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Management Guide for the Broadcaster (Part Two)

Tools, crucial processes and classic pitfalls to prosecute and implement the design and construction of new physical facilities.

You can be a general manager, programming director, operations manager or chief engineer. Today, the construction project manager in your company can be any of these charges. Whether it's designing a newsroom or a large studio, even if you're not trained for such functions and there is very little institutional memory in your organization, there are proven decision-making methodologies and processes, which you can apply to ensure the most profitable results of a project. Here are more tips.

Every project requires multiple contracts

A single construction process requires sets of contracts for various aspects of work. Each has design professionals and contractors. Table 1 includes a list of typical contracts sorted by groups, with their respective professionals and contractors.

The coordination of such dissimilar contracts is a challenge similar to that of the conductor. A new service activity has recently been developed to replace the company's internal staff with a project manager. Although they are not licensed professionals, these consultants usually contribute an institutional memory of the construction process.

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Manage your budget

Your program is also a vital tool for your project budget. Budgeting is one of the most enigmatic aspects of the construction industry. However, with a good program and some care, there is no reason for so much mystery.

The first step in creating a realistic budget is to employ a basic project calculation based on costs per square meter. These costs are fairly easy to identify in any given market.

Your designers and general contractors will be able to help you set the figures for your project. Table 3 lists some general rules for different types of spaces.

The next element in the formation of the budget is the identification of the costs that are specific to your project or the work in question. Your staff will know which ones are included in the costs per square meter. Some specific typical costs could be items such as those listed in Table 4.

The synthesis of the budget, based on the sum of the costs per square meter plus these particular costs, should give you a fairly reliable preliminary value of the construction.

The method just described will help you responsibly plan for special design features that are external to typical construction costs. These characteristics, usually the first victims of a budget crisis, can be kept in the budget and monitored as long as you trust that your calculation is under control and know what your real costs are.

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Once the budget is established, it becomes a tool of continuous utility in the design. As we proceed, all decisions must be analyzed in the light of the process. If you find very particular new conditions, be sure to add them to your list and check their respective cost.

When you have advanced 80% of the development of the design, a budget cut is usually healthy. You should already have a criterion on what direction the overall project is taking, as a few vestiges of items that can be eliminated have typically accumulated.

As you move towards finding deals and purchases, it is important to realize that there will be some unforeseeable aspects or that are known to be specific but still unquantifiable possibilities. It is essential to maintain a contingency fund apart from the contracted construction cost. Alternative offerings involve the development of alternate designs and the request for prices of both alternatives, allowing you to select from them at your convenience.

Reservations are essentially contingencies built into contract costs, applicable to aspects such as access doors, fire equipment and other current costs but not quantifiable until the project is underway. What is not used from these reserves is recovered upon termination of the contract.

One strategy we have used very successfully for several years is to admit a general contractor early in the design process and entrust them with the responsibility of continuously providing market feedback for the benefit of evolving design.

Manage your schedule

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Commit to managing the schedule together, from the moment you decide to take on the project. As contracts for so many components are involved here, it is necessary to coordinate the critical milestones and paths of the various component contracts. This is usually the responsibility of your company's own project manager, as well as your architect and general contractor.

The questionable way schedules are handled involves using damages, which penalize contractors for missing deadlines, which generates hostility and involves many paperwork on the part of project team members. Any delay corresponding to each of the parties must be documented.

Our preferred method of managing schedules is working together to establish a baseline schedule and monitor all changes that are presented in weekly project meetings.

Collectively, strategies can be developed to minimize the negative impacts of the problems that arise. The responsibility for directing this effort to the bidding and negotiation phase usually lies with the architect, and then passes to the general contractor.

In the schedule of a project there are two basic components: the critical path of the design and construction tasks that must be fulfilled, and the planning for the time margins required by certain items and materials.

An example of the critical path of a task is the need to create and refine the coordination of workshop drawings of each of the specialized segments that must be built on top of roofs before any of these segments can be approved for manufacturing and installation operations.

Another classic limitation regarding the completion of acoustically sensitive spaces is that they require many layers of construction and only a few people are available to accommodate the panels in a given enclosure, at a given time.

The second component of schedule management has to do with items whose acquisition requires a long time frame. At the beginning of the design it is essential to identify any item that requires a long period of time and plan its acquisition in advance. Table 5 lists some typical acquisition long margin elements.

At the end of the bidding and negotiation stage, the general contractor should be tasked with setting a project timeline that everyone is committed to managing. Any changes must be carried out by means of orders, and modifications in costs must be met using this mechanism.

When there are changes in the scope of the project, the general contractor must handle the rescheduling and costs, so that the team has a realistic timeline throughout the project.

Classic obstacles of schedule scheduling:

  • Not giving enough time for internal review of various decisions by the client. It is essential that the client accepts the limitations that these periods imply, if the schedule is known in advance.
  • Not every week is the same. December and August are half months, at best. In the week of nab it is always difficult for customers to make decisions. Plan according to these special lapses.
  • Failure to achieve a healthy consensus on the part of the client's organization on the respective policies, as they are developed. This often results in unforeseen disturbances involving design changes at any point in the process.

Balance time, quality and cost

Figure 1 illustrates one of the key challenges management has to face in the design process: how to find the right balance between time, quality, and cost.

Achieving any combination of two of these three factors is relatively easy. If you want to control costs, you often have to choose between schedule and quality. If you are in a hurry, sometimes you have to choose between meeting the budget and quality standards. If quality is the crucial point, it will cost you in time or money. The art of managing these plans is to keep the project in balance without sacrificing any of these aspects.

Don't forget that design is a process

You won't know all the answers until you're done. Some issues you think you have addressed will continue to surface and demand your attention. The process itself is telling you that this or that issue needs more to be resolved. Their guides are the design professionals and the other members of their project team, as well as the methodology they bring to their work.

As project manager, on behalf of the company, your basic functions will be:

  • Leverage your own time and ability by carefully selecting your project team members.
  • Make sure your organization focuses its talent on creating a program and defining project success guidelines.
  • Lead the consensus-building process as policies are set and design solutions take shape.
  • Help the project team make value judgments to balance budget, schedule, and quality.

We hope that the reflections offered have helped you to remove the veil of mystery that usually covers the process and allow you to collect for your company the benefits of any construction project that you must take charge of.

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