Challenges faced by construction project managers in Oman

Challenges faced by construction project managers in Oman

Today’s Project Manager (PM) faces many challenges, stemming from a variety of sources. These challenges have an impact on project success as well as the prestige and reputation of the company if not dealt with suitably. PMs must be aware of these risks and the implications of these challenges to ensure that they are under control. Many of these challenges are direct results of construction operations, while others are results of indirect activities. Construction issues include workforce considerations, safety, time constraints, and the changing nature of the work itself. Non- construction challenges that PMs face include legal issues, government regulations, environmental concerns, and socio-political pressures.

Nature of the Construction Industry

Construction projects represent a unique set of activities that must take place to produce a unique product. The very nature of construction introduces challenges typically not encountered in other industries. For example, some of the unique features of the construction sites are:

  • The work is often seasonal
  • Each project is unique
  • Often involves remote sites with various access and logistics problems
  • Difficulty in applying automation
  • There is high potential for encountering unforeseen and unfavourable conditions
  • Costs can vary according to conditions and often contrary to what was assumed.
  • Difficult to manage and supply utilities & other resources.
  • Innovations are adopted slower.
  • Project can be of mind-boggling size, cost, and complexity
  • The work is not performed in controlled conditions and therefore highly impacted by weather and other environmental conditions
  • There is a need to meet the expectations of the local Social and Political forces

The success of a project is judged by the Client and the Contractor from two sets of considerations:

From the client’s point of view:

  • Timely completion,
  • Keeping the cost under the budget
  • No safety issues
  • No regulatory concerns arising out of the project in short term or long term

From the Contractor’s Perspective:

  • Minimizing the utilization of the losing Items
  • Maximizing the utilization of the profitable items
  • In case of delays get the extension of Time with the cost
  • No safety hassle
  • Project can bring social or community attention if the project is a landmark
  • Improving the Pre Qualifications of the company due to the completion of the job
  • Learning new methods, tools and products in the industry.


Weather and construction have been at odds since the beginning. Even if meteorologists could predict the weather to a degree of accuracy of ±5%, the impending weather events cannot be modified or delayed.

This fact is particularly troublesome to those engaged in heavy civil work, site development, and activities that involve earthwork or other weather-sensitive operations. A good PM carefully plans contingency and alternative ways to minimize the delays, risks, and disruption due to inclement weather.

Work Force Considerations

As is the case in any business, people are a construction organization’s greatest resource. Construction operations depend on the knowledge and skills of people planning, monitoring, and executing the work. The quality of this most important resource – people, is what distinguishes one company from another. Finding and recruiting a sufficient number of skilled, talented people is becoming increasingly difficult. There are several factors contributing to this problem.

Construction is typically viewed as being one of the least desirable industries in which to work. Surveys among the nation’s youth show construction at the bottom of the list of professions that they would enter. Other industries or professions offer preferred work environments that are cleaner, safer, shorter duration, and generally more desirable. Consequently, there is a severe shortage of bright, talented people willing to work in construction.

The construction industry in the Middle East has relied upon migrant or foreign labor to varying degrees through the course of history. There are, however, complications involved with employing a foreign workforce. Apart from Government rules, The language and cultural barriers is more pronounced in the Gulf. The language barrier also imposes additional safety risks.

In order to maximize long-term performance, it is important to provide the Asian worker with the training necessary to hasten the assimilation into the Market. Empowerment leads to high levels of commitment, enthusiasm, self-motivation, productivity, and innovation. Benefits to the employee include feelings of appreciation, belonging, and heightened self-worth. A high level of empowerment yields correspondingly higher productivity. Empowerment of the right workforce is one of the keys to improving construction performance.


Safety remains an ongoing concern for the Project manager. Construction by nature is inherently dangerous, with a high degree of hazard and risk. The toll of construction accidents is high in terms of both costs and human suffering. Financial losses pale when compared to bodily injury and death, and the resulting human, social impacts. Insurance (such as workmen’s compensation) protects the contractor from certain direct expenses, but accidents also involve substantial costs that are not insurable, referred to as hidden or indirect costs. Direct costs include medical costs, compensation, and productivity from the affected person. Indirect or hidden costs include:

  • Loss in earning power, economic loss to injured worker’s family
  • Mental trauma on the other work force who witness the tragedy or disability of the affected colleague.
  • Diminished quality of life for the injured party
  • Cost of training new or replacement employees
  • Loss of efficiency by breaking up crew
  • Loss of production & cost incurred by delays
  • Failure to meet contract demands (completion, etc)
  • Overhead costs associated with disruption of work
  • Administrative costs of investigations and reports
  • Increased insurance premiums
  • Loss of future projects due to adverse publicity

Keys to a successful construction safety program include: support and enforcement from top management, front line management (supervisors & foremen) consistently following and enforcing the safety program, ongoing and comprehensive training, and recognition by all employees that safety is everyone’s job.

Time Constraints

Time is money to Owners, Contractors, and users of the constructed facility. From the owner’s perspective, there is lost revenue by not receiving return on investment, cash flow crunch, potential alienation and loss of clients/tenants, extended interest payments, and negative marketing impacts if the project is delayed. From the users’ perspective, there are financial implications similar to owners. Extending project durations limit the Contractor’s capacity for providing bonds, guarantees and as a result the ability to bid for more work (opportunity cost). A reputation for late completions is bad for business. In today’s intensely time-driven business environment, the PM must manage superior planning, scheduling, and control. Time is the essence!

Legal Issue

The challenges in Oman are further aggravated by the Standard Conditions of the Contract, which is used across all the contracts in the Government and the Ministries. The overall economic scenario and the Socio-political issues influencing the minds of the workforce are contributing against the success of the contractor. All this has resulted in many claims and disputes which are steadily on the rise in recent times.

A claim is a request by a contractor for additional

compensation or time extension for occurrences beyond the contractor’s control. The contractor must prove entitlement and quantify the associated damages.

PM’s input during pre-construction reviews is invaluable. The Contractor must have a clear understanding of contract requirements prior to bidding. Keys to avoiding claims during construction include good administrative procedures, open and honest communication, and timely troubleshooting.

Governmental Regulation

Increasing government regulations are other challenges facing today’s PM. Along with increasing environmental and safety laws, the industry is coming under greater regulation through permit requirements from the various Government bodies.

Socio-Political Pressures

Political pressures and community involvement affect public sector work. Pressures emanate from adjacent property owners and the public-at-large, including existing businesses, institutions, and residences adjacent to the construction facility. Today’s PM has substantially greater accountability to the public than previous generations. Increasing the number of stakeholders further complicates an already complex process.

Socio-political pressures also stem from the utilization of the local workforce. There is a greater need to employ Omanis who need training in skills and molding behavioral aspects that would translate them to be active members of the Project team. This also is a daunting task as there are no adequate and competent organizations that can help in this cause. At the same time, some Omanis demonstrate outstanding commitment, skills and the energy that can put to shame many expatriate

workforce. However there is a lot of room for improvement in this area – currently not being handled adequately — resulting in some more challenges for the Construction Sector.


The list above shows that an able PM must be an expert on administration, HR functions, accounts, finance, PR skills, and of course the technical skills to lead the operational team.

To summarize Excellent PMs must :

  • understand and navigate through these challenges
  • transform risks into opportunities.
  • understand the business, legal and social aspects of construction.
  • act as responsible stewards of the environment and observe all applicable laws and ethical practices.
  • value the people they employ and work to ensure their safety and promote their well-being.
  • pro-actively manage operations to achieve the project’s quality, cost, time, and scope requirements.
  • strives to avoid and resolve conflict
  • promote harmony among all project stakeholders.
  • adapts to the changing business, social, and legal environment,
  • and leads the organization through the challenges it faces.

Yusuf Nalwala

One Comment

  1. Dec 15, 2021 at 1:01 pm

    Great Article

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