Being the head contractor on a major construction project is a very complex job and a huge responsibility, so success will involve the delegation of many tasks.
The challenges that head contractors traditionally face in this respect involve inefficient communication with, and among, the many different subcontractors on the job; decision-making based on incomplete or out-of-date information; and a confused chain of command among the many different teams of workers on-site.
One of the most common obstacles that construction project managers need to overcome is the lack of a clear hierarchy. Having too many ‘decision-makers’ in one place can eventually hinder collaboration and lead to a disoriented and unproductive workforce.
And supposedly collaborative teams using various different methods of communication – phones, texts, emails – can lead to a fragmented flow of information and result in a muddled workflow, and all the problems that will follow.
The head contractor on a construction project acts as the main point of contact for all team members and stakeholders.
Their responsibilities include planning, co-ordinating, budgeting and managing every single aspect of the construction project. Head contractors must be skilled communicators, good time managers, detail-oriented, as well as proficient at managing a budget and dealing with subcontractors and often demanding clients.
There are many duties a building contractor must complete to ensure the construction project is completed in a timely and correct manner. This includes hiring subcontractors and developing a step-by-step timeline that the project will follow from start to finish.
During the planning process, head contractors must decide what needs to happen, when and who needs to do it. They must keep constant communication with all others on the project, including the client. They are on-call at all times because it is their responsibility if something on the project goes wrong.
They must also make sure that all project documentation is in order, that all inspections of different sections are carried out, and that all work is done and certified to requisite quality standard. This part of the job is particularly important when it comes to handover of the complete construction project to the client.
Working directly under the main contractor will be their own site personnel. These will include the managers and supervisors who are responsible for the on-site co-ordination of tasks in the various phases and across sections of the job.
The general contractor will also normally select, vet and hire all subcontractors; the tradespeople responsible for very specific work on the project – including brick layers, electricians, plumbers, plasterers, fitters, etc. Many of these will come and go during the job, and some may be involved for the entire duration.
Depending on the particulars of a project, the architect and design team may work directly for the contractor as well. There are times, however, when the owner prefers to hire the architect and design team directly.
Key to successfully managing a large group of disparate workers is keeping everyone informed and on the same page. The best way for head contractors to do that is by incorporating construction management software into the project and getting everyone on board from the start.
Due to the wide range of job duties included in being a head contractor, the benefits of construction management software are huge – it helps them to manage their planning, enhances collaboration, and allows for better delegation of tasks.
A digital solution facilitates better communication and real-time updates between head contractor and subcontractors, and also between different teams of contractors, meaning there’s no confusion about the hierarchy of decision-making and it’s easier to follow the planned workflow.
Better communication and information means that those who are authorised to make decisions can make better decisions, meaning the head contractor can have 100% confidence when they delegate important work.
It also means the accumulation of important documents and information is baked into the process for all workers, simplifying the role of the head contractor and leading to a smoother handover at the end of the project, removing any late scramble to find missing documents, and guaranteeing greater satisfaction for the client.