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Process Improvement

Construction Manager vs. Project Manager: What's the Difference?

Written By: Joe Demski
March 25, 2022
6 min read

Starting a project in the construction industry requires major planning and insight. Before any work is done, there are two key roles in completing a successful project. They are the construction manager and project manager. You may hear folks use the terms interchangeably, but the roles and responsibilities are vastly different for a construction manager vs. project manager.

The most basic example of differences between a construction manager vs. project manager are where they are based during the construction process. Construction managers are based on the construction site. Project managers are often working out of the office. At first glance, it can be easy to assume that these are the same roles and operate similarly. While both jobs focus on delivering a construction project their scope is significantly different, let's highlight some differences.

What is a Construction Manager?

The role of a Construction Manager can come by many names. For this article, we’re focusing on the team member that is on-site to manage and supervise the project. These managers have a direct responsibility to plan and coordinate the job site.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a Construction Manager as someone who “plan, coordinate, budget, and supervise construction projects from start to finish.”

Is there a key difference between these managers and the rest of the team? Yes, construction managers spend most of their time on the job site. This allows them to track the project and make decisions in real-time. They provide major benefits as a manager with boots on the ground.

Their main responsibility is to make sure the project is technically sound. This means that the team and the build are meeting strict construction guidelines. It also means overseeing the operations of the whole site. Being involved on a day-to-day basis, these managers ensure that all pieces finish on time and within budget. In a nutshell, the construction manager is there to make sure that the project keeps moving forward.

Construction managers are directly involved with architects, surveyors, and builders. These roles fill the rest of the team. This includes subcontractors, general contractors, and engineers. Having direct contact with these team members ensures that the project is on track. They are also important in ensuring that there are enough materials for the project. Materials can include staff, machinery, and non-construction materials from the planning stages.

Construction Managers are present to prepare the site and hire labor. This can include installing temporary offices and facilities before construction work starts. Their involvement spans the entire project. It’s essential to have a quality construction manager who must understand the workings of a construction project.

What is a Project Manager?

The role of project manager is present across all businesses. Many projects have a central person that lives and breathes the planning process. But they also need to understand the process of a construction project. This is where the Project Manager comes in.

On a construction site, the role of the construction project manager is to keep the project moving forward. They are responsible for a much broader range of tasks. Often, they are involved before the construction phase begins.

This has the project manager involved in all the various streams of a project. For example, they can oversee all phases such as:

  • Site selection
  • Planning
  • Design
  • Procurement
  • Marketing
  • Financial
  • Compliance

Construction project managers are on the team from start to finish. Why do they have such a broad involvement? This is because they are responsible for the success of the project.

Construction project management spans more than project planning. They are actively involved in resource distribution, time management, risk management, and more. They often set the benchmarks that will be referred to throughout the project process while managing the budget. In addition, project managers must manage relationships with staff and key stakeholders.

Why are Both Important?

With large-scale projects, both construction managers and project managers serve crucial, interrelated roles. A construction manager often may report to the project manager because the construction manager works from the job site. They are on location and are involved with the labor & materials. The project manager works from the office and maintains a holistic view of the project. They manage the project budget and timeline and focus on pre-construction planning steps. But the project manager follows up with the on-site reports to ensure the deadlines are met.

The Role of Construction Project Management Software

There is a lot of responsibility when it comes to managing a project. There is a wide array of parties involved from clients to contractors. The most successful way to keep all stakeholders involved is by adopting construction management software.

A construction management solution enables easy tracking of project status. It integrates and stores unique and useful information such as building codes, site updates, budget, and project timelines. Construction management software improves visibility for management, subcontractors, and other project teams.

Closing

There are many moving pieces when it comes to complex construction projects. The overall project success is directly tied to the interdependent work of project managers and construction managers. Both team members are critical to project from planning to the build to completion. Project managers maintain an accurate project scope for the entire process. Your construction managers run the job site and keep the project’s construction sound.

FAQs

What is the difference between a construction manager and a project manager?

The scope and role of a construction manager vs. project manager are very different. A project manager is involved from the beginning. Their responsibilities begin in pre-construction and often involve keeping the project budget and project schedule within scope. A construction manager joins the team once the construction phase has started. They are hands on with the project and are often working from the job site.

What exactly does a construction manager do?

A construction manager is the project’s representative on site. They work with the subcontractors and engineers while also keeping an eye on labor and material usage.

Do construction companies have project managers?

Yes, construction project managers are essential to the success of a construction project. While they are often working from the offices, they are very involved in the planning pieces and work closely with the client’s team.

Written By: Joe Demski
Tags:
Process Improvement
Construction
project management

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