Guest Post By: Rose Mondragon, Project Manager, stok

The holy “AEC” trinity of Architects, Engineers, and Contractors is widely accepted as the backbone of a successful building project. While Project Managers (often called Owner’s Rep or Tenant Rep) play a major role behind the scenes, it’s time to re-think their place and influence on projects. These silent schedulers, budget masters, and cat-herders extraordinaire can have a major impact on project outcomes, and there are three key areas that aren’t currently optimized in traditional Project Management assignments. 

The following considerations can be applied to any Project Management assignment:

  • Key players – Integrate your Project Manager into a well-intentioned, loyal AEC team
  • Discovery – Outline and centralize clear expectations for the project
  • Communication – Take a transparent, interdisciplinary approach

These considerations create a cohesive team and clear project goals, saving time, money, and more than a couple headaches. Let’s dive into the approach and benefits of each consideration a bit further.


Every great project begins with compiling an exceptional team of AEC professionals. Exceptional doesn’t just refer to skill and experience – valuing loyalty and willingness to collaborate is just as important in setting your team up for success. But how do you do this? The key is finding a well-intentioned architect, and the rest will follow. If you can’t imagine spending a cross country plane flight next to them conversing the entire time, keep looking. There are thousands and thousands of architects out there, not just the big names. Once you’ve chosen an architect, let them dictate your GC and PM, as it will ensure that there are already strong ties within the design team.

While relying on your architect’s word will likely do the trick, here are a few additional tips for building a stellar team (which also apply to the architect):

  • Building Information Modeling – Require that projects above 10K SF are operated within BIM. This software will keep your project in line by organizing all your building data into a simple search (visual or numerical) database.
  • Net Promoter Score – Ask your team about their NPS, which is a scale of how likely someone is to recommend the company’s services. In one number (between one and 10), you’ll know how dedicated your team is to customer loyalty and satisfaction.


You’re likely aware that nothing is costlier to a project than change — whether it be team, design, or any uncovered component of the building during execution. But change can be minimized, and here’s what the process looks like: Discovery, Discovery, Discovery, then write the Owner’s Project Requirements.

  • Discovery, Discovery, Discovery – Ensure that your project team has taken the necessary time to identify and truly understand fundamental project drivers before design starts. It may feel frivolous to invest heavily at this stage, but the value can’t be understated.
  • Owner’s Project Requirements – Once you’ve figured out key drivers, goals, and obstacles, immortalize and centralize them in the OPR. Over 90% of projects are missing this fundamental document clearly outlining the expectations for the project – design, budget, team, decision-making process. This document helps drive high quality decisions long before construction starts, is invaluable during a project when the GC has the reigns and provides the commissioning agent with concrete metrics to see if the project hit its goals. Our team knows how important the OPR is to any successful project, and typically writes them for our project teams.


With an integrative process and interdisciplinary team, a PM brings in all stakeholders from the very beginning, creating a fully connected, collaborative, and cohesive project team. This allows everyone to see the whole vision from the start of a project, leading to reduced risk because of the transparency between project team members and clarity around project objectives.

There are three additional tools/strategies to help streamline communication within your design team from start to finish:

  • Building Connected – Use this bid management software to keep bidding transparent between GCs and subs.
  • Shared Savings Model – Utilize a Shared Savings Model to incentivize the team to operate below budget.
  • Prioritize post-occupancy – Ask your GC for an extended warranty or have your commissioning agent transition into an operational commissioning role to continuously monitor data and improve your space’s performance.

What this really boils down to is a revolutionary new way to harness the superpowers of Project Managers more effectively: involve them in decisions around key players, let them lead discovery and write the OPR, and have them use transparency tools to strengthen communication channels.

About Rose Mondragon:

With 13 years of industry experience, Rose uses her expertise in project management to guide large and complex projects through all phases of initiation, design, permitting, construction, and move-in. Taking an integrated approach, she ensures that project teams consistently deliver on project cost, schedule, quality, risk mitigation, and communications for her clients. You can find her on LinkedIn.