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Why Do You Need Good Project Procedures?

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 2, 2017 10:06:51 AM / by John R. Manning, PE, CCM, LEED


This is the fourth post in our year-long series about the best ways to work with your Owner's Representative. You can view all of the series posts here.

Good Project Procedures are critical for a well-run project. 


They help everyone on a project know the ground rules and processes needed to successfully work together as a team. It is critical that Owner’s Representatives take the lead in pulling a Procedure Manual together and detailing those processes to everyone on the project. 

A good Project Procedures Manual should address at a minimum:

1. Functional Responsibilities and Limits of Authority

businessman-1241110.jpgThe roles and responsibilities for all the key participants on a project must be detailed. If Contracts are in place the roles and responsibilities should adhere to those Contracts. As the old saying goes on problem projects –“Well the problem here is we have responsibility without authority.” It is critical that when someone is placed in a position of responsibility that they are granted the appropriate authority. The Procedure Manual should detail responsibilities by the level of authority. Flow charts work well with depicting levels of responsibilities and authorities.

2. Document Control

Projects have a large amount of documents. A procedure must be put in place on how to manage those documents. In the current world there are many forms of electronic document management systems out there. Most projects today do not keep the amount of paper files that were generated in the past. Cloud based systems are generally the most efficient way to go for a project to handle electronic documents however the processes need to be planned out. A detailed document control procedure should be put in place from the start, one that is thoroughly thought out. There are ways to manage, view and markup documents virtually from anywhere. The cost of these systems could be on the low end of using a cloud based filing system like Google Drive® and BOX® or a full blown PM system like Procore®. This document control process should detail any and all filing systems whether electronic or hard copy that all will adhere to on the project. If not, then time will be wasted searching for documents that should be easily found. This is one of the key reasons the computerized project management systems have been growing in the industry as they force teams to adhere to a process that allows for proper filing and ease of searching.

3. Correspondence Distribution Matrix

Combined with the document control processes should be the development of a correspondence distribution matrix. This matrix will help delineate who should get what types of correspondence. Who should get RFI’s, Submittals, Schedules, or Change issues, etc. The matrix should list everyone on the right side that is involved in the project (we prefer by individual versus just by entity) and on the top the types of correspondence.

4. Contract Processes

Contracts for design, construction or other consultants should be developed by attorneys skilled in construction law. In Florida we have Board Certified Construction Lawyers who have the demonstrated expertise in this area. However all project management personnel should be involved in the process of finalizing the contract details as, day to day, they will be the ones who will be administering the contracts. When bidding out projects, it is important to send out a copy of the contract as getting a price from an entity without their understanding of the terms and conditions of a contract could lead to issues in finalizing a deal.

5. RFP Processes

The Procedure Manual should address the accepted RFQ (Request for Qualifications) and RFP (Request for Proposals) processes. If possible always do a RFQ first to ensure you really understand the qualifications of the firms you are detailing with before looking at pricing. Industry wide studies have shown that quality based selection has avoided many of the major problems on projects. If at all possible the processes should detail the quality standards necessary for either a design firm or a contractor (CM-at risk, Design-Builder, General Contractor, Designer, etc.) to be acceptable for the project.

RFP processes should detail how bids will be provided, held secure, reviewed and how recommendations will be provided. The process should also detail what documents will go into the RFP i.e. drawings, specifications, scope of work, time of performance, change order forms, release of lien forms, etc. Guidance from the project attorney should be secured for all these forms and documents. Finally, during the bid process how will bidder’s questions and then answers and addendums be provided to ensure all bidders have the same information.

6. Payment Processing

writing-a-check-2-1239258.jpgHow payments are to be handled needs to be clearly detailed in the Procedure Manual. This process needs to be coordinated with the payment processes detailed in the contracts. The Procedure Manual should provide details in regard to how payments will be reviewed, number of copies, format required, backup required, time periods for review, who will be reviewing and approving, lien releases and any other documentation required by the contract, funding and/or type of project.


7. RFI and Submittal Processing

The Procedure Manual needs to detail how the Owner's Representative team will interface with the RFI and Submittal processing on the project. The key parties for the RFI and Submittal processes will be the Architect and Contractor. On some projects the Owner's Representative just needs a copy of the logs while on others they may need to look at all RFI's and Submittals or just some of them. This needs to be thought out and detailed in the Procedure Manual. Although with current cloud based PM systems, all of these processes may run through the PM system, however, this still needs to be detailed in the Procedure Manual.

8. Change Management Processes

flicking-pages-1150902.jpgThe Procedure Manual should provide a detailed process for managing change on the project with flow charts on how changes can be initiated, tracked and then resolved. All projects have change. Putting in place a procedure that everyone understands is paramount to resolving change most efficiently. I was on a large multi-million dollar project once where any and all changes required the initiator to fill out a detailed request form that detailed not only the change but also detailed the justification for the reason for the change and anticipated budget and schedule impact. This request form was then sent to the Project Executive for review. A form like this is critical when the Owner’s Team has the potential to generate a lot of changes. A detailed process will help make the Owner’s Team more disciplined in considering the generation of a change as well as helping the Owner’s Team plan on how to review and address changes from the Design Team and the Contractors.

9. Cost Control and the Systems Required for Monitoring and Controlling Project Costs

A well run project needs to have systems in place that can quickly tell the cost status of a project. This means putting in place a process that tracks all costs on a project. We typically breakdown our cost tracking such that it tells us on one sheet or at most two sheets (we call this a cost worksheet) and details the following: 

  • Budget – A segment that details the approved budget and any approved changes to the budget.
  • Commitments – A segment that details all approved contracts (or purchase orders) and change orders to the project.
  • Pending Changes – A segment that details any changes that have not been settled into a change order in any of the contracts on the project.
  • Other Forecasts – This segment of the cost worksheet is where the Owner’s Rep inputs any other potential forecasts for items that may be developing during the project.
  • Forecast at Completion – This segment really totals the Commitments, Pending Changes and Other Forecasts together for a Total Forecast at Completion for the project. This is compared to the Budget to forecast any impacts to the budget.
  • Paid to Date – Finally we ensure we want to see where we stand on payments against commitments on a project.

10. Quality Control and Quality Assurance Program

In the Procedure Manual it is important to layout who will be responsible for tracking quality of the design, quality of construction, commissioning processes and how those will be reported to track issues in quality on a project.

11. Schedule Control Processes

In the Procedure Manual it is important to detail how schedules will be reviewed on the project. Unfortunately schedules have become a strong tool for Contractors to make claims on projects therefore a systematic review process needs to be detailed in the Procedure Manual as to who will review, what their review should encompass and how they will report to Owner on that review.

12. Meeting Processes

Meetings are one of the standard communication processes used on projects. These meetings include, but are not limited to, design meetings, pre-construction meetings, construction meetings and specialty meetings. The Procedure Manual should detail who will develop agendas for a meeting, who will take the meeting minutes and the timing of the publishing of those meeting minutes.


13. Coordination Processes

Many times the Owner has ongoing operations at the site where the project is being developed. While the Contractor has some coordination responsibilities, they will need to have point(s) of contact with whom the Contractor is to coordinate. There may also be notice requirements necessary to allow the Owner to be prepared for intrusion of the Contractor into their operations. This all should be spelled out in the Procedure Manual.

14. Sustainability Requirements

LEED projects have become common place in the development of facilities in today’s world. LEED projects require a detailed tracking and reporting process. The Procedure Manual does not need to repeat those requirements as detailed out by the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) but the Manual should detail how tracking will be reported, such that, at the end the project the sustainability goals will be achieved.

15. Reporting Processes

To keep a project on track we typically use a monthly reporting process that will pull all tracking items together to give the Owner a true status on the project. The reporting done by the Owner’s Representative should allow the Owner a chance to make decisions to keep the project on track. The format of the report will be customized based upon the needs of the Owner but typically there should be an Executive Summary that highlights where the project is in the front (one page if possible).

I have seen Procedure Manuals that are much more detailed but the above is a minimum listing of the information that should be included.

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Topics: Owner's Representative, Trouble Project Turnaround, Construction, Project Management