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Why developers need project managers

REAL ESTATE
By Peter Kiragu | November 12th 2015
Construction of apartment on the Bypass as the stand off between Kenya Wildlife Society and National Park continues.ON 30/10/15 PHOTO: JENIPHER WACHIE

You must have at one time or another come across an unfinished residential or commercial building.

Considering how expensive it is to even start a simple construction project, one wonders why owners of such developments started off in the first place if they knew they would stall midstream.

But for most of such owners, it is not that they did not plan to finish their project. Rather, they were misled by their so-called foremen. Along the line, the developer ran out of money, leaving him or her with no option but to stop the project to look for more funds.

But such a scenario can be avoided. All one needs is a qualified project manager to be in charge of their housing project.

“The issue here is that they don’t consult one guy called a project manager,” says Johnson Mukuha, the CEO of Markem Management Ltd, a project management firm.

According to him, a project manager acts as a referee who oversees the project: “When you have a business, you employ a manager to run it. When you want to build, you must employ a manager who will guide you through the entire life cycle of the project.”

Though a relatively a new idea in the country, he says, project management can solve a lot of construction-related problems, including collapsed buildings.

THE DREAM

So at what point does a project manager come in? According to Mukuha, the first step when you want to build is to approach a project manager. Basically, you present the dream of what you want to achieve - be it residential, an office block or houses to let or sell - to the project manager.

“A project manager should take the concept from you and advise you on what to do better,” he says.

For instance, you could be having a piece of land where you want to put up your home. However, a project manager can advise you to put up a commercial building.

After helping you to identify the project and its viability, a project manager then takes you to the next level. He will also help you identify professionals to execute the project such as architects, engineers, quantity surveyors, mechanical and structural engineers.

A reputable project manager should be able to co-ordinate all these consultants for you. “A good project manager should be able to do all this in conjunction with other consultants within a single set-up,” says Mukuha, who has a Master’s degree in Project Management.

At this point, the project manager would have helped the developer, in consultation with the technical team, to come up with the designs and technical drawings required. The next stage is how to finance the project.

A project manager worth his salt should help you secure finances for the project by giving you various options, including sourcing funds from local banks, offshore sources or through an equity partner.

“A good project manager should come up with feasibility reports, a cash flow analysis and help to present your case to a financier or an equity partner,” says Mukuha.

GUIDANCE

After that, he should be able to guide you throughout the construction’s life cycle. Mostly, when projects are not managed well, budgets are exceeded, quality is compromised and timelines are not observed.

“A project manager ensures the project is within cost, timely and is of high quality,” he says.

The final process is called project closure: “If the building is for sale, all the documents must be completed and if it is a rental, he (project manager) must leave you in the hands of a good property manager.”

One main advantage of working with a project manager is that he or she is 100 per cent liable to ensure the project does not exceed its cost: “In most cases, we sign performance contracts...the onus is on the project manager to give you the product you wanted.”

Since launching in Kenya 10 years ago, Markem Management Ltd has completed over 40 big projects. Mukuha says the need for project management in construction is growing rapidly and has seen the University of Nairobi introduce the course.

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