Key will be managing risk as project complexity increases

Bassam Samman, CEO, CMCS, talks to Conrad Egbert about the growing need for project and risk management solutions on construction projects, as an increasing number of variables present themselves to the parties involved in the procurement process.

Samman says that management solutions are essential in order to manage the complexities of a construction project and a growing number of claims.
Samman says that management solutions are essential in order to manage the complexities of a construction project and a growing number of claims.

What services does CMCS provide?

We provide project management solutions and services to various sectors - mainly the construction sector. We develop project control solutions from the idea stage through to project completion. So we work with developers, contractors, architects and consultants.

Are you working on many projects at the moment?

The likes of Aldar, Sorouh, Galadari and Nakheel are using our project management solutions on all of their projects. Our tools are also being used by Turner Construction and Emaar on the Burj Dubai to manage and monitor their projects.

Who do you usually get work from?

The most common scenario is for the developer or client to hire us, then the contractors tend to follow. So in most cases it's the client who starts talking to us and then we become connected to all of the players on the project through this.

Is there a need for your services in the market?

The most important thing these days is finishing on time and within budget, as every single developer is under pressure to deliver its projects successfully.

And to be successful, you have to manage a project from the beginning to the end. You also need to have the right staff and resources to manage it, but without the proper tools that will never happen.

There are so many different aspects to it - with the construction industry moving ahead in leaps and bounds, it's also becoming very legal oriented with things like claims becoming a serious issue.

It's not about what you say anymore, it's about what documents you have and our solutions are made in such a way where the client can catch every single document on the project. Of course, this is only one part of what we offer. We also provide training on how to use them.

And what are your solutions all about?

We have three main modules. The first deals with basic project management activities; the second focuses on managing paperwork and documentation; while the third is risk management, which has become a very important part of the management of projects. Some developers have begun to address this issue and they want tools that will help them assess the risk on their project.

We see this coming up in the region in a big way now. The risk factor wasn't recognised as much as it is now and many of our clients are asking for risk assessments.

Why is risk assessment important in this market?

Every project starts with so many assumptions. What we see these days is very different from what we've had in the past. It's not just towers being built - they're building cities, gated communities, offshore developments, and you're working in a region where material prices are changing every day and there is a lack of resources - so the variables have changed, which means making more assumptions. And these assumptions are being made without much fact or detail - so this is where we come in. This also happens to be the reason why so many projects are delayed or have overshot the budget. It's happening because proper risk assessment is missing.

Also, the market has advanced so much that even buyers have begun to seek risk assessment in terms of buying property. They need to know if a project has broken ground and if it will be ready on time.

We advise the customers on the risks as well. So we cover a very broad spectrum. We also take back to the client what the customer in the market wants, which is part of the risk assessment.

How much does the customer affect the market?

Today the end-user is the main player in the market. If the customer doesn't want something, the other players won't see any sense in going ahead with the project.

A developer has to think whether they will be able to sell what they build - this wasn't the case a few years back, but now it is.

Would the concerns of a client in Abu Dhabi be different to one in Dubai?

In Abu Dhabi the boom is in its initial stages so the risk level will differ a little from that of Dubai, but the basic risks are pretty much the same.

In Abu Dhabi the stakeholders tend to be big corporates with many parties involved, making it a little more complex when approvals are needed. But in Dubai, it's more flexible as there tends to be fewer people involved, so approvals are an easier affair.

And this, again, is where risk management comes in. The investors in Dubai tend to be more global, while in Abu Dhabi they tend to be regional, so as you can see, the need for a certain kind of project will differ.

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