It’s easy to focus on the design of a project; pretty pictures are tangible and show how the end result will look. But a smooth-running project to deliver that design on time and to budget means setting up the right processes, team – and work environment.  These less glamourous, more mundane project management elements of development are the paddling feet beneath the gliding swan. They are the hidden from sight details which can mean risk mitigation and timely resolution of any problems to avoid costly overruns.


It starts with the inception. Architects and cost consultants are important parts of the equation, but there are other factors to consider. For example, does a particular idea work for a particular location and market? Or could existing assets be rationalised or reused rather than building from scratch? 

An architect will drive a project based on design, a quantity surveyor based on cost, and a project manager will bring a balance, challenging both in a positive way to ensure a project gets off on the right footing. 

Marrying the idea with costs, feasibility, risk, and reward will inform a robust brief which can help with procurement and contracts. Hiring the right team with appropriate expertise for the specific project and bringing all these teams together is key. 

The client has an important role in setting the tone for how teams will operate on day one. A project manager can help knit a team together, setting up effective and streamlined communications.  Post-Covid, the trend is for online communication, but there are benefits to face-to-face meetings, particularly on big projects.

Digital communication is always open to interpretation, so supporting physical dialogue between teams with things like onsite meetings makes communicating more efficient and helps build relationships. Problems often get solved more quickly and a good project manager will be an effective listener and communicator. 

It’s another area where the client sets the tone by setting out the scope of works for each team. 

Other important processes to put in place at the start of a development include investing in appropriate technology. 

The upfront costs of software like BIM (Building Information Modelling) and Information Management Systems can be off-putting. But having a centralised design platform, the ability to store data and real-time reporting can greatly benefit the project.

There is effective software now that can be used to help manage risk, timings and any changes that are needed. The benefits of such tech tend to get overlooked because they solve problems before they happen, and it’s hard to pinpoint savings when everything is running smoothly. 

Changes made early on in a construction project are cheaper to deal with than changes made later on. Projects that run smoothly have active risk management with regular risk reviews. Ensuring that everyone is involved means those most familiar with different aspects of the project are primed to assess, manage and mitigate risk. 

Project management plays a part in all aspects, from inception, procurement, contracts, processes and overall advice. It is not the glamorous part of the project, like the architecture is, and can easily get overlooked. But it’s a role that should be viewed as an ally, the critical friend that is the enabler. Project management is the equivalent of the feet paddling beneath the surface so that the swan glides.

For further information on this subject, please get in touch with one of our experts: 

Richard Love
Partner, National Head of Building Consultancy
T: 07780 667010 

Darren Hetherington – Business Development Manager

Carter Jonas


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