Project management: among the challenges that the civil engineer does not learn in the classroom

Upon completing the career and graduating as an engineer, the fulfillment of one of the goals that every student establishes when they start their university studies is consolidated. Even more important if the career that culminates is in the area that passion. Civil engineering is a profession that year after year motivates thousands of students to enroll in universities with the hope that when they finish their studies they will have a broad field of work where they can develop their personal and professional skills; since it covers the study, project, direction, construction and management of works in the following branches: sanitary (aqueducts, sewerage, sewage treatment plants, solid waste management, etc.), road (roads, avenues, bridges, airports, etc.), hydraulics (dams, dams, docks, canals, etc.), and structural (urbanism, housing, buildings, walls, tunnels, etc.).

The management of construction projects is one of the disciplines that every day attracts more civil engineers to dedicate themselves to this professional field, and those who dare to direct projects without being prepared, end up suffering the consequences and realizing that in the university classroom not all the necessary knowledge is imparted to face a challenge of this magnitude.

For the success in the management of a construction project, you must have extensive knowledge in different areas of knowledge and many years of experience, yet additional skills are required that are not learned in a classroom, as are the related aspects with emotional intelligence and the development of interpersonal relationships.

A project is a planned, temporary and unique effort, made to create unique products or services that add value or cause a beneficial change. All projects are different and each of them presents situations and challenges that require expertise and intelligence to know how to solve them in the best way. However, everyone who starts in project management has at some point their first project, and here we will try to show you some tips on how to deal with it in the best way.

The best advice we could give civil engineers who plan to devote their professional life to the area of ​​project management, is that they should start immediately after graduating to deepen their theoretical knowledge in this area and the best way is to do a master's degree, a postgraduate degree or take specialized courses in this subject. The Project Management Institute (PMI), a non-profit organization and one of the largest professional associations in the world, with half a million certified members in project management in more than 150 countries, is the main option to start learning of the direction of projects through its standards and certifications, recognized worldwide, and that dictate around the world through collaborative communities. You can get more information about PMI certifications on their website: www.pmi.org. Other options worldwide can be reviewed on the website: www.master-maestrias.com. Where 44 indicates master's options in project management, in different countries. Some of these courses can be taken quickly and virtually, as is the case with the Professional Course on Project Management (PMP).

To face this first project, which usually must be a small one, we suggest taking into account the following aspects:

  • Review, study and investigate very well and in detail about the project, you are the responsible manager and must make crucial technical decisions during the entire management. At the end of this stage you must know the whole construction process and the scope in terms of cost, time and quality required to complete it fully.
  • Prepare your objectives and goals. What is expected from the project? What is expected from your management? What are the benefits for the company?
  • Spend a lot of time at the beginning of the project to plan how things are going to take place, ask for opinions from your work team for the construction of scope, schedule, budget and risk identification.
  • Get to know the team, listen to their needs. People who work happily, will exploit their full potential to do their job as well as possible.
  • Involve your team. To the extent that people feel identified with the project, they will have better productivity.
  • Control the project. Define periodic follow-up meetings, where you control the execution of activities, budget spending, people, risks and any inconvenience that may arise.
  • Keep the interested parties informed. An influential stakeholder who has not been informed in a timely manner can make decisions that are not convenient for their management, it is important to keep them informed and satisfied.
  • If problems arise or if your project is not meeting key goals, do not despair. It is more important how you handle situations. Review the cause of the problem, apply the relevant corrective actions, manage the necessary changes in the plans, inform the interested parties about the situation and move on with the management.

Project management can be defined as the discipline of organizing and managing resources, in such a way that a given project is completely completed within the scope, time and cost constraints proposed at the beginning. Therefore, it involves executing a series of activities that consume resources such as time, money, people, materials, energy, communication (among others) to achieve pre-defined objectives.

Based on this definition of project management, the necessary areas of knowledge that a good manager must have in order to efficiently execute their work are defined and established, and they are:

  • Integration and scope of the project: this area is summarized in two words: mission and vision. The project manager must be clear about the scope of the project in terms of terms and times and, above all, in terms of impact. This includes the development and execution of a plan and the control of changes. For this you must know the specific technical and constructive aspects to execute the work.
  • Estimation of times and deadlines: This competence involves the preparation of a schedule where the scheduled tasks are set, their execution periods and the resources available for each one. The project manager must be able to operate the programs and applications that are used to develop work schedules, for example Microsoft Project, Primavera, etc.
  • Cost management: The good project manager must manage the specific and general costs through a previous work of resource planning (both human, material, equipment and technicians).
  • Quality management: are the necessary tasks to implement actions that allow evaluating the quality of products, services or contents and eliminate all those obstacles that prevent achieving a higher level of satisfaction. To fulfill this competence, the manager must know the technical and quality regulations that apply in the environment where the construction is executed.
  • Human resources management: this includes the hiring of highly qualified personnel, evaluation of their performance and management of incentives; with the idea of ​​making decisions that increase the level of productivity and commitment of those involved in the project.
  • Relationship management: the project manager also has to develop a relationship and communications plan that adapts to the needs of each case. Said plan must basically contemplate the distribution of the information, the fluidity thereof and the disclosure of the status of each phase of the project, from the first to the final delivery.
  • Risk management: this area of ​​knowledge has to do with the identification of the threats that the work team can face at any stage of execution, as well as the management of those risks, either mitigating their effects or reversing their impact.

In short project management is one of the biggest challenges that a civil engineer must face during his professional life, and for which he has not been fully prepared in the classrooms, therefore every good professional who makes the decision to dedicate himself To this discipline, you must make the decision to prepare yourself in each and every one of the areas of knowledge necessary to be an excellent project manager.

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