Planning is everything. It’s thanks to its clever application, after all, a fella can save for the Varadero beach eight months before his travel date, cut a square of wrapping paper precisely-sized for the remote-control helicopter it will envelop and prepare just enough lasagna for the expected guest list of stomachs.
In early 2010, Aberdeen Group tried to understand just how well prepared project-focused organizations are to manage and execute their projects. The results of the survey that followed were sobering.
As it turns out, only a thin minority of reporting companies are equipped with capabilities that allow them to plan more than three months ahead. This from project-based operations (think law, accounting, IT and management consulting firms) who make it their business to advise other professionals on improving management of their organizations. And often they emphasize the critical role of on-time and on-budget project delivery.
With this irony painfully noted, here are seven tips on how project-based firms might employ analyses of accurate real-time information, available forecasting tools and well-understood employee resources to better manage their own houses:
1. Define things up front and communicate them early.
By first understanding the parameters of both your objectives and assets, and by then delegating their oversight to team members who can initiate prompt action, key resources are most effectively deployed.
2. Maintain an up-to-date grasp of your employees’ skills and training.
Without a comprehensive understanding of this information, management deprives itself of an ability to utilize and develop its human resources effectively.
3. Make plans realistically.
Draw from experience with similar projects when embarking on a new one. Populate projects with personnel whose skills and experience align with the needs at hand. Leverage the processes in place that are already working well to get you to the next level. And equip your operation with the technical tools that will streamline resource planning, management and follow-up.
4. Choose the right work.
That some projects are simply going to drag on internal resources without providing a return is a given. Choose carefully from the start with the benefit of both hindsight and project management software that allows you to compare and contrast potential projects before committing to any one.
5. Stay visible with dashboards.
Making pertinent information about the project and its progress available to those parties with an interest in its eventual success is important to making it so. The best software offers quick and colourful graphical summaries of specific facts, along with complete visibility of resource allocation (including project work, non-project work and vacation time), schedules and prioritization.
6. Keep track of employee workload in a way that considers the balance and the mix.
Workloads that are unevenly distributed among employees probably don’t maximize billable hours.
7. Keep abreast of the workload of internal teams and departments as individual operations.
This discreet data lends managers the critical ability to shift resources as required and to monitor achievement of specific project deliverables.