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Glassdoor defines administrative work as "duties related to maintaining an office setting. These duties vary widely from workplace to workplace but most often include scheduling appointments, answering phones, greeting visitors, and maintaining organized file systems for the organization."
Would you say your real estate project managers fall into this category? Project managers are typically responsible for financing, approvals, and infrastructure design on development projects but can also end up being responsible for hours of admin work, especially on a small team.
WatchdogsPM, a real estate project manager provider, mentioned that "the role of a project manager during real estate and construction projects is to ensure the successful completion of the project is on time and within budget. Although the project scopes, size, and location may change, one thing is consistent; ensuring the timely and cost-effective completion of projects."
By definition, the job of a project manager should not include as much administrative work as it seems to, so why are these responsibilities falling on the project manager?
Project teams that ignore this question will continue to face common development project pain points on top of the mounting industry challenges facing commercial real estate.
Admin Work Leads to Burnout
Project managers need to be on top of every transaction on their project, which involves understanding and analyzing the cash flow. This can be an incredibly time-consuming responsibility, which doesn't account for the time spent entering transaction data into spreadsheets. This extra administrative work tends to keep employees up working late, leading to job resentment and burnout. And when there's a skilled labor shortage and "the great resignation" happening simultaneously, the cost of losing a great project manager has real consequences.
The idea isn't to give project managers less work but to ensure their focus is on their core competencies, which is to provide your project the best possible chance to finish on time and under budget. In a job market that doesn't lend itself to a quick replacement, staff turnover can seriously derail a project.
So how do you reduce the manual admin duties, have project managers fully utilize their core skills, and free up their nights? There are a few options. You can hire assistant project managers that are responsible for the manual administrative work, keeping real estate spreadsheets up to date, generating stakeholder reports, and draw requests is one option.
Bringing on an assistant project manager can make sense for larger projects, but this may not be a viable, quick fix with the aforementioned industry hiring challenges. It would also require your project manager's assistance and management to ensure they are doing great work.
On the other hand, specific tools can automate real estate project admin work. This can often cut out the need to hire an assistant project manager and ensures that project data is accurate when the information is extracted directly from contracts, invoices, and proposals. This path clears up time for your project manager and helps them trust the data they are using to make critical project decisions.
Admin Work Takes Away Time to Make Strategic Decisions
According to Northspyre data, manual administrative work typically eats up 54 hours per month and 652 hours per year. Project managers spend up to 30% of their time doing tedious administrative work on projects like scanning, collating, entering data, fixing spreadsheets, formatting, reporting, answering questions from financial partners, and tracking all vendors across their projects.
The best project managers are not bogged down in backward-looking reports and spreadsheets. They prioritize tasks that impact the project's critical path and do so mindfully, using data analytics.
When your project lead spends over two days a month generating reports and punching in cost data, your project's forward momentum can suffer. It's not hard to see why according to JP Morgan, construction is the most significant industry in the world, and yet, even outside of crises, it has seen a meager productivity growth of 1 percent annually for the past two decades, and cost overruns have been accepted as are the norm.
It doesn't need to be this way, and it all starts with cutting down administrative work. To further contextualize the problem, here's an example. Your project has multiple budget lines trending way higher than the original budget. Instead of evaluating budget progress or catching an incorrect invoice that's leading to budget line issues, you find that your project manager simply input the wrong numbers into the spreadsheet. Those numbers then get pulled into monthly reports and it's not until the end of the month that problem is recognized. And at that point, there's not much your project manager can do to offset the costs while keeping the timeline intact.
An excellent project manager can value engineer their way back to almost any set budget, but they must also be equipped with the most up-to-date information and act fast. When they have 2-3 hours of administrative work that day, they may not take the time to resolve the problem and just accept the sunk cost.
A few extra dollars here and there and suddenly your project is over budget. And while going over budget has long been the norm, uncovering every potential saving will be paramount over the next few years with a possible recession is incoming.
So what's the solution to freeing project managers' time to allow them to focus on their core strategic values and resist burnout? Commercial real estate technology is here to provide the cure.
Ending the Burden of Manual Admin Work
Maybe you've been burned by exciting technological prospects in the past or just haven't found a solution that makes sense to your process yet, but there are modern solutions for real estate development teams that are making a difference for leading developers.
Advancements in automation allow software platforms to account for all incoming cost data and organize it into viewable dashboards without needing a project manager to touch it. This frees up project managers' time to make forward-looking decisions and gives them easily accessible data to ensure those decisions are correct.
Commercial Real Estate Technology helps project teams:
- Make data-driven assumptions based on smartly indexed historical cost data during initial project estimates.
- Make smarter buyout decisions by evaluating vendors in the context of their peers.
- Leverage early warning systems alerting you to critical cost overruns and budget. Issues that might affect the successful completion of your project.
- Get ahead of and manage critical risks and challenges on your project.
Northspyre is the only commercial real estate technology built by former real estate developers who understand the negative effect large admin workloads have on the industry. It's a cloud-based intelligence platform that empowers you to achieve easier, more predictable outcomes on even your most complex real estate projects. Created specifically to meet the needs of owners, developers, project management firms, and internal corporate/institutional real estate teams, Northspyre leverages automation and data analytics to drive proactive and data-driven decision-making at every stage of your project's lifecycle.
Want a better idea of the type of data top project managers are tracking to bring projects in on time and under budget? Download The Complete Guide to Commercial Real Estate Data and Analytics here.
Tag(s): Real Estate Development
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