01. Introduction


Manhattan Bridge Construction 1909, via Library of Congress

Manhattan Bridge Construction 1909, via Library of Congress

Learning Objectives: What do I need to know?

After this section, students should be able to do the following:

  1. Understand the interaction between a client’s motivation and project goals.
  2. Create a plan for a successful project that incorporates the client’s priorities.
  3. Explain a client’s interest in the total life cycle of a project.
  4. Explain how project management trends have responded to client needs for organization and transparency.
  5. Describe some strategies for improving client relations and improving project outcomes.

Before starting this section, students should be familiar with the participants in a construction project, their roles, and common contractual arrangements.


Understand What Makes a Project Successful

What is a successful construction project? Is your project a success if you simply deliver your contract scope on time and within budget? Are there other criteria that may matter more? How can a project be both a success and a failure?

Consider the following criteria:

  • Scope
  • Schedule
  • Budget
  • Critical Reception
  • Public Reception
  • Performance (does it support the client’s programming?)
  • Durability
  • Value
  • Innovation
  • Flexibility of Use
  • Beauty
  • Timelessness

Hendrickson (1998) explores project management from the project owner’s perspective specifically:

  • The “life cycle” of costs and benefits from initial planning through operation and disposal of a facility are relevant to decision making. An owner is concerned with a project from the cradle to the grave. Construction costs represent only one portion of the overall life cycle costs.
  • Optimizing performance at one stage of the process may not be beneficial overall if additional costs or delays occur elsewhere. For example, saving money on the design process will be a false economy if the result is excess construction costs.
  • Fragmentation of project management among different specialists may be necessary, but good communication and coordination among the participants is essential to accomplish the overall goals of the project. New information technologies can be instrumental in this process, especially the Internet and specialized Extranets.
  • Productivity improvements are always of importance and value. As a result, introducing new materials and automated construction processes is always desirable as long as they are less expensive and are consistent with desired performance.


  • Quality of work and performance are critically important to the success of a project since it is the owner who will have to live with the results.

Your ability to discover and understand your client’s measures of project success -even as those measures change throughout the project- will impact your professional reputation in both the short and the long term.

Sydney Opera House By Night by Nicki Mannix

Creative Commons Sydney Opera House By Night by Nicki Mannix is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Case Study: Sydney Opera House

Listen to the following podcast from Cesar Abeid (2011) on the topic of project success including an interview with Greg McTaggart of the Sydney Opera House (about 40 minutes):

002 The Sydney Opera House and Project Success – Construction Industry Podcasts

Abeid suggests that the long term success of a project is measured by different metrics than those that we typically value leading up to a project’s completion. McTaggart says that if modern project management techniques had been adopted on this project, it’s possible that:

We wouldn’t have got the building we’ve got today. We wouldn’t have this beautiful World Heritage listed global icon knowing how things happen on other projects I’ve been involved in, I think the pressures to control the cost, the time, and the scope would have certainly led to compromise… a much less successful project.

Can a project be a failure at first and then a success over time? What would that mean for the different project participants?

Q1: What is a cost overrun?

Q2: Who managed the construction project during the building of the opera house?

Q3: Which areas of project management are different now and what have been the goals of the changes?

Part of the responsibilities of the Construction Manager is to help their client understand and evaluate their priorities on the project. This evaluation should be revisited throughout the project.

Meeting a Client’s Expectations: Delivering a Successful Project

How do you deliver the project that your client expects? Methods will vary but good relationships relationships can make a big difference.

Successful campus building begins with a solid foundation of communication and camaraderie, scheduling and integration (not separation) between the [client] and construction team. Building a strong relationship with  your construction manager or contractor can make all the difference.

(Read more SCN 2015.0626: 2015_0626_SCN_Ensuring a Successful Campus Construction Project)

Consider the following strategies:

  • Talk to Your Client.
  • Communicate Your Intent.
  • Manage Expectations.
  • Maintain Professional Relationships.
  • Evaluate Your Progress.

Throughout the semester, we will explore project management techniques used to achieve these goals.

Manhattan Bridge Construction 1909, via Library of Congress

Manhattan Bridge Construction 1909, via Library of Congress