Learn how improved visibility and control over your projects and resources can help improve business efficiency and effectiveness.
Successful project management is not just a case of adopting best practices; technology too is a crucial enabler. The majority of PM top performers use project scheduling and project portfolio management technology. That means when a delay occurs, no matter how minor it seems, no matter what the cause, every stage in the schedule is updated and project managers remain in complete control. Any knock-on effects are clearly seen early, and so can be minimised and managed. Resources can be redirected and contingencies will be applied.
This point is so crucial that Aberdeen Group commented about it in a recent paper on Project Management in Professional Services: “Best-in-class companies are twice as likely as all others to have the ability to see project milestones and schedule status in real time.”
In addition to visibility this means too that where changes are a result of a new client demand, managers can give a far more informed answer of the cost and scheduling consequences. Service delivery and customer expectations are kept tightly locked and synchronised.
None of this means that a project will run smoothly: professional services is no place for fairy tales. But it does mean that when changes happen, you are ready for them – so you are more likely to deliver on-time and on-budget, even when costs and deadlines have changed. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll live happily ever after, but it will put a smile on the face of both your client and even the board of directors. And please remember that the best time to think about using technology to streamline the process is before you are knee deep in the challenges.
If you would like to read more about the impact of technology in project management, feel free to download our free white paper titled: Coping with change: How to ensure service delivery remains in sync with evolving customer demands.
Learn how improved visibility and control over your projects and resources can help improve business efficiency and effectiveness
If your business delivers products or services, as your business grows your will certainly need some way of managing projects. Many SME’s are simply scared of the term “Project Management” or end up implementing a host of non-connected, counter-productive tools. In this article we look at 15 great ways in which Project Management Software can help your growing business.
1. Improve the Project Estimation Process
Many factors influence the final outcome of a project, with upfront planning and estimation two of the most crucial determinants to long term project success. Yet many businesses fail to carry out any form of estimation or place very little importance on the benefits it provides to the business, its individuals, its project managers, its executives and to the satisfaction of its customers. Project Estimation provides a consistent method of estimating your project resourcing levels and expenditure throughout the business. By implementing a simple form of Project Estimation you can easily understand a projects impact on resource capability and its impact financially on your operating budgets. Project Estimation also helps standardize the way your sales team and project managers interact with your customers and quote for work, this results in an overall positive impact on productivity, customer satisfaction and the number of projects which you deliver on time and to budget/
2. Gain a better understanding of your true Resource Capability
Resource Capability Planning is one of the key success factors for any business which delivers projects or services. With Resource Capability Planning your business has the power to analyze the impact of delivering projects and services on resource capability in real time, enabling you to better manage customer expectations, improve overall business productivity, exceed customer service level agreements and reduce costs. Although you may be small, resource capability planning is vital to any business and provides a clear a consistent visual representation of your “book of work” and how it will be delivered, it also provides an essential tool for planning your growth.
3. Ensure you select and prioritize the right projects
Project prioritization is beneficial to any organization independent of shape, size of focus, as it enables you to prioritize project related work against each other to define a sensible, optimized order of work. In fact it is an essential process for any growing business, as making use of your scarcest resources to maximize benefit while removing project failures is without doubt a huge challenge and one which can provide the greatest benefit. Project Selection and prioritization will enable you to quickly and easily assess the potential return of your project investments versus the resource and expenditure demands and potential risk.
4. Plan Projects in a clear and consistent manner
To guarantee the successful delivery of any project, a period of planning is required before the project commences. Project Planning provides a simple, easy method to help your business effectively plan the tasks, activities, roles, responsibilities and deliverables required by each project. By planning projects in a clear and consistent method, Project Planning helps avoid the disappointment of failed and overdue projects by reducing risk and providing exact timings and decisions points which help ensure projects are delivered on-time and to budget.
5. Optimize your resource usage
Resource Scheduling provides an essential component for establishing the feasibility of your project plans and for setting realistic customer expectations. By scheduling resources before projects commence, your project managers will be able to assess the flexibility they have over the use of specific resources, align tasks and work packages with resource availability, and where resources are unavailable and delays are not an option, project managers can consider alternative approaches, tradeoffs or the re-prioritization of work. For businesses with less structured or more volatile resourcing requirements, resource scheduling provides the ability to optimize resource utilization levels and increase revenue by providing the ability to quickly assign best fit available resources based on skills, experience and location, to efficiently fulfill resource requests and to manage out resource conflicts.
6. Gain real time visibility in the status of deliverables
Effectively managing project deliverables is important for any organization, independent of size or focus, in fact, this is especially important for small or growing businesses with less mature project management processes where there is no formal process of defining business cases or the benefits associated with each project. Deliverables are different to project milestones in that they represent the quantifiable goods or services produced as the result of a project. Whether tangible or intangible, by managing your project deliverables executives will gain real time visibility into the status of each deliverable and a clear overview of how the business will profit or benefit from each project.
7. Improve Budgeting/Cost Control
For many businesses the prospect of generating a project budget is daunting, especially if little project management experience exists. However, the project budget is an essential tool for measuring the performance and progress of any project. This is where project management software excels, enabling you to create project budgets directly from project plans or from your project estimates. In addition project management software will ensure you can monitor budget, versus actual versus planned to ensure you have an accurate picture of your current budget and future financial projections in real time.
8. Improve Product and Service Delivery
Every business requires an effective toolkit to successfully manage the delivery of the products or services they deliver. Project management software provides your project managers with the tools required to lead their team and to implement an effective strategy to bring your products to fruition. Your clients will benefit in the knowledge that their input has a direct effect on the project delivery process and your workers will benefit from having a clear understanding of their stake in the project and their role in its delivery. The beauty of managing projects in a fully integrated solution is its flexibility; if you discover a smarter direction, project management tools provide you with the flexibility to take it.
9. Encourage and Facilitate Team Collaboration
Throughout humanity, people have historically recognized that working together can accomplish more. However, many businesses ignore this fact and continually allow individuals to pursue their own objectives which are loosely tied to project or organizational objectives. Project Collaboration software eliminates this, by providing your business with an ideal platform to encourage your project team members to work in synergy and share knowledge throughout the project management process. With each team member making an individual contribution towards a common goal your business will quickly benefit from greater innovation, better problem solving, greater efficiency in project delivery and a reduction in the cost and impact of absent resources.
10. Minimize Project Risk and Reduce Project Failures
Most project management tools provide your business with the ability to manage risk in a pro-active manner. Long gone are the days of consolidating spreadsheets or numerous emails to gain an accurate overall picture of project risk. By centrally managing risks, your business has real time visibility into the status of risks at every stage in the project management process, what’s more, a series of mitigating actions can be implemented to manage out risk and limit its impact on the quality and final delivery of your projects. By managing risk at every stage of the projects lifecycle, from initial enquiry through to final delivery you will ensure many happy customers by delivering more projects on time and to budget, every time.
11. Gain a real time picture of Project Progress
Accurately tracking project progress is not only a huge challenge for many businesses, it is essential for ensuring the successful delivery of any project. Project management software will provide any business with a standard and repeatable method of capturing project progress and reporting status. From your end users updating the percent complete of their tasks, through to project managers carrying out a full project review and submitting a fully auditable project status report, project management software provides a simple toolkit to ensure all project stakeholders have a clear, consistent, real time view of project progress and status.
12. Measure Productivity, Project Progress and Utilization
Keeping track of your employee timesheets and expenses and updating project progress is an essential part of delivering products and services. Timesheet software provides your business with an effective solution to fully automate the capture, submission and approval of time and expenses, to update project progress in a consistent manner, to improve project cost control and to measure, monitor and analyze the productivity and utilization of resources. By capturing your time and expenses your business is able to improve cash flow and revenue recognition by fully automating your project time billing process.
13. Improve Customer Response Rates and Satisfaction
Project management software enables your business to response to customer issues and queries in a more timely, productive and effective manner, increasing customer satisfaction and forging your relationship as a valued supplier. What’s more, your employees will work in a far more structured manner, saving time and ensuring each customer receives the level of care your SLA’s demand. Quite simply, by improving your Issue Management, your business will benefit from an increased volume of happy customers, which directly affects your bottom line in the form of increased profits for your business.
14. Improve Cash flow and Reduce Billing Errors
Many project management solutions offer the functionality to fully automate the billing of your products and services. With time billing software you can easily improve cash flow, maximize revenue and reduce billing errors. Billing functionality should enable you to automate the most basic billing types such as time and materials, as well as easily implement more complex billing requirements such as fixed price, milestone, capped and repeat billing.
15. Improve Reporting and Analytics
Far too often businesses without a basic project management solution struggle to produce management reports and end up using excel “which is highly prone to errors” as their main source of management information. As a growing business project management software will provide you with vital management information in real time such as project costs, progress, status and profitability, resource utilization and productivity, budget performance and customer satisfaction.
Whatever stage your business is in its evolution, we hope you find this article useful and provides you with the inspiraton to implement or upgrade your own project management system.
Learn how to analyze team productivity to improve your organizations effectiveness and efficiency in 5 simple steps.
So your busy, business is booming, but yet you still think you can get more out of your team. All too often companies strive to improve productivity and utilization without truly understanding the current state of play. In this article we discuss some simple ways in which you can analyze the performance of your team to help drive productivity.
Track your Current Productivity and Utilization
It’s an age old phrase but, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. This is too true of employee productivity and utilization where many variables govern how productive or how well utilized an employee is. Let’s take the example of a small business delivering products and services. What’s more productive, an employee who works 8 hours a day on internal product development or service delivery, or a similar employee who works 10 hours per day but spends 3 hours on administration, breaks and socializing – on face value, our 8 hour a day employee looks the most productive but we have no idea from hours alone how this impacts the goals and objectives of the business or compares to what the employee was planned to do.
Let’s take the example of a consultant, effective utilization isn’t just about working loads of hours, it’s about how many of those hours are chargeable and billable, but again, if the consultant is missing deliverables and the customer has low satisfaction, then actually how productive are they. Over the years I have worked with many sales people who work less hours and achieve target, simply, because they are better planners and make more effective use of their time. So there are many factors that impact productivity and utilization, however, firstly, and most importantly you will need a grasp of how your employees are currently spending their time, timesheet software will provide a good starting point here allowing you to track employee hours against projects and activities. This is a very simplified argument though, as most employees will have different skill sets, knowledge and experience which obviously mean that there is likely to be different levels of productivity. However, the data provided by your timesheet software will be invaluable in providing you with an understanding of how your employees are currently spending their time, and what proportion is spent on productive activities.
Analyze, Analyze, Analyze
So you’ve implemented some form of timesheet management software, but how can you analyze the data. This is where the variables that your timesheet system tracks are important; categorizing your projects will enable you to assess the importance to the business of the work your employees carry out. For a services business, this may be as simply as chargeable and non-chargeable projects. For an internal IT Department, more complex variables such as portfolio metrics may be required, examples of these metrics may include business improvement, enter new markets, research and development and improve efficiency, and all will have varying benefit to the business.
Defining the status of the different activities performed by your employees will also provide an additional level of analysis; again, categorizing activities as chargeable/non chargeable or productive/nonproductive will provide a good understanding of the quality of work your employees are undertaking and how this impacts the delivery of your projects and services. In more advanced businesses, analyzing data across departments, roles and skill sets may highlight issues with the structure of your business or identify areas for improvement such as training requirements. Whatever metrics you choose to analyze time by, it is important to maintain an open view point, as other factors such as the effectiveness of your planning, the status of your projects and the performance of your managers may all contribute to the productivity and utilization of employees.
Improve your Planning
With your timesheet system implemented, you now have a good understanding of what work your employees have performed and how that translates into Productivity and Utilization. However, what this information doesn’t tell us is how this compares to what work employees were planned to do. There’s no point stressing that an employee is only 10% utilized on chargeable work if that was what was planned in the first place or if that’s all that your current contracts dictate. One way of looking at this is if you don’t have a plan, your utilization and productivity figures really do not represent the status of the business, your current workload and the effectiveness of your managers.
A number of tools are available such as project planning software and resource scheduling software which will enable you to schedule your employees on tasks, assignments and/or deliverables, most importantly they provide management with useful information on the planned utilization and productivity of employees. You can then use this information to analyze Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) such as planned utilization vs. actual utilization, planned deliverables vs. completed deliverables. These figures will provide a far more accurate picture of how your employees are performing rather than just looking at actual utilization. What’s more, planning and scheduling will also help you balance your resources, identify poorly utilized resources upfront as well as identify future skills shortages and training requirements which will all have a positive effect on future productivity and utilization.
Manage Customer Expectations
Having been involved in many timesheet software and project management software implementations one of the most common traps that many organizations fall into prior to implementing a tool or formalizing a project management process is that not enough attention is placed on managing the customer’s expectations prior to delivering the project. For example, Sales Representatives are eager to sell, or may not have the experience to provide realistic estimates or timeframes. Project Managers have not highlighted the risks, deliverables and acceptance criteria associated with the project. All this leads to an overall reduction in the productivity of your employees during project delivery, for example, Account Managers constantly dealing with customer issues rather than up-selling, Project Workers firefighting project issues rather than focusing on the core deliverables. For this reason it is important that you implement some form of project management process in your business that fully encapsulates your entire product or service delivery process from initial enquiry through to supplier management and project delivery.
By ensuring that everybody involved in the product and service delivery process has a clear understanding of the scope, risks, deliverables and acceptance criteria associated with your projects there is likely to be less project issues, less slippage and fewer budget overruns. Leave your resources in all areas to focus on more productive work. Many project management software tools are available to help you implement a simple clear project management process.
Create a Productive Working Environment
This doesn’t mean getting a nice fish tank or branding everything to death in your office (although aesthetics and brand are still key depending on your type of business!). It’s about creating a productive working environment where employees can share ideas, tap into each other’s knowledge and limit the impact of any absent resource. This is where some form of project and team collaboration is important, as it is commonly recognized that working together can accomplish more. By providing your project team members with a platform where they can work in synergy, share ideas and share knowledge; and where each individual team members contribution is focused on a common goal, your business will quickly benefit from greater innovation, better problem solving and greater efficiency in project delivery. The result: increased productivity and utilization.
5 Steps to Improve Employee Utilization and Productivity In summary, there are 5 simple steps to how your business can improve employee utilization and productivity including:
- Implement some form of time recording – “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”, by capturing timesheets you can understand your current utilization and productivity
- Define Appropriate Variables – if you sell services you will want to measure chargeable utilization, ensure you define variables that enable you to measure utilization and productivity that is applicable to your business.
- Improve your planning – improving your resource deployment upfront should not only improve your future resource productivity and utilization, it will also give you a more realistic view of the health of the organization by comparing planned versus actual.
- Manage Customer Expectations – communicate to your entire team the importance of managing the customer’s expectation from initial enquiry all the way through to project delivery. In the long run you will have more happy customers resulting in your employees having to perform less un-productive tasks.
- Encourage Collaboration – boost your productivity by creating an environment where your team members can easily share knowledge, ideas and lessons learned. This will not only improve individual productivity it will help improve project standards and service delivery.
Explore the 5 most common Project Portfolio Management Adoption Hurdles and How to Avoid Them
Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software is designed to provide clarity and accountability to your entire project management and project delivery process. The Project Portfolio Management implementation itself will bring about change and just like any other change management project, it will likely be met with some degree of resistance. What’s more, with the unrivalled level of transparency and exposure that PPM will bring to the people, projects and processes within the business, there will naturally be a degree of skepticism and fear felt among the senior management team. There will be many challenges and hurdles to overcome when implementing PPM, here are some of the typical barriers faced:
1. The Dreaded Company Culture & In House Politics
Company culture and in house politics will be one of the main barriers to adoption. Resistance to Project Portfolio Management is likely and will not be fully understood by all involved, therefore you will need to constantly educate staff regarding the benefits and value of PPM. Appointing a Project Portfolio Management ’evangelist’ will assist with this task.
2. A Failure to Tackle Resistance
Management failing to identify and tackle resistant individuals early on in the process is a mistake. Do not assume that individuals will improve their performance once the new product is introduced. If your company has a low level of project and program management maturity, you may need to engage with external experts, or look to outsource your PMO function, there are now many organization offering virtualPMO services.
3. A Lack of Senior Management “Buy In”
Senior management ‘buy in’ to the purpose, benefits and value PPM will bring to the business is vital to the adoption process. In order to achieve this, consensus must be reached amongst management on the criteria for selecting, authorizing and approving projects. This will reduce the number of pet projects in play, ensure senior management understand the benefits and deliverables of each project, and help full a consistent repeatable system for delivering projects and services.
4. Disruption and Change
PPM adoption will inevitably cause a degree of disruption; any disagreements over the pace of introduction will only cause further problems. The tool selection process along with the support and investment needed for a successful PPM implementation will present major challenges for the business to overcome. To overcome this, avoid taking the big bang approach, an execution led approach, with thousands of tasks is highly complex and very difficult to achieve in an acceptable time frame. Take a strategic led approach, focus on the business objectives and implement a top down approach, where all project stakeholder s can clearly see each projects deliverables, and the impact on the organizations resource capability and finances.
5. Big Brother is watching you
The business may need to collect timesheet data in order to gain the full picture on what employees are working on and how this impacts the delivery of the project portfolio. Staff may view the adoption of timesheet technology as the ‘Big Brother Syndrome ‘and may feel as if they are being watched. It is therefore important that you are educating staff about the real benefits such as increased productivity and utilization, as well as timesheet data being key to analyzing project progress and portfolio health.
Whenever you implement a major change program, there will always be barriers to adoption, find out how the KeyedInConsultingGroup and KeyedInProjects Project Portfolio Management software can help.