Project management 11.0

December 19th, 2016 by

Make project management a cornerstone of the way your firm does business, and win more work in a competitive market.

By Richard Massey
Managing Editor

A work in progress since 2005, the Technical Core Team Global program by Hill International (Hot Firm # 31 for 2016) has evolved into one of the world’s premier systems for project management. Conceived in Dubai before the global economic slump, the goal of TCT is to deploy a PM team within the first week of signing a contract.

“That is one thing we do better than other companies,” says Akram Ogaily, senior VP and director of TCT Global. “The client doesn’t wait to see action on the ground. The client is comfortable with the first-month deliverable.”

Keystones of the program include:

  • Lessons Learned, where PMs can share experiences across U.S. and international markets, and across disciplines
  • Four to six seminars annually for information sharing and solutions across markets and disciplines
  • Continual update and upgrade of database
  • HR-Hill University Training Program for certification and promotion of Hill PMs
  • PM satellite offices across the world
  • Transparency between firm and client, best practices
  • Client management, culture of the client
  • Environment of the project, environment of the market
  • Team management

Hill International is confident enough in its project management program to use it in the bidding process. Setting up project systems and tools. Reviewing contracts. Preparing RFPs for early
procurement services. Client management. Making sure the project has a PM in place with not only the technical capability, but who understands the market’s nuances. All those elements come into play when Hill looks for work.

“These services have often been used by our business development team to win contracts,” Ogaily says.

The strategy is paying off. Hill is approaching its targeted order book of $1 billion.

Hill International, with 4,500 professionals in 100 offices worldwide, provides program management, project management, construction management, construction claims, and other consulting services primarily to the buildings, transportation, environmental, energy, and industrial markets. It is one of the largest construction management firms in the United States.

Beginning in late 2014, Hill migrated its TCT program – born and bred on the international stage – to Hill’s U.S. Corporate Group. The program’s PQMS and PM/CM procedures were tailored for the domestic market, and are supported by a TCT Global base in London.

“My goal is to bring the Hill culture to everyone in the company and also develop and share knowledge,” Ogaily says.

Hill’s TCT was put to the test in Iraq, where Hill opened an office in Baghdad. The project management program was instrumental in marketing, creating awareness, deploying staff, recruiting locals, and supporting the business development team. From 2011 to 2014, Hill won contracts for seven PM/CM projects in Iraq.

With 10 years of input from PMs from all across the world, TCT Global is a vast and complex database of institutional knowledge.

But at the end of the day, Hill achieves something simple.

“We jump into the project in the first week with the right people in place,” Ogaily says.

Billionaire’s Row

October 3rd, 2016 by

The towers just south of Central Park are supertall and eye popping, but as sales taper off, and as opposition to them grows, a hush envelopes the design community.

By Richard Massey
Managing Editor

At least publicly, no one in the design world really wants to talk about Billionaire’s Row, the band of supertalls in various stages of development on and around 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan.

For all the ingenuity and expertise that went into these buildings – 432 Park Avenue, for example, is only 93 feet wide but an astounding 1,393 feet tall – they are not necessarily welcome additions to one of the world’s great skylines.

Instead, they are polarizing, caught in a softening market, and for many observers, nothing more than outsized, de facto safety deposit boxes for the international super rich. Rising from the ashes of the Great Recession, in an era of tight credit and big cash, Billionaire’s Row is a trend in New York real estate that many would like to see fizzle out.

Indeed, in June, New York Assembly Bill 7807 was quashed. The bill, initiated by Mayor Bill de Blasio for affordable housing, would have uncapped the floor area ratio, or FAR, that regulates the bulk and density of buildings in New York City. According to New York Sen. Liz Krueger, the bill needs “further vetting and amending to remove the potential for unchecked growth in the neighborhoods already strained by new luxury developments and towers.”

But a few of the supertalls are already finished, and a few more – including 111 West 57th Street, set to be one of the tallest in the Western Hemisphere – are on the way, and not just along Billionaire’s Row. And the names that are involved with supertalls are among the most recognizable in the industry: Vornado Realty Trust, Hines, Goldman Sachs, and JDS Development Group, among others.

The big question is, with this cluster of supertalls changing the game on the ground and in the air, what happens next?

“That’s what everyone is trying to get their arms around,” says Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of Miller Samuel Inc., a Manhattan-based appraisal and consulting firm.

Miller, a veteran of the New York real estate scene for 30 years, was the only person who agreed to speak with The Zweig Letter about Billionaire’s Row.

“I love that the skyline is changing” he says. “I’ve lived here since the mid ‘80s and I like it. But it’s polarizing. It’s mixed interpretations. There are extreme views. It’s a New York characteristic.”

Two professors, multiple architects and design firms, and one real estate company, either declined a request for an interview or did not even respond to a request for an interview. One respondent, however, who did not want to be named, said this about the supertalls cropping up south of Central Park: “There are a lot of powers at work here, and by powers, I mean money, collaborative opportunity, and politics … none of the large NYC firms want to touch this [story] – I can’t blame them.”

Those comments weren’t hyperbolic. The numbers around the supertalls, and Manhattan condominiums in general, are astronomic. CITYREALTY, in its Manhattan New Development Report issued in June, provided a summary of the industry. Using its metrics, CITYREALTY estimates that borrough wide, there will be about $30 billion in condo sales through 2019, and that 92 condo projects with about 8,000 new units are under construction or proposed. Billionaire’s Row, of course, does not fit the typical mold, as evidenced by the persistent rumor that a penthouse at 220 Central Park South is under contract for $250 million – even by New York standards, a phenomenal number.

Designed by brand names like Robert A.M. Stern, SHoP Architects, Rafael Vinoly, Jean Nouvel, and Christian de Portzamparc, the skyscrapers of Billionaire’s Row are marvels of the modern world with every possible finish and amenity. But with such a narrow target market – foreign investors looking for a safe place to stash their cash – they are detached from the world over which they tower.

Miller explains: “We ended up building the world’s most
expensive safety deposit boxes. You put your belongings there and rarely visit.”

For an international investor, there’s plenty to fear in the global market: a recent coup attempt in Turkey; Brexit; the economic decline and recent impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil; the ongoing oil slump; bombastic North Korea; and a sluggish economy in China. At least for some, investing in a supertall with breathtaking views of Central Park is a safe bet. But for the United States, and in essence for the entire world, a profound question looms – who wins the presidential election, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

As the world continues to turn, the supertall market might have already peaked. Sales are not as brisk as they once were, and pricing is being negotiated downward as the New York press chronicles the decline.

“There’s not too many [condos] for sales, there’s too much for sale at too high a price,” Miller says. “What we’re building doesn’t match demand. I think there was an assumption there was an infinite source of demand.”

While the fate of Billionaire’s Row might be uncertain, there are no doubts about the submarket beneath the ultra-luxury price point. That is, sales of units priced between $1 million and $3 million.

“That’s currently the sweet spot,” Miller says.

Putting it All Together

October 15th, 1992 by

Earlier this month, I was in Scottsdale for the Professional Services Management Association (PSMA) national convention— a worthwhile event that I encourage everyone to attend next year in New Orleans. I saw many old friends, met some new ones, and heard all about what was going on in the A/E/P and environmental consulting industries. The hotel was beautiful, the food great, and the convention programming had its usual highs and lows.

As one of five panel discussion leaders who were assembled on the last day of the event to “put it all together,” I reported on the conclusions from my group of three top leaders in our industry—Bob Maxman, President/CEO of T.Y. Lin International, Leerie Jenkins, President/CEO of Reynolds, Smith and Hills, and John Mahon, Sr. V.P. of Hellmuth Obata & Kassabaum— who spoke on the subject of “Keeping the good guys.” Other panel discussion leaders reported on topics ranging from “Results management” to “Staying on top of the numbers.”

By the time it was my turn to speak, the discussion had largely degenerated into a free-for-all between a variety of consultants and practitioners on the subject of strategic planning. One consultant stood up in front of the audience and said that when it comes to strategic planning, the process is more important than the results! The next you thing you know, others (for the most part consultants, too) jumped on the bandwagon. We ended up hearing lots of sermons on the merits of (and process for) strategic planning.

The topic of strategic planning is a critical one because it “puts together” all four functions of the business— marketing, production/operations, human resources, and finance. But several things about this discussion bothered me.

First, I couldn’t help but think that I’m tired of seeing mediocre consultants use professional association meetings and conventions as an opportunity to market themselves. Why don’t they stick with the topic at hand and save their commercials for those who haven’t paid to hear them? Before I hired a consultant to tell me how to run my business, I’d make sure the consultant had demonstrated success in his. The consultant’s own business plan should have worked. And, if so, and the consultant is successful, he shouldn’t need to turn a convention program into a commercial.

Second, although I firmly believe in getting a wide range of input from the entire staff (including secretaries, drafters, and clerks), the business plan is ultimately the responsibility of the CEO and/or board of directors. I don’t look to the staff for my own personal vision of what the firm should be. Anyone at the top of a company who doesn’t have a clear vision for the firm should step down and make room for someone who does! Participation in the process is important for building support, but so are the personal selling skills of the CEO. He or she must constantly be selling and influencing employees (all of them) to make that vision a reality.

Third, I sure hope no one ever hired my firm for business planning help because they were more interested in process than results. We wouldn’t knowingly work for anyone who was. Process is only important to the extent it affects results. And results aren’t defined as a pretty or well-detailed plan— results are what happens after the plan is put into effect. A good plan includes tangible goals. When you look back, you can tell if they were met.

To “put it all together” successfully, you do need a good business plan, one that is completely consistent with your vision of the firm. If you need outside help, get someone who thinks about results instead of process. To implement your plan, you’ll need the support of the troops, so get their input. But don’t forget you have to sell!— M.Z.

Originally published 10/15/1992