5 Roles in Client Side Project Management for Capital Projects

John Fisher
John Fisher
March 11, 2024
5 Roles in Client Side Project Management for Capital Projects

Client side project management plays a vital role in the successful delivery of capital projects, serving as a key link between project owners and multiple contractors and consultants involved in capital works. This specialized field requires a deep understanding of all areas within the project lifecycle, from inception to practical completion, ensuring that the project's goals meet the client's expectations and industry standards.

However, client side project management is not just one person – it is an entire team working together with one aim: to finish the capital project at hand successfully. Let us discuss the five essential roles in client side project management and how each role impacts the entire project.  

1. Program Manager

Program Managers play a key role in overseeing and coordinating the delivery of multiple related projects to achieve an Asset Owner's strategic and business goals. The Program Manager can work in a Program Management Office (or PMO) and is often the strategic architect, orchestrating the overall vision of the Capital Works Program (or Program of Work) and ensuring the cohesive execution of multiple capital projects to align with organizational goals. This role involves high-level planning, resource allocation, and the governance of project portfolios, demanding a blend of leadership, strategic foresight, and analytical prowess.  

Its significance in client side project management lies in its ability to translate broad business strategies into actionable project initiatives, ensuring that each project contributes effectively to the overall business objectives. This role closely aligns with that of a senior project consultant or portfolio manager, where strategic oversight across various projects or portfolios is key.  

Program Managers typically hold advanced degrees in project management or business administration, complemented by professional certifications such as the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM) or Project Management Professional (PMP). Unlike project-specific roles, the Program Manager has a broader scope, focusing on the integration and success of multiple projects rather than the intricacies of individual project execution.

Client side project management roles for capital projects.

2. Project Director

The role of a Project Director is to lead the client side project management team, steering projects toward strategic objectives while managing overarching concerns like budget, scope, and timelines. This role ensures that capital projects align with the client's strategic vision and business goals. Project Directors often come from an extensive background in project management or construction, with a strong emphasis on leadership and strategic planning.  

Qualifications often include advanced degrees in project management or related fields, supported by credentials from respected institutions like the AIPM. Distinguishing itself from other roles, the project director's broad oversight and strategic focus set it apart from the more tactical or specialized responsibilities of different project management roles.

3. Senior Project Manager

The Senior Project Manager is the tactical leader responsible for getting much of the work done in detailed planning, coordination, and execution of capital projects. This role can be a bridge between Project Manager and Project Director, carries authority, and demands a comprehensive understanding of project management methodologies, risk management, and team leadership.  

Its importance lies in operationalizing strategic goals into project deliverables, ensuring projects are completed on time, within budget, and to needed quality standards. Senior Project Managers are often contract administrators on larger, higher-risk projects and approve contractor Progress Claims. (Like progress claims under contracts like AS4000 and AS2124 in Australia).  Career paths with similar responsibilities include construction management and project consultancy, focusing on the hands-on management of project details.  

Qualifications for this role encompass advanced project management training, industry experience, and professional certifications. The Senior Project Manager differs from other roles by concentrating on the tactical aspects of project execution, bridging the gap between strategic planning and the practical challenges of project implementation.

Client side project management for capital projects.

4. Project Manager

Project Managers are often daily managers and liaisons between the client and the construction or design team, ensuring the client's needs and interests are at the forefront throughout the project. This role is essential in capital projects because it focuses on representing the client's perspective, managing communications, reporting, project controls, and facilitating decision-making for the client. Often, the Project Manager assumes the role of the contract administrator, where contracts like AS4000, AS2124, and other construction contracts are carefully overseen.  

Qualifications for this role typically include a degree in project management, engineering, or construction. Many Project Managers augment their degree by pursuing a certification through the AIPM to underscore their expertise.  

5. Assistant/Junior Project Manager

Assistant and Junior Project Managers support the broader project management team with planning, coordination, and administrative tasks. These roles are essential for the smooth execution of capital projects, providing the necessary support to meet project goals. Assistant Project Managers maintain project risk registers, cost trackers, and prepare reports. They offer a pathway for professionals to gain experience in project management, with opportunities for career progression into more senior roles.

Educational pathways into these roles often include project management courses and degrees, focusing on gaining practical experience through internships or entry-level positions. These roles are distinct for their focus on learning and development, serving as the foundation for a career in project management.

Assistant Project Manager

Investing in Qualifications: A Pathway to Excellence

Improving qualifications through project management courses, AIPM certifications, AIPM memberships, and specialized training like project controls and progress claim management is essential for professionals in client side project management. These investments enhance individual capabilities and contribute to capital projects' overall success and efficiency.

The Synergy of Roles in Capital Projects

Client side project management is indispensable in capital projects, with each role playing an important part in achieving project success. Having someone take on and focus on one task helps ensure that every project detail is taken care of and completed to the highest quality.

The constructive collaboration between Program Managers, Project Directors, Senior Project Managers, Project Managers, and Assistant/Junior Project Managers showcases a competent, interdisciplinary team in successfully executing capital projects. Each role contributes uniquely, from guiding the project's strategic direction to managing day-to-day site operations, demonstrating the indispensable nature of diverse expertise in achieving project objectives.

If you want to learn more on how to improve in your PM role, we have 10 Tips for Successful Project Management in Capital Projects.

Take control of every step in your Capital Project lifecycle