Management and Administration of Multiple Major Projects
By Michael Crall, Principal and Founder of Rosetta Resorts
A "Major Project" is often defined as a project with a construction value in excess of $100 million. That threshold generally describes a project with multiple phases or components, a large and diverse design team including many different types of consultants, often more than one contractor, generally a professional project management or construction management consultant, and other elements that differentiate it from a smaller and more conventional project. Major Projects can be as large as many billions of dollars in construction value.
experience and professionalism of every member of the delivery team including those responsible for administration, finance, design, marketing, construction and operations. For example, a well-trained, motivated and reliable secretary or assistant who is responsible for answering the telephone, directing calls and distributing project documents can play as vital a role in the success of the project as does the senior project manager. Without a critical document or important call properly screened, directed and delivered, the project manager may not have critical information necessary to make a significant and timely decision which in turn may cause a disruption or delay in the project. Delays are often cumulative and always costly.
The role of the administrator of a Major Project is to ensure the selection of a projectteam appropriate to the type of project. All the members of the design team should have significant and relevant experience in the type of project being developed. For a luxury hotel, a residential interior designer with impeccable credentials and scores of successful home projects will not be as appropriate as an interior designer who has completed five or six luxury hotels and has the experience of having specified commercial grade interiors – there are issues of building code compliance, fire ratings of fabrics, durability of finishes, budget constraints, etc. that are not encountered in residential design. The construction superintendent who has overseen the construction of fifteen three-star hotels will not be as appropriate as one who has broad-based general construction experience but who has also managed two or three renovations of an historic property into a luxury hotel. The general skill sets for each may be the same, but the intuitive knowledge will be quite different. The identification and selection of appropriate team members is the first and most vital role of the administrator.
Associated with the selection of the right team is the allocation of the resources of theteam. The team members must be dedicated to the project, must have the personnel available to adequately staff the project and must possess the organizational, technical and other resources to respond in a timely manner to project requirements. The administrator of the project must know each team member's strengths, weaknesses and capabilities and must provide the managerial authority to the project manager to access the resources of the team. Part of that managerial authority is dependent on well- written and comprehensive agreements between the developer and the team members, well-organized billing and payment arrangements so the team members are focusing on performance and not on collections, clearly specified lines of communication and authority among and between team members and the developer and a well-defined vision for the project that has been clearly communicated to the team so the ultimate objective is always in sight.
Another important aspect of successful Major Project management is the understandingand application of the delivery process appropriate to the project. It is obvious that the delivery of an oil refinery is a vastly different undertaking from the delivery of an ultra- luxury resort or even a conventional hotel. But, these products are virtually identical in the types of things that must be done – financial feasibility, entitlements, design, engineering, construction, operations, public relations and marketing, among other things. The relative scale and nature of these things are what differentiate these types of projects. A refinery will require little in the way of marketing but highly complex and sophisticated engineering; a luxury hotel will require a high level of focus on architecture and interior design; a three- or four-star hotel might have a tighter focus on operational efficiency and budget control. In our experience, a hospital is probably the most complex of development and construction projects – it is essentially an ultra high- service hotel with highly complex and redundant electrical and mechanical systems designed within an extremely well-designed and engineered unique building type delivered under the scrutiny and authority of an extraordinarily diligent set of jurisdictional agencies.
A comprehensive outline of Development Management Tasks that describes significantactivities required of a particular project is an essential tool for identifying the necessary resources for the project. Likewise, a comprehensive Predevelopment Checklist is necessary to ensure that a project gets off to a good start with most, if not all, likely or possible issues addressed. These two documents, and other similar documents, including budgets, schedules, contracts and responsibility matrices, form the core of a comprehensive project management program. The essential and fundamental basis of effective and successful project management is a rigorous set of project controls. "Project controls" refers to the body of documentation and procedures that are utilized in every professional and successful project management organization to ensure adherence to a standard of production and performance resulting in on-time, on-budget and on-quality delivery.
A comprehensive set of project control tools, including budgets, schedules, performancemeasurement guidelines, quality control procedures and other tools enables a manager or management team to manage multiple projects with ease. Because each project team reports to a standardized set of control tools (all of which would be modified and adjusted apropos a particular project), senior management has an ability to monitor and track projects at every stage of development. Nothing is left to chance. The obvious question of how to handle unique situations that fall outside the guidelines of the project control system is simply answered – the executive team that has deep and broad experience in all types of projects, and with deep specific experience in the type of project under current management, has the skills, insight, foresight and flexibility to anticipate deviations and build into the management process a means of dealing with deviations. The guiding principle of effective project management of multiple projects is to anticipate change and to have in place the procedures to pre-empt or efficiently deal with change. This principle applies vertically (within a particular project) and horizontally (across multiple projects).
Beyond effective project controls, though, is the most important element,which was addressed in the beginning of this memorandum – people. The successful administration of multiple projects is based on the selection, recruitment, motivation and retention of highly skilled and professional team members. Nothing is more important than that.
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