Project managers have a unique opportunity to influence change in the industry, are they making the most of it?
Project managers could be forgiven for feeling like the invisible heroes of construction: working close to the client, exerting influence on their projects and their businesses – but rarely acknowledged. Property owners are seen as setting the agenda by demanding change from their construction teams. But who is influencing the property owners?

Project managers have been making a difference in the way clients manage and procure projects for some time. The much abused word "partnership" hasn't been a recent addition to our vocabulary, it was one of our founding principles. In fact, most of the gradual change in the industry over the past decade coincides with the growth of independent project management consultancies.

So what do project managers actually do? Put simply, the good ones get to grips with the fundamental issues affecting their clients and understand the business drivers behind a project. For example, Hornagold & Hills worked with a major firm recently to manage a strategic business change process it had initiated. The level of trust that developed was such that we were influential at executive level. Out of this process came a need for a new headquarters building as one part of the change programme. This shows project managers not just understanding their client's business but actually being an integral part of designing and implementing change within their business.

Involvement of this kind inevitably gives the project manager a better customer focus. It also means we are better able to influence the project team to work together towards the client's objectives – a simple concept, but one that is fundamental to the changes happening in the industry. Embracing this concept fully would drive the industry forward in so many areas.

I don't expect that all clients will have the same level of trust as this one but I would encourage them to have open partnerships with their project managers and to appoint them early enough to influence projects. In this way we'll continue to deliver buildings that clients want, influence gradual improvement in the design and construction process and ultimately make a big impact – recognised or not.