Since the 1990’s Kenya’s economy has been on an upward growth. In the wake of the 21st century, we have seen lenders diversifying their investment portfolio to real estate, thus leading to the current booming property market. According to the 2015, economic survey the contribution of the real estate sector to the GDP grew from 6% in 2013 to 8.5% in 2014. The developments such as the recently opened Garden City development, Two rivers in Kiambu, Konza Technopolis, LAPSET project, Thika Superhighway, Standard gauge railway and the Tatu City are among the many capital intensive projects that are significantly changing the construction landscape of the region. The bad news is that if these projects are poorly managed, they will in turn cause the property bubble to burst and the economy of the entire East Africa region will eventually suffer.
Construction Project Management
Construction Project Management practice has come to the industry in the mid of increasing complexity and magnitude of projects- a characteristic of the 21st century practice.
As defined in the PMBOK, Project Management is the ‘‘application of skills, knowledge, tools and techniques to project activities to meet project objectives’’ and a successful project is the one which has met the project triple bottom-line of time, budget, and acceptable quality.
Construction Project Management Challenges in the 21st Century
Despite discipline being key to successful delivery of projects, it has not been widely embraced in the Kenyan context. The following are the challenges:
The construction industry is faced with the largest variations in output due to uncertainty. The ‘construction boom’, has increased the magnitude of projects consequently increasing the level of complexity thus requiring increased coordination of the various disciplines. It’s due to lack of adequate coordination that we have seen most projects suffering cost escalation, delayed completion, collapse and/or site abandonment.
Without proper risk management, the lenders are exposed, the developers are suffering great losses and the reputation of consultants and the flourishing economy is at stake. It’s because of this that Project Managers are required in the construction industry.
Traditionally, the lead consultant in construction projects was the Architect and this continues to be the norm in Kenya and East Africa as a whole. The concept of integrating the services of a Project Manager into the construction process has been seen as increasing, unnecessarily, the professional fees, and on the other hand usurping authority from the lead consultant. However, it is paramount to accept positive changes of the 21st century practice and embrace this new ideology which will in turn add value in the industry.
Recognition of the Profession
As it stands today, project management has not received accreditation and recognition in Kenya. This is despite the adaptation of project management techniques and practices in the successful execution of major projects across the globe. Many uncertified quacks have found leeway and tarnished the authenticity of the profession by poorly managing projects without considering the project constraints. The collapsed structures around the city are clear testaments of this. Registration of the profession would restrict the practice to accredited individuals which would promote the face of project management in the professional world.
The world is a jungle and it is animalistic instinct to fight for survival. Such scenarios, as primitive as they may come off, are common in the working environment especially where a new discipline is introduced. People will automatically react to exert their dominance as is witnessed in the context of the construction industry. Lack of adequate knowledge on the project management profession coupled by roles that are not clearly defined at the onset of the project will result in a tangle for dominance. Awareness of the profession across various disciplines will go a long way to promoting acceptance of project management into the working environment.
Project management is sometimes viewed as an unnecessary addition to the construction process. This is especially true since the roles defined for the profession have been over the years carried out by other players in the industry such as the Architect, Engineers, Quantity Surveyors and Property Managers. The need for the integration of project management services may not be obvious. However, with further study on the cost benefit implications in relation to project success, knowing the role in which that played is vital.
It is evident that although project management techniques and practises are implemented across various disciplines, the acknowledgement and acceptance of the profession is lacking. Adequate training on the subject matter coupled with registration of the profession as an independent body will greatly influence the assimilation of project management into the workforce.