Peter Coulson is the company director of Within Reach Developments Ltd. a property development company specialising in redeveloping unique sites into highly desirable homes. With a strong background as a management consultant, improving efficiency and company processes, we spoke with Peter to find out the steps he would take to improve project management efficiency across construction and property development projects.

1. Make sure you’re plan is flexible

Your initial project plan should never be set in stone. Instead, it should be more of an aspirational guideline for how you see the project evolving. As soon as the project has started, and you open the building up, hurdles will be thrown in your way. Your plan has to be flexible enough to adapt to the unforeseen changes that always occur within such dynamic environments, such as construction or property development sites.


“Your plan has to be flexible enough to adapt to the unforeseen changes that always occur”


If you go into the project with a flexible plan, you can adapt it as the project progresses. At the start there will always be a lot of unknown, which you can mitigate and plan against. However, you have to be aware that those plans might change. Once you have opened the building up and truly understand it, then the plan should be updated and only then will your plan become a solid, unchangeable resource to work from.

One point to note is that it is essential that you build financial and time contingencies into your plan from the start to accommodate these unexpected issues. The more experience you and the team gather, the more you will be prepared for the issues and can mitigate against them.


2. Link your project plan to a clear financial forecast

It is essential to have a clear understanding of the financial impact of a project. However the project is funded, it is essential that there is a clear understanding as to when costs will be incurred and importantly how the cash flow will change depending on changes on site.

If you can use software to link the project plan to your finances, then every time you make a change to your plan, it will change in your financial cash flow. This is hugely beneficial to the efficiency of a project. It will provide you with a great understanding of how the change in the plan has impacted the cash flow, and you can act accordingly helping you have a greater financial control across multiple projects.


3. Tailor the plan to your requirements

Having a software package that can be tailored to your requirements is essential to the success and efficiency of your project. If you imagine that there are 20 elements of a construction or development project, from demolition to painting walls, there is a lot of budgeting to consider; both in terms of materials and job allocation. Using software will not only help to keep track of resources, but will also provide a platform to work from for your next project. You will be able to look back at your previous budgets and costs, figure out what worked, and what didn’t, and plan accordingly.


“Having a software package that can be tailored to your requirements is essential to the success and efficiency of your project”


4. Develop a plan that crosses multiple projects

Most development companies will have multiple projects operating at the same time, and Within Reach is no exception. My monthly resourcing meetings are essential to ensuring that I am utilising my resources effectively across all projects. However, if something changes in one plan and resources are affected, then I need to understand how that will implicate the other projects.

Using software to develop a cross-project plan will provide you with the flexibility to identify cross project impact if you move resources around.


5. Incorporate all of the above into a usable onsite tool

At Within Reach, everyone is provided with a fortnightly task list (to plan ahead and ensure materials are ordered on time etc.). If you have a lot of resources spread across multiple projects, then it’s inefficient to create multiple fortnightly task lists for each project. You want one easily readable form that informs everyone, on every level, of their tasks for each project over the course of the two weeks.

This could be created in the form of a printable project plan that you can put up in the meeting room on-site, through to a clear and straightforward task list that can be given to all levels of staff. It’s about having software that can professionalise everything, from what’s been getting done to what has been bought and thought through.

Overall – it’s imperative to always keep in mind that construction projects will constantly throw up unexpected issues that result in changes across the board and anyone that believes a plan or task list won’t change is kidding themselves. The importantly element is having the flexibility within your plans, workforce etc. to be able to quickly adapt to these changes.

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