Construction Management Issues and Challenges

GlossaryJuly 23, 2021

Overview

Construction management might simply be the most important part of a construction process as a whole. Construction managers are supposed to act as the middle ground between the on-site construction team and the client, making sure that everyone knows what they’re doing, and that the end result of a construction process meets the expectations of a client.

Undoubtedly it is a massive task on its own. Of course, any sophisticated task comes with its own list of issues, both large and small in size. Construction management is no different in that regard. But there’s also another, more basic question that can be asked in this context – what is construction management?

First of all, as the name suggests, construction management is the act of managing a construction project. Construction management is the process of starting, planning, commencing, and completing construction projects. Project management, on the other hand, is somewhat larger in scope. This means project managers are also dealing with several other matters (aside from the actual construction process), such as early design stages, bidding, post-construction maintenance, etc.

While a lot of common issues in construction management can be resolved by having experience in the field, some other issues in construction are downright unavoidable. This brings us to the topic of the biggest construction management issues – we’re going to discuss the biggest ones below.

Construction management issues

The topic of potential issues is always a broad one, but it’s possible to figure out a list of the biggest challenges that construction management deals with on a regular basis. That’s why we’re listing seven of these challenges below:

  1. Lackluster communication

It’s not actually uncommon for a lack of communication to result in a project’s demise. Communication between different departments is a challenge on its own, and construction managers need to pour in extra effort since feedback and project status are incredibly important for them.

To avoid this potentially disastrous issue for construction, managers need to work on setting up proper communication channels with different departments – to avoid falling behind with project completion, among other things.

  1. Responsibility and accountability

Accountability is also a surprisingly big problem in construction management. Construction managers have to not only assign the goals for different teams but also ensure that people would be responsible for the completion of said goals.

Keeping all of the parties involved accountable for their parts of the job is a high-priority task of a construction manager, and it’s the one that can ruin an entire project in a heartbeat.

  1. Lack of stakeholder feedback

Another fairly common construction issue is the lack of stakeholder feedback on the project. Stakeholder participation as a whole is a factor that influences the number of delays and reworks that the entire team is going to face at some stage of project realization.

It’s up to construction project managers to encourage regular feedback from stakeholders so that the amount of potential problems is as low as possible. Since it is a relatively common problem, construction managers also have to develop contingency plans in case there is a stakeholder indifference, and it can’t be avoided.

  1. Poorly defined goals

This is probably one of the biggest construction management issues to date – no defined goals for a project. The cause of this might be different – with stakeholders either not being able to agree on something or not knowing what they want out of a project themselves.

The problem is that the existence of an unclear goal of a project makes it exponentially harder to manage. Luckily enough, this issue can be avoided, at least to some degree. For example, construction project managers can ask direct questions to stakeholders from the beginning of a project and continue reiterating them for the entire length of a project’s realization to keep everything consistent.

  1. Problems with risk management

Risk management is another important topic for construction as a whole, and in some cases one of the biggest construction management issues. Risks in the construction industry are far bigger and more costly than in most industries.

Construction managers always have to try and identify potential issues before they become the cause of a project delay or a budget increase. Most of the time it’s important for construction management to gather input and generate mitigation plans beforehand.

  1. Unclear scope of a project

This construction issue is so big it’s even got its own name – “scope creep”. It’s a direct result of poorly defined goals, and a lot of such cases end up either over budget or over schedule. It’s up to construction management to communicate with stakeholders on the topic of scope importance, and the potential delays and/or budget increases that might arise if the issue is not taken care of in time.

  1. Issues with stakeholders’ expectations

Another issue for construction that is related to stakeholders is the appearance of expectations that are straight-out unrealistic or unachievable. It’s not uncommon for productivity, in general, to drop in the face of an unrealistic deadline or the lack of resources on site. In this case, it’s up to the construction management to be on the side of regular workers and to advocate for more realistic expectations that can actually be achieved in the specific timespan.

Construction industry challenges

While construction management is a fairly complicated topic on its own, the construction industry as a whole has its own list of problems. Still, even though the industry itself is growing, it’s important to know about some of the major problems that most construction companies encounter one way or another.

While we’ve managed to find four distinct challenges for this list, it’s important to mention that they are connected to each other to some extent, and one challenge might be a part of the reason for another challenge’s existence. Here are four challenges of the construction industry:

  1. Lack of technological progress adoption
  2. Productivity problems
  3. Safety concerns
  4. Labor problems

Lack of technological progress adoption

The incredibly slow process of adopting new technologies is basically a norm for the entire construction industry at this point. Despite the fact that many business owners understand and acknowledge a myriad of benefits that new technologies can bring, it’s still a rare occurrence to see a construction business owner investing in adopting a new technology for their business.

The ironic part of this is that a lot of the new technologies can be used to at least partially solve other construction-related problems, like BIM for planning and scheduling, drones for monitoring, VR for training, and so on. Additionally, companies that don’t shy away from newer technologies tend to attract younger specialists – solving one of the bigger hurdles of the construction industry as a whole.

The point of time, where the introduction of some technologies would be inevitable for the company to stay on the market, is getting closer and closer, and early adopters would have a great advantage over more conservative companies in that regard.

Productivity problems

Another interesting topic in this context is how the construction industry has a lot of productivity problems, especially when compared with similar industries, like agriculture or manufacturing. This is even more problematic right now since the complexity of construction projects grows on a regular basis.

Some of the reasons regarding these problems are directly tied with age-old industry issues, such as technology adoption resulting in inadequate planning and scheduling, labor shortage problems resulting in workers not having enough skills for the job, and so on.

As with the previous example, the possible solution for this problem lies in newer technologies and methods, such as design-build method, or lean construction practices – the problem is that both of those require a level of communication that is unachievable without the modern technologies such as BIM, project management software, etc.

Safety concerns

As a highly dangerous industry in general, work safety has been a major concern for construction companies for a while now, with the construction industry dominating the ratings of a total number of worker deaths for decades. Additionally, even injuries that are not fatal result in a relatively long recovery period, often resulting in a worker being out of commission for at least a month or more.

Obviously enough, worker safety should be the number one priority for construction companies, since each missing worker is a huge productivity loss, at the very least. Events like safety training and briefings should not be a one-time thing, but a reoccurring event, to reinforce all of the previously acquired knowledge.

It’s not just about worker level either. A good safety program designed on the highest level of a company and vigilant enforcement of this program often leads to a lot fewer accidents on the site in general, and might even bring some reputational advantages in some cases.

Labor problems

The last of the problems in this list is the labor issue. The demand for skilled workers is always growing, and not enough people are interested in working for the industry to meet that demand. This also adds up to a different problem – experienced workers retiring faster than their replacements are getting hired.

There is hope here, luckily enough. Companies seem to understand the severity of this problem, and there’s been an increase in various training and apprenticeship programs, as well as government collaborations to attract more talent in the industry in general. While this is a positive note, the problem of labor shortages has been active for some time now and shows no signs of stopping any time soon.

Conclusion

Construction is an incredibly complex industry with many different challenges and issues. Construction management, as a part of this industry, also has its own share of problems and methods to solve them. In this article, we’ve attempted to collect some of the major issues plaguing both construction management as a process and the construction industry as a whole.

About the author

James Ocean

BIM/VDC Specialist. James Ocean is Head of BIMspiration at Revizto and keeps everything moving onwards and upwards. From supporting and teaching our internal team as well as our clients, James shows us the ins-and-outs and how to best leverage Revizto to maximize workflows, cut costs, and get all types of projects through the finish line.

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