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What is the Difference Between an Owner's Representative and a Project Manager?

Every construction project has many moving parts that involve many people, and the ultimate goal is to keep the project on budget and on time. There are two roles within the project team that help the owner achieve this goal – an Owner’s Representative and a Project Manager. While both roles may have similar duties throughout the project, it is important to understand who does what and how they differ.

What is an Owner's Representative?

An Owner’s Representative’s (OR) primary role is for oversight of the project in all facets from the development of the guiding project statement (GPS), management of client expectations, high-level project budget, schedule tracking, and developing and implementing risk management policies and procedures. They serve as an extension of the owner and are the point of contact (POC) between the owner and the architect, contractor, and project managers. The OR will report the project health (budget schedule and risks) to client leadership at a regular interval.

At the beginning of the project, the OR is responsible for facilitating programming and planning, defining project milestones, identifying the approval process for vendors that will be selected throughout the project, and developing the tools to track owner approvals, owner-driven changes, budget, and schedule.

During the design process, they will facilitate municipality review meetings, manage the owner design review and approval processes including any value engineering efforts required and move oversight. The OR will represent the client when it comes to quality assurance and quality control.

Once the project has moved into the execution phase, they will review and approve change orders, manage invoices and the pay application process, provide move oversight, and develop and track all punch list items.

Upon project completion, they are responsible for coordinating all Operations & Maintenance (O&M) training, gathering, and handing over close-out documentation, and post-project surveys, feedback, and implementation.

What is a Project Manager?

A Project Manager’s (PM) primary role is to manage one or more specific scopes of work (SOW) for a project. This can be anything from design services, audio-visual (AV) design and implementation, interior signage procurement and installation, environmental graphics design and implementation, furniture design and installation, appliance selection, and procurement, or move management services.

The PM will manage the programming and planning, project milestones, and client expectations. They will establish which services will be contacted directly through the client vs which services will be part of the construction SOW. For those services contracted directly, the project manager is responsible for defining the scope of work, identifying a list of appropriate vendors, drafting the request for qualifications (RFQ) or request for proposal (RFP), and managing the process to seek responses to the RFQ/RFP. They will assist with the evaluation of the RFQ/RFP responses and make a recommendation to the client or the OR on the best vendor to select.

Once the project has moved into the execution phase, the PM will assist in answering any requests for information (RFI), manage the submittal process, review, and submit change orders to the client for approval, provide oversight for the installation the construction, and all other services contracted directly by the client (i.e., AV, furniture, signage and/or appliances), will assist in the development and completion of all punch lists.

The project manager is responsible for move management once the project is ready for the client to take ownership.

Upon project completion, they are responsible for coordinating with clients to schedule O&M training, gathering, and handing over close-out documentation, and post-project surveys, feedback, and implementation.


In Summary...

Some of the time, a Project Manager can act as the Owner’s Representative and vice versa. However, it’s important to understand the differences between the two. As you can see, each role comes with some differing responsibilities and has a specific place within a construction project. A project’s success happens when each role is defined, aligned, collaborating effortlessly, and operating in its center of excellence.


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