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Emerging role of management in civil engineering

Emerging role of management in civil engineering

Emerging role of management in civil engineering

During the past two decades, many civil engineering firms have gown substantially in staff size, disciplines, and geographic areas served. These conditions have created a demand for civil engineers with special skills in project management.

Managerial skills have become important because many of these civil engineering firms have grown substantially in recent years. Several have more than 5000 employees with over 500 projects and over 100 offices. Every large project requires a manager. Every standalone office requires a senior manager. A logic question is how these managers, who require business skills, are developed from a pool of civil engineers who are trained as technical experts. Obviously, most managers have had many years of on-the-job training. However there is now a greatly increased demand and few firms have either the facilities or the staff to produce this training in-house. Therefore, firms are increasingly looking to the outside for management training of staff.

A few of universities in America have recognized the need and have developed curricula to promote development of the required skills. For example, at Northwestern University, one of the hottest new graduate programs in civil engineering is the Master’s in Project Management (MPM) and it includes such subjects as: 1 Financial issues for engineers

2 Bargaining and negotiations

3 Human resources management

4 Project scheduling

5 Accounting issues for engineers

6 Engineering law

The selection of these courses is based on an appraisal of the skills actually needed in civil engineering management. This is confirmed by the fact that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) journal is advertising for papers on various areas of management such as project, program, operations, personnel, financial, marketing, and legal issues, since all are now considered important facets of civil engineering management.

If one examines the staffing requirements of the larger firms, it can be noted that they employ large staffs in the legal , accounting, marketing, financial, personnel and business management areas. When projects are primarily located in the United States, the necessary logistic support can be provided by temporarily transferring support staff from the home-office pool. When the projects are based in remote locations, particularly overseas, and when the client requires the design to be carried out locally, it becomes necessary to provide a project manager possessing not only well-honed engineering skills and good judgment, but other skills in contract management, such as those needed to negotiate changes in project scope and duration.

While e-mail and fax machines have made it easier to get guidance from the home office, many decisions must still be made in the field. The local manager is frequently required by the client to have power of attorney, so ensure that all agreements made in the field are legally binding. If minor problems arise, the cost of overseas travel to remote areas such a Asia, Africa, and Latin America makes it impractical to send out a home office specialist every time a legal, accounting, personnel, scheduling, or negotiating problem arises. Consequently, one must depend on the local manager to successfully address a wide range of issues and call for help when major emergency arises.

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