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How to Manage Complex Projects: Tips for Contractors

12/22/20 - Zoro Staff

As a contractor, you know that no two projects are the same. They each have their own challenges, and formulating a smart and effective way to manage these projects is critical to meeting deadlines and budgets, as well as growing your construction business[1]. Learning how to manage complex projects requires a strategic approach. We’re providing vital tips for contractors to help them do just that.

Key Tips to Managing Complex Projects

Project management in construction involves a large variety of tasks from beginning to end. There are many parties impacted, requiring collaboration and communication. As you plan out new builds, be sure to incorporate these aspects.

Clearly Define Expectations and Goals

Expectations and goals are crucial to any project and its success. At the start of any project, you have to begin managing expectations immediately. This is a time to be transparent about any possible limitations. Getting everyone on the same page is a must, and you should document it as well in your scope. Sometimes you’ll have to bring clients back to reality because not everything is possible.

Expectations don’t vanish once the project begins. The best way to keep things moving and avoid scope creep is to overcommunicate. You should consider creating a communication plan that details the who, when, and how. Designate a point of contact and advise when you’ll deploy updates and what system you’ll use to keep all parties informed.

Know Your Codes

Complex projects often involve complying with laws and codes. They aren’t static; they will change as needed, so you must know your codes. When you are working on a project that requires code compliance, be sure you have the most current version of the codes. A project can quickly go off the rails if these are not accounted for in planning.

Ensure Precision

Another issue that can come up that makes it hard to handle complex projects is not having enough materials. Miscalculations can occur in the planning phase, so using a reliable construction calculator[2] is a must. These calculators can provide you with an estimate of the material needed based on its type. Using these specialized tools can save you lost time and money.

Outline Equipment and Labor Needs

Your detailed plan for a project should also account for the equipment and labor you’ll need. The machinery may be highly specialized and not in your current collection. Thus, you’ll need to find a place to rent it and calculate those costs. You want to have the equipment on-site the days you need it so it doesn’t become a ballooning expense.

Determining your labor needs is also integral to project management. Within a project, there are multiple steps that require different kinds of labor, such as general construction labor, painters, tilers, roofers, etc.

Monitor and Adjust

Chances are you’ll hit roadblocks along the way, but if you are proactively monitoring the progress, you can keep these from becoming nightmares. Your goal is to hit milestones and stay on budget, but life doesn’t always go as planned. This is why you should always have contingencies built into your plan. Once you see something is going off-course—like material being delayed—you should then adapt your strategy. For example, if the material isn’t available, then send workers home until it is, which can at least minimize costs.

Leverage Technology

A construction project management platform can help you keep everything organized. Seek out a solution that’s easy to use and has a mobile app so the project timeline can be updated no matter where you are. By using software designed for contractors, there should be less of a learning curve.

The New Concern: COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought new considerations for project management. Construction is an essential business, meaning it can continue, but managing your site is different now. As if things weren’t complicated enough, now you need to think about the health and safety of employees and other stakeholders that may visit your site. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided some expert recommendations that can be helpful to you[3].

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, managing complex projects comes down to communication, collaboration, and organization. These tips can provide you the approaches and tools you need to ensure those three things are always top of mind.




Product Compliance and Suitability

The product statements contained in this guide are intended for general informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness, accuracy, completeness, correctness or currentness of the information provided. Information provided in this guide does not replace the use by you of any manufacturer instructions, technical product manual, or other professional resource or adviser available to you. Always read, understand and follow all manufacturer instructions.