The days of the ‘armchair’ project manager are long gone says the founder of Singapore-based Merx.
“The role of the project manager has become more holistic over the years,” says William Forwood.
“It has evolved from what could be traditionally considered a ’watchdog’ role of monthly checks and balances into a daily (if not hourly) hands-on management approach,” he explains. “Clients now expect their project managers to be solutions providers and be tapped into all aspects of the project.”
For 10 years, Merx has been representing clients to manage the delivery of fit-outs and construction projects in Singapore and across Asia.
Today, it has grown into a leading project and construction management consultancy in the region specialising in corporate office fit-outs, retail store delivery, and hospitality, industrial and data centre projects.
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Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Forwood observes that the number of independent project management firms in Singapore has risen significantly since Merx entered the scene.
“When I first started Merx in 2001 in Singapore there were only a handful of independent project management firms in the market and many of my meetings involved explaining to prospective clients what a ’project manager’ is and how we work and the benefits we can bring to the client in terms of programme, quality, cost, safety and risk mitigation,” says Forwood.
In 2011, he says that the industry is “thriving in Singapore with an abundance of global players as well as homegrown organic start-ups”. While competition has inevitably grown, he notes that the “client base and ’opportunity pool’ is much larger and stronger than ever”.
Both the services sector and the project management sector in Asia can be likened to the Australian economy according to Forwood: they run on 2 speeds.
“There are the leadership countries and cities where the knowledge base is strong, the skill sets are established, the client and the service providers are highly educated and industry best practice prevails. Countries like Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan fall into this category.
“Then there are the emerging and 2nd/3rd world countries where many of the services including project management are in their infancy and where alternate project delivery methods are used due to limited options – design and build and client direct management are often more prevalent in these emerging economies and often quality, value and programmes are difficult to control,” he says.
Many of Merx’s clients are International Banks (IBs). Beyond the benefits of project representation and co-ordination, Forwood says that companies such as IBs that choose to engage an experienced independent project management firm recognise that they “are buying an ’insurance policy’ for the project in terms of ensuring a complete audit trail across communication, procurement, contract administration and option analysis.”
“I think like what we have seen with handheld devices in the past 10 years going from phone calls and SMS to a handheld PC, clients are wanting to see convergence in the service provider sector and this is starting to apply to project management.”