By Danny Pettiona

Recently I was asked to give a presentation at a local university to undergraduate students studying a degree in Construction Management and Quantity Surveying. The purpose of the talk was for me, as university alumni, to provide a personal insight to the students on who I was and how I got to my current position.
Prior to the presentation I had a really good think about what I would have wanted to understand if I was a student listening to a graduate of the same degree. Numerous ideas came into my head, ‘how much money can I expect to earn?’, ‘how do I get a job in the industry?’, ‘are there any jobs currently available?’ However, all of these ideas stemmed back to one fundamental idea, actually understanding what career path I could have taken following university.
If you asked a person outside the construction industry what a Project Manager does, they would probably simply respond ‘manages projects’. However once you are in the industry, the question would become ‘what type of Project Manager’. Many of the students just commencing university do not seem to have a grasp on Client vs. Contractor side project management. Even when I was close to graduating (after working for a Tier 1 contractor) I still did not fully understand what the difference was between the two.
I decided to ‘try’ to explain the difference between Client and Contractor side project management and the different role each plays in the industry. Probably the simplest explanation I could provide was that the client side Project Manager manages the interests of the client and the contractor side Project Manager manages the interests of the Contractor, with a combined goal of delivering the project. I expanded on this by explaining that in a typical construct only contract, the contractors Project Manager will be involved for only the construction and handover periods of the project. What many students and graduates new to the industry do not understand is the construction period is only a small component of the overall project. As a client side Project Manager, you can be involved from site acquisition, preparing feasibilities, aiding in arranging finance, managing the design, the tender process, construction, handover and defects. In some ways a project is like an iceberg, where all we see is the construction and none of the process to reach this point.
If someone were to ask me what type of Project Manager they should be I would probably ask them the following questions:

If you answered yes to the above questions I would say you were more suitable to being a contractor’s Project Manager. A client side Project Manager does not become as involved in the process of constructing and delivering the construction project. Their purpose is to manage the client’s interests by ensuring the product being delivered by the contractor meets their needs and requirements. It is not the client side Project Manager’s role to be instructing, for example, a block layer to commence working on a certain part of the project first. This is handled by the contractor's Project Manager.
To decide to pursue a career as a client side Project Manager you must enjoy being involved in the project from a more ‘macro’ level and managing the various consultants and contractors in order to deliver the project, in accordance with your clients brief and objectives. I myself enjoy this type of work as it allows me to be involved in a project from initial inception through to completion of the project and gain a further understanding of the whole development process.

If you would like to understand more about client side Project Management, please do not hesitate to contact LEAD Consultants.