlord) and not in your best interests (the tenant/Owner).  Have you looked at independent PM firms that might be in the best interest of your project’s success?   Owners should expect that the project manager is acting as a steward of their interests!

Mike Stagner leads a project meeting

Mike Stagner leads a project meeting

Frequently, your project manager will need to conduct interviews to hire architects, GCs, and other consultants.  How are these firms presented to you?  Does your PM provide you with a list of reputable firms and then help you grade them based on the interview and their proposals, or are they only endorsing architects or contractors “that are approved by their company’s senior management”?  Or, do they try to influence your decision for one specific firm without a clear grading matrix?  Owners should expect a fair, honest and transparent process to “on board” designers, consultants & contractors to the project. 

Does your project manager defend the contractor or consultants on a consistent basis?  Or do they openly push back against these groups to represent your interests?  This is a good indicator of where the project manager’s allegiances might lie.   Owners should expect that the project manager is free from conflicts of interest.

In some instances, some PM providers have hired contract (1099) employees to manage projects.  Since they are not an actual employee of the PM firm, are they representing the values and goals of that firm that you hired?  Will they perform under the codes of conduct and ethics of their contracted company?  What are the impacts to your project if this person leaves and then who will replace them?  Owners should insist on a project management firm with full time/long term employees that represent the culture and ethics of the project management firm.

As the Owner, you should demand the best out of your project manager.  You expect the same from your employees and staff, so it’s no different when hiring a project manager.  Never forget that it’s your money, your objectives and your investment and hopefully your PM will RESPECT that as well.  If you set these standards early, then your project will run smoother, your teams will work more cohesively, and you will have a project that will be delivered on time and within budget.

Guaranteed success for everyone involved.

Next Week – Part 2: Organizational Skills and Attitude !