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    Credit: PBS&J

    Project timelineThe earlier you identify and mitigate risks, the more efficient the project will be.
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When it comes to project ownership, risks include lack of commitment and communication by upper management. If an organization's principals do not involve themselves in a project, mid-level managers often follow suit and do not devote their full attention. Similarly, poor communication on the part of upper management forces lower-level managers to operate with little guidance. Strictly following an organization chart helps alleviate such risks, because it specifies an authority system.

Risks associated with relationship management involve a failure to manage the expectations of clients and stakeholders. For construction managers, the recommended approach is to remain flexible, maintain regular interaction with the client, engage with stakeholders, and understand their expectations. It helps to employ quantifiable measures of success and set goals for team members.

Successful project management requires effective, uniform methodologies conducted by skilled staff. To succeed, individual managers must have sound skills, while a construction management provider must ensure that its managers employ uniform management methodologies. Guidelines or a comprehensive project management plan can help managers perform effectively.

Scheduling is a major risk for construction management programs. To reduce such risks, artificial or unrealistic deadlines must be avoided. Such problems as poor estimating, budget overruns, and escalating costs cannot be overlooked.

Misunderstanding a project's scope and requirements is the one of the biggest risks. Common causes include teams that are too small, poor communication, inadequate management, poorly defined requirements, improper allocation of resources, and insufficient budgets. Therefore, construction managers must analyze a program's needs and probe the client's expectations continually.

When it comes to management of information systems, two major risk factors include implementing the wrong system and managing data poorly. Before selecting software, a construction manager must preview its functionality at an installed customer.

Similarly, new technology can introduce its own risks. Team members may resist the change, either by refusing to learn the technology or by not using it to its full potential. Therefore, introduce new technology only when necessary, clearly explain its purpose, require its use, and reward individuals for optimizing it.

In the end, it all comes down to personnel. Projects primarily tend to fail because of inadequate skills, knowledge, training, communication, discipline, or commitment. If a construction management team does not have the right people working together, the team likely will deliver a bad product, no matter its methodology and expertise.

QUANTIFYING RISKS

Once risks have been identified, a model can help quantify the risks and establish whether a construction management program is risky or healthy. However, it is premature to quantify risks associated with construction management because no system exists for assigning weights to each risk factor in the construction industry. What is needed is a detailed survey of construction management program directors and project managers to establish the primary and the secondary risk factors.

If construction managers and their public works clients recognize potential risks, both parties can work to identify and mitigate them, rather than waiting until it is too late. Such efforts will benefit construction managers and their clients by increasing productivity, improving decision-making, reducing procurement time, and—most importantly—ensuring a project's success with an optimal investment of time and money.

— By Vinay Uchil and Josh Rowan, P.E., CCM. Uchil is a project manager and Rowan is a program manager with PBS&J, Atlanta.