About ten years ago in South Africa companies were happy to have their quantity surveying consultants doubling up as project managers for their property investments. Quantity surveying companies were in return also quite happy to handle this specialised function as part of their normal services. Prior to that, companies were content with one of their property managers handling the project management function on their hundreds-of-million Rand projects.
In both cases the outcome was less than what investors were expecting, as the result was cost and or time overruns or poor quality delivery, or worse, all three of these less than desirable outcomes. As investors started to learn these lessons at a high cost, a new industry was waiting in the wings in the property development industry. Project management is a specialised skill which brings together the elements of people, resources and processes to reach a goal. In this case our goals are successful property development projects.
Due to the nature of property developments costing millions of Rands and taking huge amounts of time to deliver upon, much ‘projecting’ into how the future is going to behave must necessarily be engaged in as a matter of course. Predicting the future does not have to be unscientific though. There are very many variables that can be controlled. As long as there exists a proper ‘connect’ between future activities and the present, then much of the risk in projects can be reduced substantially.
I wish to share to share two of the disciplines I go into whenever I get an opportunity to run a property development project.
The first relates to an analogy that explains a fundamental principle of project management.
Projects are run over a set time period (programme), at a budget (cost) and at a specification (scope). This principle states that a satisfactory level of quality has to be reached, or that a balance exists between the budget, programme and project specification has to be reached before project commencement. The analogy of a three-legged stool explains balance very well. The legs have to be of equal length in order for the user to be comfortable seating on it. If one of the legs had to be changed in any way, that balance is no longer present, and this can only be restored through adjusting the other two. In the case of a project, the consequence is that quality then suffers.
Another tool I have developed and used with success is what I call the Dynamic Preconstruction Framework. This framework illustrates a multidimensional planning process on a single page. The project phases are depicted vertically on the left and elapsed time horizontally, whilst the various activities are depicted in-between. The lines show the flow of activities from concept development through to construction commencement.
Project phases typically follow the steps shown in the illustration. A lot of effort is expended in putting the project plan together. This is usually done this way in order to ensure that the project’s objectives are met as efficiently as possible. Most development projects are executed on the fast track basis. So once the contractor is mobilised, opportunities to revise the plans usually come at a cost. The advantage though, is that the developer can enjoy the benefit from revenue flows earlier.
The longer it takes to plan a project a project the better. Time helps to reduce the risk of project uncertainty. However, too much time spent on planning can also nullify the benefits that can be derived from moving swiftly on development opportunities. A well-planned project should take no less than six months to plan.
The activities required to bring a development into being differ from one project to the next. Those illustrated below are more or less the minimum required to meet most project objectives. The lines drawn from activity to activity show the various relationships between the project departments and teams. The lines are meant to show both linear as well as well as iterative flows of information.
Source: T Makhudu
As all projects are different, and all people approach in a different way also, the diagram components can be shifted around to suit unique circumstances.