A construction project is a long and complex process. There are many key roles that contribute towards its completion; architects, surveyors, workers, foreman, electricians and so many others.
However, it’s the construction manager and the project manager who have two of the most significant roles to play in a successful project. Whether it’s a residential, highway, commercial or building project, these two will be involved in some way. According to Payscale, the average salary of the two is around the same. But what sets their jobs apart? In this blog, we are going to explore the role of construction manager vs project manager.
We’ll start off with the degree of involvement. A project manager is brought into the scene right at the beginning of the project and will be involved throughout its five phases;
- Conception & initiation
- Definition & planning
- Launch or execution
- Performance & control
- Project close
At the start, they will work to understand the client’s aims to ensure that the end result is exactly what they want. Typically they work from the office. However, they will check in on the site to meet with the construction manager to see how things are going and get updates.
On the flip side, the construction manager is typically appointed after the project manager. They are brought in prior to construction, during the planning phase. This is where their expertise is utilised to discuss the feasibility of the project and to help establish the costs. Their role is a lot more hands-on. After the initial planning, they have a limited role in the office and predominantly work on-site to ensure the project is running smoothly.
The responsibilities of construction management and project management differ quite significantly. During the construction phase of the project, the on-site manager oversees all of the day-to-day activities. This includes ensuring that materials are delivered on time, the right tools are available to the workers, planning work schedules, properly allocating resources, and managing the budget. A construction manager is in charge of on-site staff, ensuring morale is high and work is being carried out well.
Project managers have a wider range of responsibilities. While both managers have their own input into the budget of the construction phase, a project manager oversees that of the whole project. This includes client meetings, any marketing activities, and other administrative tasks that may take place throughout the process. A project manager is responsible for establishing an overall timeline and reports directly to the client about how things are going. In the cases of any legal disputes, a degree of accountability goes to the project manager.
There tends to be a difference in skill set between a construction manager and a project manager. An individual in a construction management role will almost certainly have experience in the industry, alongside strong leadership and communication skills. They are able to effectively manage a team and maintain morale on the site. Having strong verbal communication skills will go a long way in demonstrating the tasks to get the job done on time. With issues and complications being relatively common in construction projects, a construction manager will be intuitive and demonstrate an ability to adapt in a tough environment.
On the other hand, a project manager may not necessarily have a great deal of experience in construction – although some will require working knowledge of the industry. It’s usually expected that they’ll have a degree in project management, with some going further to obtain a master’s. They have strong management skills associated with risk, budgeting and contracts. Their interpersonal skills will help them communicate effectively with both those working on the project and the client.
If you’re looking at a project in terms of its hierarchy, then you’d see project management placed above construction management. This is evident through the added responsibilities mentioned earlier. A project manager will oversee the entire process and not just the construction phase. It’s up to the construction manager to report on how things on-site are going. You’ll rarely see them go over the project manager to speak directly with the client.
It has also been observed that construction managers have a desire to become project managers. It’s most unusual to go in the other direction.
In addition to the degree of involvement, responsibilities, skills and authority, you may notice a difference in personality. A project manager will tend to be more formal, whereas a construction manager may demonstrate the personality traits associated with those who work on building sites. Although the whole team is working towards the same outcome, there is a stark difference when it comes to a construction manager vs a project manager.