The use of project management procedures by construction contractors
Research into the use of project management procedures has mostly been directed at the private sector of the construction industry, despite the fact that the public sector contribute almost half of the UK's construction output, in the repair and maintenance sector of the construction industry. Indeed, since the introduction of compulsory competitive tendering (CCT) in 1980, the public sector has had to carry out a continually increasing proportion of their work under competitive conditions, bidding for work along with private sector construction contractors. This thesis focuses on the use of project management procedures in both private and public sector construction contractor organisations, looking at the utilisation of a number of different project management procedures, including organisation profile, project planning and control, quality management, and human resource considerations. It is believed that all these aspects must be considered together, if an accurate picture of an organisation's approach to the management of projects is to be achieved. The argument employed throughout this study is that where project management procedures are adopted in the management of projects, a project manager will have the potential to better manage the project, than would otherwise be the case. Empirical research was carried out using both a quantitative approach (structured mail questionnaire) and a qualitative approach (semi structured interviews). 100 responses were received in all, 80 to a questionnaire for construction contractors, 63 in the private and 17 in the public sector. Personal interviews were carried out with 20 project managers. Analysis of the data investigated the use of a number of different project management procedures and identified differences in their use between private and public sector contractors. The results showed that despite tendering for and carrying out work in the same market area, there were notable differences in the use of project management procedures between private and public sector construction contractors. In the main, private sector construction contractors utilised project management procedures to a greater extent than contractors in the public sector; however, in many instances the use of such procedures could hardly be described as extensive. For example, planning in many instances did not extend to the monitoring and control phase once projects were underway; the 'baseline' plan was effectively disregarded for updating project status, particularly so in the public sector. Despite the powerful nature of performance monitoring techniques, such as 'earned value analysis', little use was made of them. This general lack of project control was further exacerbated because both private and public sector construction contractors tended to operate separate 'stand alone' project costing systems, remote from those used for project planning and control purposes. There was a strong commitment to quality in both the private and public sectors. However, a noticeable difference wast that the private sector tended to apply their quality management systems to all areas of their business, whereas, the public sector normally only operated such systems for restricted areas of work, when compared to the 'overall' project. Of further concern was that both private and public sector construction contractors took account of the 'human' element to a much lesser degree than issues of time, cost or quality, even though they said they viewed it as important. Notwithstanding the existence of project management procedures for many years, there was a common lack of awareness and under utilisation of all but the most straightforward procedures in both sectors of the industry. This was especially so within the public sector. Essentially, private and public sector construction contractors must initiate familiarisation and training programmes within their organisations to enable their project managers to access the best project management 'tools' available to assist them in their projects.