Why Do We Need Project Managers?

Why do I need a Project Manager in my consultant’s office? In today’s world, a Project Manager (PM) is a necessary member of your engineering team because of the evolving nature of the design marketplace. The PM fills a crucial role in our industry and in our company. They plan the work despite continuous changes in resources and availability, in a constantly evolving work environment. The planning and work do not stop until all the moving parts converge into a complete project. Sometimes that means working on multiple projects simultaneously to ensure the planned target date is met.


Construction industries are constantly pressing the envelope on what is achievable concerning project durations. I often am asked; how can a PM keep a project on schedule? This question has compelled A/E teams to improve (compress) their design schedules. Due to external pressures, we no longer operate in a sequential design world. In the past, engineering firms would expect the completion date to be two weeks after the architectural drawings were finalized. Now, all design team participation is concurrent. Parallel design paths must be completed on the same date and be fully coordinated. To meet this challenging pace, information must be gathered, decisions must be made, and collaboration must be ensured quickly.


Can a PM bring this project in on budget? The primary role of a PM is to keep projects on time and on budget. Those two tasks can get hairy quickly, especially in the world of design. Although it can be a daunting task, dedicated PMs oversee and manage the scope, schedule, and budget. Keep in mind that often a PM is planning work that does not have a defined scope. They work with a schedule that they do not fully control and are given a budget that is “value engineered.”


Our firm executes hundreds of projects each year across multiple project teams. Projects range from assessments to full contract document packaging, including construction administration and commissioning. Each team is responsible for completing dozens of projects. Some span multiple years, while others last only a few weeks. The work is diverse and can be complicated, as it is ever-changing. You may be asking, “Do they even know what their team can do?” As the PM for the healthcare team, I am intimately familiar with the role I must fill. My job is to set priorities and provide appropriate support and resources while being constantly vigilant and sensitive to changes in project schedules. Our team has a wide variety of experience with enough technical horsepower to tackle any project that comes our way.


Another important role of the PM is communication. Our PMs at Kerr-Greulich Engineers help explain the complicated engineering problems in terms that our clients can understand. Engineers are very good at focusing on problems, finding solutions, and proving accuracy through calculation. They are mathematicians and scientists. They take architectural designs and create mathematical models of buildings to prove their designs will work. The PM is the glue to keep the client happy!


What does a PM know about my mission? One of the greatest values our PMs provide is advocacy for our clients’ needs and wants. I have had multiple conversations with my team about the importance of architectural features, improved deadlines, and the desires of the client. We discuss the details of engineering solutions and how to adapt them to fit the mission of the client. If it is important to the client, then it is important to me, the PM, and to our company.