25 Aug 2016

Can you project manage your own self-build?

Darren Lester, Founder of SpecifiedBy, the product specification search platform used by builders, contractors and architects, discusses the role of the project manager and questions who is best equipped to take on the job.

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Project management is one of those jobs that can be a little hard to summarise. When it comes to a self-build project, many people take on the job themselves, but is this the best option or should you hire in a professional to take on the role?

Understanding the job

To understand if self-managing the project is for you, it helps to understand what the role entails. Most people will say that the project is like a three-pointed triangle with the points being money, quality and time. All have effects on the other and managing them can be a tricky job. If you already have a full-time job, then this might be too much to take on – then again, it might be just the challenge you thrive on.

Any self-build project will have a timescale involved and the quicker work needs to be done, the more you pay for it. If you push workmen to do things too quickly, then quality can suffer and rework may end up slowing things down anyway. Similarly, skimping on the money spent might seem a good idea, but will result in poor quality materials and low standards of work. It can even end up taking more time, as you might need to get someone in to deal with the problems that have occurred. Quality is intrinsically involved with both of these options.

Who can project manage?

So if you decide that balancing all these elements isn’t your forte, then who should you consider for the job? For starters, there are specialist project managers. These are people who do the job for a living and will charge around 10-15% of the cost of the project to manage it for you. They will offer guarantees about their work and can be a great solution if there are various companies or individuals involved in the job.

The main contractor can often take on the role and, if you don’t have a project manager, kind of end up doing it by default! You should ensure that they are used to taking on this role and have experience of it before the project starts. Likewise, the architect or designer involved in the project may be able to take on the job, but check what they charge for this additional work.

The importance of communication

The key to project management is communication with everyone involved. This will ensure things go smoothly and to plan or quickly find solutions if problems occur. The project manager (or yourself if you go DIY) should ensure that everyone is following the plans and be able to listen to those potential problems then help come up with solutions.

Asking about progress, issues and other matters is another key part of the job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of tradesmen, because a professional project manager would. You stand at the centre of things and need to ask questions, give out information and act as a go-between for everyone involved in the self-build to get a successful, on time and on budget outcome.

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