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Project Management Industry Shifts to Embrace Innovation


By Catherine Lategan

Companies encounter a number of drivers when considering long-term space requirements such as renovations, expansions, consolidations and relocations. Drivers can be complex and multi-layered.

Regardless of the scale or degree of complexity being considered, addressing space requirements represents opportunities for critical thinking and strategic planning.

Aligning scale and complexity to expertise is needed to ensure a smooth and efficient transition. This is where early engagement of project management can serve in clarifying objectives and executing on deliverables such as establishing a basis of design and performance criteria. This in turn can inform site selection and guide in selection of design and construction partners best suited to deliver value in the engagement.

In order to serve clients from start to finish, it is beneficial for a project manager to be educated and experience in a range of topics. Translating the business planning into head count projections; interpreting brand and culture into a design concept; budgeting each component of scope and time to level set expectations; market conditions for design, construction and other vendors; arriving at best value for the project and client, and delivering in a manner that is predictable and consistent are all aspects that can be achieved by engaging with project management professionals with the appropriate education and experience.

Not only are these projects generally not ‘everyone’s day job’ on the client side, but projects are frequently associated with a fair amount of organizational change. It stands to reason that delegating project management can free up internal decision makers to address the communications (whether this be to internal constituents, shareholders or clients), tee up sponsorship if there is an engagement process, and validate decisions within the norms of the particular organizational structure and culture.

The increasingly complex environment benefits from increased adoption of project management.
Project managers help clients navigate a wide range of development stages, while addressing the following:

  • Assess issues and constraints surrounding existing or outdated space.
  • Understanding impacts of mergers/acquisitions and resulting downsizing or expansion.
  • Guide the design process to incorporate functionality and future flexibility.
  • Understand the company culture by integrating brand strategy.
  • Organize resiliency planning for IT and other operationally distinct functions.

In the past, project management was sometimes viewed as ancillary. As the nature of business has evolved with an outgrowth of tech advancement, so has the ever increasing need for project management, which is now viewed as essential. This progression is exemplified in the Pacific Northwest. Many Fortune 500 companies with a presence in this area are often on the forefront pushing the envelope of innovation in a variety of ways.

The role of Project Management is expanding as company’s needs are changing.

Project management is at a major crossroads and the one-size-fits-all concept is long gone. The many changes business operations have experienced over the past few years has affected how space requirements are addressed. Giving project managers good reason to pause, assess and establish new innovative approaches to the services provided. The industry must evolve to meet changing needs.

For instance, financial, public and non-profit sectors have similarities in the way fiduciary responsibility is approached. On the other hand, tech companies, which are currently at the heart of the economic engine fueling the Puget Sound, tend to baseline approach on more adaptive project frameworks such as Agile. Agile project management is an iterative approach to planning and guiding project processes. An Agile project is completed in small sections to achieve larger objectives.

It is fairly common to find companies wanting to approach all projects in a manner that is familiar due to the nature of how they operate in their day to day enterprise, but this approach may not work with projects such as real estate site selection.
While “agile” eliminates the non-value added workload and time, understanding how to balance “speed to market” with processes typically associated with site selection, the design and construction process is beneficial.

Real estate professionals, developers, architects, contractors and suppliers are all adapting to meet new market demands. Navigating the process with a project manager can result in optimized outcomes.

Catherine Lategan is a Senior Project Manager with Cushman & Wakefield/Commerce, Seattle, where she oversees Asset Services projects throughout the Pacific Northwest. Catherine offers twenty-two years of industry experience, and nine years in various project management roles, ranging in scale and complexity. http://www.comre.com/clategan