Project managers are the prime movers in the development of property and construction projects. They must fill a multi-tasked role across many disciplines as they drive everything to completion.
As a project manager (PM) for more than one and a half decades, Kenneth Ng is still undaunted by the responsibilities involved and fascinated by the vibrant nature of his job.
Joining Chinese Estates Holdings Limited as project manager in 2004, Mr Ng finds that his job satisfaction has grown since the company involves him in still more aspects of his demanding job.
Before joining Chinese Estates, Mr Ng worked for the government, an international property consultancy firm and a property developer. He considers his present job diversifies his talents by widening his work experience and stretching his exposure in property development.
Chinese Estates is a medium-sized company with a straight-forward culture. As the company's PM, Mr Ng must embrace different aspects of each project such as conceptualising design ideas and overseeing the scheduling, budgeting, site safety, logistics, tender procurement and quality control. "Our company infrastructure allows us to work closely with top management and easily obtain their valuable input throughout the development of a project," he says.
With core businesses comprising development of residential and commercial properties either for rental or sale, the company has increased its exposure in Macau and mainland China in recent years.
One of Mr Ng's main responsibilities is to help the company review its portfolio of existing properties to determine if they need any "repackaging" or renovations to enhance their market value. During such reviews he must work with the leasing and sales department to determine the feasibility of property redevelopment, which includes a thorough examination of the technical aspects of the proposed work, and commercial viability of the completed project. When the feasibility report is consolidated, he must then prepare development briefs and approach consultants for project outsourcing. The redevelopment of Tung Ying Building in Tsim Sha Tsui is his latest property investment project.
In Chinese Estates, a PM also helps manage various components of complex construction projects such as scheduling, communication, and resource allocation. Because of the complexity of development process which involves a large number of internal employees and subcontractors, the PM must take the lead in overseeing contributions of individuals to the project's progress while closely watching the specifications and timeframe necessary for completion.
"In this way a PM acts as a team leader in lining up professionals from different disciplines to work together from the conceptual process for a project and then all through its construction to completion," says Mr Ng. "This requires someone with good negotiation, interpersonal and presentation skills."
The Hong Kong property market is always changing, he considers a good PM should be very responsive to market needs and good at leadership skills in mobilising team members to tackle ad hoc issues with greater flexibility and in an efficient manner.
"Jobs for PMs are quite stressful and demanding," says Mr Ng. "Development projects must also fit into the legal framework governing the property, and there are many different deadlines for them to meet to ensure that every part of the project complies with specific legal and technical requirements."
Turning to the qualifications necessary to become a PM, Mr Ng says that in the past there were no special academic requirements. However, as the market environment has become increasingly competitive, practitioners have had to broaden their skills to cope with a variety of issues in both the legal and technical fields. As a result, the job of a PM has gradually evolved into a complex professional role, and today anybody aspiring to become a PM requires extensive industry experience as well as professional qualifications in the industry.
As such, budding PMs should ideally have received some professional training in architecture, surveying or engineering besides achieving the status of an "authorised person" in the building industry. To keep up to speed with the ever-growing demands of the job, PMs are always encouraged to undertake continuous studies to upgrade their academic qualifications and professional standards.
In addition to his degree in building surveying, Mr Ng also holds a master degree in accounting practice. He is a chartered building surveyor, a registered professional surveyor, an authorised person and a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.
With the property and construction markets taking off in Macau and the mainland, the Hong Kong market has made a quick rebound in the past few years,
Mr Ng points out. While he believes career opportunities for PMs are now substantial, he advises would-be applicants to first consider whether their personality and career goals would fit them for the stressful responsibilities of such a multi-tasking role in overseeing the overall property development process.