The Role of the Project Manager

From engaging project stakeholders to the final review and inspection of construction work, a project manager is responsible for overseeing and managing the many details involved in the development phase of a project. Continue reading for more information about the typical tasks, and key traits of a successful cultural facility development project manager.
Introduction
A project manager is responsible for the overall coordination of a development project. At Artscape, the project manager usually takes over responsibility for the overall coordination when the research and development that takes place during the pre-project development stage is complete and there is a clear project vision, feasibility has been assessed, and resources and key partners have been lined up.  

The most important task for the project manager is to deliver the project on time and on budget. This requires an ability to coordinate a large team of people toward a common goal, work toward deadlines and pay attention to the small things while maintaining sight of the big picture.

At Artscape the project manager plays a key role in the design development team, coordinating the efforts of the diverse range of professionals who will be involved in delivering the project, and deals with the considerable number of municipal zoning processes, agreements, approvals, permits and site-servicing undertakings which will require the project manager’s oversight. To learn more about this read A Guide to Managing the Design Development Process.

The Role of a Project Manager – Some Typical Tasks
Some of the tasks a project manager may be expected to undertake, guide or monitor include:

Before Construction
  • identifying and reaching out to project stakeholders
  • developing a stakeholder relations strategy or plan
  • preparing background information for stakeholders, potential funders or project partners
  • developing or managing a capital budget  
  • developing a schedule for project milestones (a detailed construction schedule will typically be prepared by a construction manager later in the process)
  • coordinating the drafting and execution of legal agreements (with project partners, funders, tenant leases, etc.)
  • hiring the project architect and construction manager or general contractor
  • overseeing the design of the project, making sure goals and requirements of end users are incorporated
  • securing municipal approvals
  • developing a cash flow (projections of monthly revenues and expenditures)
  • hiring trades, typically through a competitive tendering process using Request for Qualifications and Requests for Proposals
  • approving trade bids and executing contracts with trades to build the project
  • value engineering – reducing the scope of the project or finding less expensive alternatives to specified designs or materials to stay on budget
At Artscape the tenant selection process is managed by our Tenant Services Department, however, in smaller organizations this role may well also be undertaken by the project manager. Similarly, the project manager may also play a role in securing financing and contributing to fundraising efforts. For most large development projects, however, specialist finance and fundraising capacity will be required.

During Construction
Often there will be a construction manager from the construction company or general contractor hired to build the project who will manage day-to-day work on site. However, the project manager can still expect a full plate of work:

  • reviewing and approving trade invoices, ensuring trades are paid on time so that no work slow-downs occur
  • preparing any paperwork or funding claims required by funders
  • monitoring and revising the budget and schedule as work progresses and advising on changes to both
  • monitoring cash flow and spending projections, revising as necessary and securing bridge financing if necessary
  • reviewing and approving design changes and construction change orders
  • attending regular construction meetings to review progress and issues
After Construction
  • reviews and inspections of the work
  • overseeing the repair of deficiencies
Throughout the development process the project manager will need to stay on top of the coordination of and communication with the diverse range of individuals and organizations that play a role in ensuring the successful and timely delivery of the project vision. This includes:

  • coordination of various departments and divisions, designers, engineers, consultants, etc.
  • quality control of the work of designers and consultants to ensure designs and specifications are complete and meet the goals, budget and schedule
  • leading regular update meetings for the project team and other stakeholders
  • compiling and presenting information for decision-makers
What Are the Key Traits and Abilities of a Successful Cultural Facility Development Project Manager?
Project management is always challenging, however, cultural facility projects are especially complex, risky and, always, financially and time constrained. They also involve a diverse and ever-growing group of stakeholders. If you have spent sufficient time and care on pre-project development, your stakeholders will support and share the project vision, however they will all have differing perspectives and priorities as funders, development partners, anchor tenants, members of the local community, members of the arts and cultural community and local politicians, to name but a few. All of this means that the project manager for a cultural facility project needs to be comfortable managing complexity and working in a dynamic environment, a nimble and effective team player and passionate about the project they are working on.  

Before you take on a role like this, take a moment to think about the skills required. This complex role will most suit a generalist with many diverse skills. Key skills include the ability to be organized, personable, detail-oriented, able to assimilate diverse pieces of information, and to pull together and motivate a variety of people to complete a variety of tasks to move the project forward.

In many cases, a number of items such as design requirements and budget targets for specific work components are fluid throughout the project, and the work requires balancing knowns and unknowns in order to provide good decision-making advice, creative problem solving and an ability to shift priorities and switch gears quickly. Someone who thrives in a fast-paced environment, takes initiative, thinks creatively and can rise to challenges is a good fit for a project manager position.

It is also helpful to know in advance the steps involved in developing a project, and to have a realistic sense of the timing and challenges of designing a building, getting municipal approvals, working with architects and stakeholders and constructing the project. Therefore, it may be useful for a project manager to have a background in urban development, construction and/or city planning. It is a sure bet, however, that a project manager position is one with excellent potential for professional growth and challenge – every day is different and there is never a dull moment!
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