Client-Side vs Contractor-Side Project Managers – What’s the Difference?



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Client-Side vs. Contractor Side Project Management

The term “Project Manager” resonates as a crucial role in any construction project, often seen as a key player whose actions and decisions lead to the project’s success. Yet, it’s a lesser-known fact that every construction venture is navigated by two principal navigators – the Client-side and Contractor-side Project Managers. Both play crucial roles in the success of construction projects, yet their responsibilities and perspectives differ significantly.  

For those newly venturing into construction, understanding the nuances of these roles is not only beneficial but crucial for the success of your project. In this blog post, we shed light on the value each role will bring to your overall vision.   

Note: In this post, the terms “Contractor”, “Builder”, and “Construction company” are used interchangeably, as they often are in the industry. 

What is a Client-Side Project Manager?

What Is A Client-Side Project Manager?

A Client-side Project Manager is an expert appointed by the Client or asset owner, to oversee and manage the construction project on their behalf. Synonymous with an Owner’s Representative, they directly represent the client and serve as a liaison between them, the contractors and other parties involved. Their responsibilities and obligations are focused on protecting and furthering the clients’ interests.  

In some instances, clients and organisations may choose to have Project Managers internally, especially in larger companies with extensive construction portfolios. However, outsourcing this role to specialised firms often yields a higher return on investment. This allows clients to tap into seasoned professionals’ resources and expertise, all while avoiding the overhead costs associated with hiring, training and resourcing full-time staff. For larger projects, or those spread over distances, you may find a Client Side Project Manager is hired as well as an internal Project Manager. 

If you wish to dive deeper into what this role entails, we recommend you read this blog post.  For now, let us focus on how a Client-Side Project Manager is different from a Contactor-Side Project Manager. For context, here are some of the role’s key responsibilities: 

  • Oversee the project’s entire budget and cash flow to avoid unforeseen costs. 
  • Proactively assess and mitigate risks and take quality control measures to prevent issues before they arise.  
  • Develop and supervise a program (schedule) that aligns with the Client’s requirements, ensuring favourable outcomes.  
  • Fast and efficient problem solving (overlapping with what we call ‘Value Engineering’), which includes finding customised solutions that match the client’s vision and goals proactively. 

What Is a Contractor-Side Project Manager?

A Contractor-Side Project Manager represents the interests of the builder, contractor, or construction company to which they are affiliated. Employed within the contractor’s company to oversee the project, their primary responsibility is to coordinate the construction from their employer’s perspective. Acting as a coordinator of subcontractors, consultants, suppliers and other stakeholders, their responsibility is ultimately to build the thing they are Contracted to build. The key responsibilities of a Contractor-Side Project Manager are: 

  • They oversee the project’s day-to-day operations for the Contractor, ensuring compliance with construction schedules and budgets, managing subcontractors, coordinating with suppliers and vendors, and monitoring quality control.   
  • Ensure compliance with the Contractor’s contractual obligations.  
  • They serve as the main point of contact between the Contractor’s company, the building owners’ designated representative (ie the Client-Side Project Manager), other stakeholders and subcontractors. 
  • Their obligations are to protect the interests of the Contractor’s company. 

What are the key differences between the two roles?

The Client-Side Project Manager and the Contractor-Side Project Manager are frequently interchanged and confused, especially by those unfamiliar with the construction industry. However, their roles and responsibilities are very different.  

 A Contractor-Side Project Manager’s typical day consists of coordinating with subcontractors to complete specific components of work, such as electrical or plumbing tasks, organise supplies and address site-related issues, which may overlap with the duties of a Site Manager. Conversely, a Client-Side Project Manager’s Day is more administratively focused. Their responsibilities include assessing Progress Claims, monitoring financial tracking tools, reviewing project programs, and facilitating communication, often through extensive email correspondence. 

 As an analogy, a Client-Side Project Manager acts like a lawyer would, to further their clients’ interests on their construction project. They’re not experts in every field, but like a lawyer, they use their specific knowledge ensure that their client’s best interests are met, and facilitate the project delivery efficiently, to the client’s expectations. 

Why Work with a Client-Side Project Manager?

Hiring a Client Side Project Manager is an investment in an expert representative to facilitate delivery of a Construction project on the Client’s behalf. They use specialised tools, training and knowledge which may not be otherwise available to a client in-house and are obligated to represent the Client’s interests. 

While very different to the role of the Contractor’s Project Manager, both roles work together toward the successful completion of the construction project. 

If you would like assistance for your current or upcoming development, our Project Management services range from consulting on an as-needed basis, to comprehensive Client Side Project Management for sectors such as residential, commercial, retail, education, hospitality and more. Contact us or request a proposal via our website. 

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