Project managers to bridge the client-contractor divide

Drees & Sommer should know a lot about project management, because they claim to have invented it 35 years ago. And, as Stephan Konzelmann explains, it is a discipline that is in increasing demand across the region.

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By  Zoe Naylor Published  April 1, 2006

|~|115int200.gif|~|Konzelmann says that his firm represents the needs of the client throughout the construction process, as well as taking on the consultant role.|~|What is the background of the company?

Drees & Sommer is a project management (PM) firm — we invented PM in Germany 35 years ago. Today we are a company of nearly 800 people and are the largest provider of project management in Germany.

What projects are Drees & Sommer involved in at home?

We’re doing all the large-scale projects in Germany — last year for example, we completed the extension of the Landesbank Baden-Wurttemberg (State Bank) in Stuttgart; the City of Stuttgart Museum of Art; and Stuttgart Airport’s new Terminal Three.

We also worked on the railway system between Cologne and Frankfurt, the most advanced and high-speed track in Germany, and we are currently working on the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre — Germany’s biggest ongoing construction project. We’re active all over Europe — France, Austria, Switzerland and Romania, which is currently a very successful area for us. We opened an office in China about two and a half years ago, where we worked on the German Centre in Shanghai.

When did the firm establish a presence in the Middle East?

I first came to Dubai in 2002, and we decided to open an office in the summer of 2003. There’s a philosophy at Drees & Sommer whereby we don’t relocate to new offices without first having a project in that particular region. It is important to have the security of having a budget in place; from that we develop the new location. We first started off in the region working on a project in Iran, and from that we moved into Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar. We now have offices in Dubai, Tehran and Doha.

In 2004 you won the PM contract for Nakheel’s International City — what did this project involve?

To realise the management of the project, we brought in around 40 people, some from Germany. It is important to have two components when you recruit for a project like this: We bring people from Germany who will help to establish the project; but it’s also vital to have the input from the local market who have experience of working here. We’re blending the two diferent components into one. This contract represented the big breakthrough into the markets of the UAE and the wider Gulf region.

How do you see the project management sector in Dubai?

It’s definitely a growing sector, especially with all the varied projects here. But there’s different levels of project management within the sector — one is working for the big developers who are involved in huge projects of the scale of Business Bay, for example; then there are the smaller investors who also need project management for a
single tower.

Then you get projects such as International City, where you have 40 people on the project to develop a whole town. So there’s many different opportunities here for project management — we’re currently working on 14 projects in Dubai. And all the tower projects coming up, many of which still haven’t been launched, offer huge potential in the market.

Dubai is a busy area for you, where else are you experiencing a surge in business?

Apart from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we’re also looking at the northern emirates such as Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah, which offer real possibilites for us. We set up an offiice in Qatar in 2004, where we are now working on a number of power projects. We are also doing two projects in Bahrain.

What competitive advantage does Drees & Sommer bring to this region’s project management market?

One of the major things that we believe we offer to the Dubai market is our aim to be not just a consultant on the project, but also a client representative. We aim to represent the client’s interests on the project in terms of cost, quality and schedule. We aim to understand the client’s needs and priorities.

This is something we can bring to a project and has contributed to our success in Europe. We sit down with the client and discuss any major problems on the project from day one — not only being there during the construction phase, but also the development stage. The influential ability on a project is highest during the development stage. So if a project manager can add their input at the development stage then they enhance the project from the beginning and help influence the cost and quality.

What do you think of the quality of construction in Dubai?

It is something that can be enhanced. One thing that we shouldn’t forget is that in Europe, we’re always talking about the life cycle of a project, which is maybe 80 or 100 years.
This is something that nobody is talking about in Dubai; it’s a very different approach here. But in Dubai, with the increasing competition in the market, developers will have to address the quality issue because quality sells. If you consider quality, cost and time, and take one of them away or reduce one, then the other two will be affected. It’s all about balance.

Do you think the strong growth in Dubai’s construction market is sustainable?

I believe the pace will continue. There may be some regulation in the market or the market might control itself, but I don’t believe in the ‘bubble bursting’ idea. I believe that Dubai, and the interest that it has generated in this region in the last 20 years or so, will continue to grow.
Take the plans for Jebel Ali and the land reclamation projects — there’s still plenty of development going on here.||**||

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