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February 04, 2015

The air traffic control called Capital Project Management

Explaining Capital Project Management is something I do fairly regularly. I even wrote a blog on the subject.

White Paper - Capital Project Management

Real estate and facility management teams handle a lot of capital projects, from renovations to new construction. This whitepaper covers the basics.

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The other day, I was on a plane to Boston, when something dramatic happened. This incident (more about that in a moment) made me realize the incredibly important role of air traffic control, which steers air traffic on the right track. Actually, I thought, Capital Project Management is the air traffic control of real estate management. Let me explain.

The dashboard of a pilot
You can see Capital Project Management as the superlative of Project Management. Managing a real estate project is like flying a plane: while a pilot monitors (and if necessary, adjusts) the course, speed, and altitude of the aircraft via his dashboard, a project manager is responsible for the course and progress of a real estate project. He or she makes sure that projects are carried out in the right way, within the deadline and budget; whether this involves hiring people, buying materials, or the sequence of the work.

Where Project Management is like flying a plane, you could call Capital Project Management the air traffic control. Capital Project Management does not concern itself with the details of the progress of a project, any more than air traffic control can influence the gauges in an aircraft. What is important for the men and women in the control tower is which aircraft will come in when, and what the properties of these aircraft are. They also have to take account of special circumstances, such as slippery runways, strong winds, or aircraft that request an emergency landing.

The aim of air traffic control is therefore to make sure that aircraft take off and land as safely as possible, and in the same way, the most important task of Capital Project Management is to monitor the planning and the financial progress of projects. Which projects are in progress? What are the plans? Which project is out of line with the budget? Are there any conflicting projects? What will it mean for the plans if a specific project is delayed?

The role of IT
Both the management of individual projects and Capital Project Management have become considerably more transparent thanks to IT. While air traffic control has all sorts of automated tools to monitor aircraft and weather conditions and to communicate with pilots, software helps to monitor the management of real estate projects.

Taking account of the wind? That is just as important in Capital Project Management as in the control tower. Except it is the economic wind outside and the strategic wind within the walls of the organization.

Turbulence
The incident that I mentioned briefly in the introduction? Shortly before landing in Boston, we faced severe turbulence: we were instructed to fasten our seat belts and the landing was delayed.

And then it happened: a fellow passenger in my row had a heart attack.

That resulted in quite a commotion and fast communication with the cockpit. The pilot reported this emergency situation to air traffic control and the aircraft changed course almost right away. Within a few minutes, we were standing on the runway, where further medical assistance was provided.

The importance of air traffic control has never been so clear to me: Only because they had a complete overview could our aircraft be given priority and be directed straight to the first clear runway.

It would be going too far to claim that Capital Project Management can save lives, but it should be quite clear that for good real estate management, it is essential to have a good overview of all planned, current, and completed projects and of the matters that need to be given priority.

And the lady in question? She made it!

David Stillebroer
Director Product Management