Where is the Line Between Project Management and Construction Management?
Where is the Line Between Project Management and Construction Management?

Where is the Line Between Project Management and Construction Management?


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In construction management, two professions are usually interchanged: project management and construction management. Both of these disciplines oversee the construction project throughout different parts of its lifecycle and supervise the process for various projects. But how can they be distinguished from each other? What are the skills, job description, and requirements for each category?

Let’s dive more into it.

What is Project Management?

Project management has a wide coverage, touching even the non-construction-related side of construction. It oversees the completion of the project, regardless of whether it is construction, acquisition, IT, human resource, etc.

The project management is developing the project plan, executing it, monitoring and managing it, and finally proceeding with project close-out. The role of construction management is bound to construction projects and is mainly performed in the execution phase with the supervision of the project management team. The bottom line is that the person leading the project management is known as the project manager PM, and the PM is the one who oversees the construction manager. 

What is Construction Management?

Construction management, on the other hand, is a subset of project management. The PM handles the project team, while the construction manager is the one managing construction teams.

Construction management, as the name implies, is focused heavily on construction work. It manages construction projects daily (e.g., building schools, airports, offices, roads, pipelines, etc.). The industry’s leader who leads these construction activities is known as the “construction manager” or CM. A construction manager is involved with the day-to-day movements and operations of the project.

The construction managers are mainly designated on-site to properly manage ground workers, delegate tasks, and monitor daily activities. They work hand-in-hand with the project management team to procure building materials, update on project milestones, check if the actual project timeline is aligned with the projected timeline, etc. They coordinate with sub-contractors, trade contractors, and suppliers and oversee firsthand the quality and safety of the job site.

The Main Difference Between Project Management and Construction Management

Though both disciplines differ, a project manager is the one who oversees construction and project management duties in small to medium-scale projects. While for complex and large projects, separate managers oversee project and construction management.

The differences between project management and construction management are as follows:

1. Job Responsibilities

Even though they are heavily interrelated, the job descriptions of these two career paths are very different. 

a. Project Management

  • Meeting with a project owner to discuss the project details and technicalities
  • Formulating a project budget and plan
  • Acquiring a project location and securing the legal documentation needed for the land for a new building
  • Creating a project timeline with a deadline for each milestone, with the help of construction scheduling software
  • Hiring team members for all departments, including the construction manager
  • Generating budgetary estimates for all aspects of a project, including the marketing cost and hiring process
  • Handling a project’s overall documentation, including the land development plans and zoning documentary requirements

b. Construction Management

  • Supervising the operations team on the job site and delegating tasks daily
  • Overseeing the day-to-day construction works of all trades
  • Collaborating with subcontractors and building materials suppliers
  • Overseeing assets inventory and ordering new items when needed
  • Ensuring local construction guidelines are implemented on-site for compliance
  • Creating daily schedules for the team members and handling the overall construction worker schedule
  • Creating cost estimates for specific construction activities
  • Managing the building project’s progress and reporting the updates to the project manager

2. Job Requirements

The requirements for these two managerial roles may differ depending on the project scale, the company workforce, and the project location. Some companies typically require construction managers to attain a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering or Construction Management. Some companies even require construction managers to have a license before securing the position. In some locations, they may also need a license in architecture or general contracting. Moreover, these professionals must have several years of experience in the construction field before taking the role of the construction manager. 

Most project management roles require at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering, construction management, or architecture. These professionals must have experience in construction or other related project management experience. In some states, they may also need a license to complete tasks, such as approving the building codes. Some firms may also require certification related to project or construction management. This is usually non-mandatory but can help you secure a more competitive role.

3. Project Timeline

In these roles, professionals work together to ensure teams build according to the planned project timeline and budget, but they may work on different phases throughout the project. 

A project manager collaborates with the project owner throughout the entire project lifespan, from the initial budgeting and planning stage to the close-out of the building. A construction manager on the contract may be involved as early as the budgeting stage, but they’re primarily more involved in the construction stage.

4. Work Environment

In terms of work setup, these professionals differ as well. A construction manager mainly works at the project site to oversee daily construction operations. A project manager may occasionally travel on-site for inspections, but they mostly work in an office and travel to the project to discuss it when needed.

5. Coordination

Professionals in these career paths collaborate with other construction professionals, but the people they work closely with may vary. A construction manager typically works on the job site, discussing steps and procedures with the workers, and consolidates the construction crew management. They may also work with architects, suppliers, and surveyors.

A project manager is in close coordination with the project owner. They may also work with the project owner to hire a construction manager. They oversee the construction manager’s accomplishments and communicate the progress to the project owner.


6. Skills

Regarding skills, this is where a construction manager and a project manager align. Since they both have supervising positions, they both must have the same set of skills, such as:

  • Leadership skills: Both managers can use leadership skills to inspire teams and assign respective roles to the team members.
  • Collaboration: These managers communicate daily with different sets of people, including the job site crew and the project owner. They can use effective soft skills to discuss the project details, tasks, and assignments and share accomplishment updates.
  • Delegation: These managers may divide a project into smaller chunks and delegate the tasks to specific team members. A construction manager may delegate to the crew on the job site, whereas a project manager may delegate to general contractors and the construction manager.

Additionally, a construction manager may also utilize technical building knowledge and skills. They often have an even wider range of construction experience and an in-depth understanding of building designs, structural specifications, and building materials. A project manager may utilize technical skills related to business, finance, and administrative duties.


How Does Project Management Help with Construction Management?


A Project manager and construction manager often go hand in hand in the industry. As such, a project manager helps a construction manager in the following ways:

  • Oversee and provide support to construction managers: Project managers help construction managers in completing their tasks by providing assistance, guidance, and access to the appropriate equipment and tools, as necessary.
  • Schedule workflows to fully optimize productivity: Project managers help to establish a realistic construction timeline and ensure the essential resources are provided to meet or exceed each project milestone.
  • Assist in organizing and upkeeping documentation: Documents are crucial in the construction industry since all the work is based on written project documents. These might include work permits, deeds or memorandum, and other essential information regarding the project. Ensuring this information is easily accessible, especially digitally, at any point is a major part of a project manager’s position.
  • Provide assistance when issues arise on job sites: Project managers will ensure they’re available to handle internal or external conflicts and offer real-time solutions that allow the construction project to continue towards the next deadline or overall completion seamlessly.
  • Assist in making final hiring decisions: A project manager will work with construction managers, project owners, and other team members to ensure that new hires are the best picks for the types of projects their company will handle. They can also help ensure that skill gaps are filled with new hires.


Key Takeaway

Managing construction is hard work but satisfying for project managers and construction managers. Both of their duties can be more efficiently done with the help of Pro Crew Schedule, a construction crew dispatch software that can be accessed through the cloud. This way, all the construction teams on-site and in the office will be on the same page about project timelines, task delegation, documentation, inventory, and more.

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