Why Engage an External Project Manager For Your Fit-Out Project?

Peter Willmott
With fit-out and retrofit projects taking a huge share of the construction market in the Middle East, it’s important to understand what benefits the engagement of an external project manager can bring.

As Dubai continues to cement itself as the leading global business hub with free zones such as Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Barsha Heights in particular seeing strong demand from the Chinese companies looking for a launch city into Africa, the potential new build fit-out market is potentially valued at $12 Billion on the 5 year horizon.

An emerging sector in this market, with an estimated 50% higher share than new build is retro-fit or refurbishment. With reduced government spending and declining oil price denting business confidence, leading businesses are staying put. This is supported by projects within hotel refurbishments, retail unit revamps in the region's major malls and upgrades to corporate offices.

Although lower in capital costs than major projects, fit-outs are just as challenging, if not more so. A client acceptable design must be found, suitable contractor procurement must still take place and authority approvals must still be obtained. Often, this must all happen within a highly time pressured schedule (at times with reduced working hours) due to operational requirements or sustained rental costs. Third party approval requirement from a landlord, developer or mall operator can add complications to the process and add to the pressure so stakeholder management skills are vital to ensure there are no implications on the programme.

As an independent party, the project manager acts only in the interests of the client.

With fit-out projects there are often budgetary constraints imposed by business plans and operating costs and there can be an inequitable view that the appointment of an external project management company is an unnecessary added cost. A good project manager will tailor the service provision in line with the client's budget however it is often found that the existence of an independent third party expert allows much lower project costs to be realised. This is through the implementation of procurement techniques, including direct purchase of items where applicable, efficient and effective tendering procedures and negotiation, and post contract risk management and variation control.

Bringing an external project manager on board can have a number of advantages; along with their technical skills and knowledge they bring experience of working on multiple projects and the lessons learnt from these, making it easy to apply industry best practice and drive a "getting it right first time" approach, keeping costs down and schedule on track.

As an independent party, the project manager acts only in the interests of the client. There is no bias or need to influence design or construction cost, providing surety to the client that their needs and requirements are understood and met.

With over 20 years in the region, Faithful+Gould is a leading project and programme management consultancy with a strong track record of delivering successful fit-outs. We have a vast project portfolio including; Prime Minister's Office (Emirates Towers), Cleveland Clinic (Abu Dhabi), Dai Pai Dong (Rosewood Abu Dhabi), Executive Council (Emirates Towers), Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority Head Office, Dubai Airport Public Areas, Tiffany Regional roll-out, Chevron & Roche Pharmaceuticals (Riyadh & Dubai) and multiple Clifford Chance offices.

We put the client at the heart of our projects and our significant number of repeat order clients are a testament to the premium service we provide. Despite a perceived slow-down in the commercial real estate market over the next year we still see a significant projected pipeline of projects in the region, with the sector forming a key part of our business plan. In order to support this ambition we have established strategic partnerships with specialist real estate service providers in the region, and are looking to leverage this combined specialist service provision to support the requirements of our clients.