Do I need a Project Manager for my construction project?

It must be true to say that there has been some form of project management since early civilisation, at least 2570 BC when the Great Pyramid of Giza was built; it didn’t just build itself.

But project management in the modern sense began in the 1950s, with the development of the Critical Path Method (CPM) and Programme Evaluation Review Technique (PERT).

When I first started in the ‘70s, the building sites were still run on traditional lines; Contracts Manager, Site manager, foreman, tea-boy.

In 1992, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) caught up and published a Code of Practice for Project management for Construction and Development, a “groundbreaking” publication which set out the processes and procedures for a successful project. The Code has recently been updated with its 5th revision, and still sets the benchmark for good practice.

There remained a growing sense that all was not well in the UK construction industry, but this was not tackled until 1994, when Sir Michael Latham published his review of the industry in “Constructing the Team” which included a number of recommendations, such as: -

1.Co-ordinated Project Information (CPI) “which should have become common practice years ago …”;

2. A complete family of standard contracts in modern conditions;

3.Separation of roles of contract administrator, project or lead manager and adjudicator. “The Project Manager should be clearly defined as the client’s representative.”

After a few encouraging shoots, CPI has withered on the vine; I see few immediate signs that Building Integrated Modelling (BIM) is going to change the construction world any time soon, certainly not at grass roots level.

The JCT forms of contract still do not recognise the Project Manager; this may account for the number of projects which overrun both time and budget.

Even worse are those without a recognised form of contract where I end up picking up the pieces.

The NEC form of contract was first published in 1993, and has gone through changes and enlargements to include a standard form for appointing project managers. This form delivered, amongst others, the London 2012 Olympic Games venues.

The best jobs I have worked on were in Finsbury Circus and the Sage Music Centre which ran as sweet as a nut; both employed Project Managers.

The definition of project management has remained unchanged over the years:

‘the overall planning, co-ordination and control of a project from inception to completion aimed at meeting a client’s requirements in order to produce a functionally and financially viable project that will be completed safely, on time, within authorised cost and to the required quality standards’

If you’re spending your hard earned money on a project, be it large (or even more so) small, isn’t that what you want – somebody to look after your interests?


Andrew Wilson of Batty France