Why bring on a Program Manager as early as possible? 

Timing is a critical factor in real estate development. The individual project elements are closely interrelated, so a delay at any one point can affect the entire development. However, such a project is the result of the combined efforts of countless professionals and key stakeholders. Their coordinated approach is only possible if all stakeholders are involved at an early stage. In this article, we explain the background and give some examples of why it pays to involve key stakeholders such as program managers, project managers, and development representatives as early as possible.

The role of a program manager

Although there are overlaps, a program manager is not the same as a real estate project manager. While the latter typically focuses on a single construction project, the most important task of a program manager is to ensure synergies in multi-site or complex, multi-phase developments. To do this, the program manager gets to know the big picture and creates cost efficiency, transparency and alignment by linking individual project elements. 

A program manager in a commercial real estate development is responsible for overseeing the planning, execution, and delivery of every project. This includes coordinating with the project managers of each construction (or development stage), while also communicating with architects, contractors, and engineers on a large scale. 

Other responsibilities of a program manager in a commercial real estate development project may include: 

● Developing program plans and budgets 

● Managing risks and issues 

● Tracking progress and reporting status to stakeholders 

● Ensuring that deliverables are of high quality 

● Managing communications, including regular updates to stakeholders

● Ensuring that the overall documentation is complete and the individual project documentations are in cohesion. 

Whose work does a program manager coordinate and support? 

Whether we’re talking about restaurant, retail or medical real estate development, countless key stakeholders will be involved in the process at some point. 

● The property owner: A key stakeholder in a construction project is the owner of the land. 

● The developer or development team: The developer is responsible for leading the project and ensuring it is completed on time and within budget. 

● Financing partners: These may include banks, investors, or other financial institutions that are providing the necessary funding.

● Contractors and subcontractors: They are the ones who do the actual implementation. There may be an overlap between them and the owner or developer. They include the general contractor as well as companies or individuals who perform specialized professional work (e.g., electrical installation). 

● Local authorities and regulatory agencies: These may include city planning departments, building departments, and other agencies that have jurisdiction over the project and must approve certain aspects of the project. They typically follow the project throughout the development lifecycle, as they issue the necessary approvals and check that they are implemented. 

For some projects, there may be other key stakeholders who should be involved from the start of development. 

● Community groups and neighbors: The project may impact the local community in a variety of ways, so it is important to consider the views and concerns of community groups and residents. 

● Potential tenants or buyers: Commercial or residential developments need to consider tenants’ or buyers’ needs and preferences. When designing for a particular business (tenant or owner), specific needs can be addressed in the design phase rather than focusing on a design that can accommodate all tenants. 

● Environmental groups: If the project has the potential to impact the environment, relevant environmental groups may also participate in the project in some capacity.

Timing is a key element of the project 

While some stakeholders will certainly be involved in the project from the beginning, such as the design engineer or the permitting authority, in the case of program managers, it may not be clear when to involve them. 

While the individual project managers can be involved later, when there is a time gap between projects, it is critical for the program manager to be involved during the early conceptualizing phases. 

Benefits of early involvement – Improved project planning and decision-making 

By involving a program manager early in the project, developers can gain valuable insight and input that can inform project planning and decision-making. Retail stores, restaurants, and medical offices all have their own unique needs, which are best identified before the initial concept sketches. This prepares the other participants for the tasks involved in implementing specific solutions.

Benefits of early involvement – Better alignment with project goals 

By involving program management capabilities early on, the client can ensure that the project aligns with the needs and goals of all relevant parties. This can help avoid conflicts and misunderstandings later in the projects.

Benefits of early involvement – Enhanced stakeholder buy-in

By involving a program manager in the planning process, the owner and the developer can build support and buy-in for the project from the outset. This can help to ensure that the project has the backing and resources it needs to succeed. For projects that require specific solutions, these must be mapped on time. This prevents specific milestones from being missed or opening dates from being impacted by the time it takes to order, install, or approve a critical element.

Benefits of early involvement – Greater transparency and accountability

With the help of a program manager, developers can promote a more transparent and accountable process. This can help build trust and credibility among all program stakeholders, mitigate risks, and address potential challenges more effectively. 

The transparency, created by the program manager, helps each stakeholder to understand their position and responsibilities in the process. This way, the experience can be transferred from each project stage to the next, both reducing risks and costs at the same time.

Benefits of early involvement – Improved communication and collaboration

Program managers can foster better communication and collaboration throughout the project. This can help ensure that all parties are working toward a common goal and avoid misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Ready to start your development? 

For a real estate development project to be truly successful, professionals other than the owner and developer must support the process from the beginning. Involving a program manager helps ensure that the burden of coordination does not fall on the client. With the right management skills in place, all phases of development, including design-build, commercial development, and project financing, can be accomplished in a stress-free, customer-focused, and cost-effective manner. 

Our team is happy to assist with the initial concept sketches to ensure that the planned commercial development aligns with strategic goals and achieves our clients’ desired business objectives. 

If you are interested in learning more about how SCGWest can support your business, book a free consultation with one of our customer success experts.

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