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Embracing the challenge in a new era of project management and delivery

March 22, 2018

By Peter Brayford

In an ever-changing industry, we must look past traditional execution and tackle a new way of delivering successful projects

The key principles behind effective project management have proven true over time. Successful projects combine sound leadership, relevant experience, and strong communication and collaboration. They integrate proven systems, established controls, and risk management techniques. Most of all, they prioritize great client service.

These fundamental principles are tried and tested. But will they be enough to meet the future needs of our business?

Metrotower III, Burnaby, British Columbia.

I ask this question now because we are experiencing significant changes in how projects are tendered, executed, and delivered. With that, I’ve also noticed emerging trends and challenges in our industry. The following headlines hit our news feeds recently:

  • A major UK construction contractor employing thousands of people worldwide went bankrupt.
  • About 1,500 workers in China built a railway station in 9 hours.
  • The World Economic Forum published a report highlighting the “re-skilling crisis.” Millions of jobs are at risk due to technological disruption.

News in the coming weeks and months may be even more impactful. So, what can we learn from the present to position us better for the future?

As our world evolves, we continue to push the boundaries of construction. Taller buildings, increased demands for dense urban environments, and complex infrastructure projects are all prominent.

I believe the answer lies in embracing change and adapting to the “new world” of project delivery. In this ever-changing industry, we need to develop expertise in our existing skillsets while adopting and honing new ones.

As our world evolves, we continue to push the boundaries of construction. Taller buildings, increased demands for dense urban environments, and complex infrastructure projects are all prominent. But, we’re also seeing new levels of sustainability, increased use of prefabricated materials, and innovative delivery models.

How can we better address these challenges and keep up with industry trends? By sharpening skills to help us solve new problems faster. Collectively, we need to enhance our creative thinking and problem-solving techniques, work toward technology solutions, and understand how—and where—value can be added to the projects we deliver. 

Vancouver Convention Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia. (Architect: Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership; Downs/Archambault & Partners; LMN Architects)

Our project management team is always looking for ways to embrace the opportunities that change can bring. Below are some examples:

  • Hiring: We’ve refocused our hiring process to identify individuals that not only have the required core skills, but also show that they are creative problem solvers. This often means stepping outside of our comfort zone and hiring people that show a strong aptitude in the skills we want to bring in. So far, so good.
  • Culture shift: In addition to hiring a new breed of project manager, we are shifting our culture to reward the skills we are looking to see. This takes time, but we will see a greater impact as we make the new skills a higher priority.
  • Better technology solutions: Our project controls team capitalized on the opportunity to develop an in-house software tool for a major project. This new system allows for real-time tracking while increasing team collaboration and improving our client reporting capabilities.
  • New business areas: We have several new clients acquiring land for future development with industry partners. For us, this means assembling a new kind of team—a team that creates effective strategies and customizes project approaches to help our clients achieve their goals. 
  • New role creation: Clients with smaller projects are seeking consulting project manager expertise at the right price. Rather than try and fit them into our existing model, we have created a modified service approach. This allows us to implement a “Full Service” role when it’s needed, or a “Project Advisory” services role when it’s not.
  • Greater specialization: More of our clients are requesting additional technical specialists and subject matter experts that can provide senior level strategy and input. Now, our project management teams include specialist staff across several of the sectors we work in. 

Change is never easy, and the pace of change and innovation is increasing in all areas of our business. To position ourselves well for the future, we need to dynamically—and strategically—adapt to our evolving world. We need to embrace change by creating a new culture and establishing a diversified approach to delivering successful projects.

  • Peter Brayford

    A project manager and professional quantity surveyor, Peter has spent over two decades working on projects in Canada and internationally across multiple sectors. He’s a business strategist, team leader, and relationship builder.

    Contact Peter
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