Project Management

5 Project Management New Year’s Resolutions

From the The Money Files Blog
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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from GirlsGuideToPM.com.

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How did you do with sticking to your resolutions from last year? If you are anything like me, you would have started out with good intentions and then forgotten all about them as the snow melted.

This year it's not too late to make some resolutions about managing your projects more effectively, and make them achievable so you’ll actually stick to them throughout 2014. There’s no point in setting yourself unrealistic targets, so let’s look at some project management resolutions that you could still be doing next December.

1. I will do timesheets (and get my team to do the same)

If you don’t use timesheets already, make 2014 the year that you start. They are essential for finding out where your time is actually being spent, and you can use the data for loads of things including improving your estimates.

Do them regularly and you’ll find that you aren’t blocking out 7 hours per day to a bucket task called ‘project management’. You’ll get the granularity of detail required to understand exactly what your project management effort is being spent on – reporting, budgeting, team management and so on. And then you can assess whether that’s reasonable or not.

Break down your resolution into manageable chunks such as:

  • Quarter 1: Select project management timesheet application
  • Quarter 2: Implement application and train staff
  • Quarter 3: Bedding in time, we all start using it
  • Quarter 4: Aim for timesheets to become business as usual.

2. I will understand what the Finance team actually does

How much do you rely on your company’s Finance team to help you understand and manage your project budget? They are the experts about your business’ financial processes, forecasting and managing budgets, so you may as well use them. On some projects, you may have a financial analyst allocated to the project team on a full or part time basis too.

Here are some videos to help you get started understanding the role of the different Finance teams:

3. I will improve my estimating

How good is your estimating? If you feel that your project team needs to understand why estimating goes wrong and they could do with a bit of help when it comes to getting their estimates spot on, why not make that the focus for 2014? There’s a lot that you can do to help the people in the team manage the estimating process more effectively, and also estimating tips that you can give them.

Here are some more video resources to review:

4. I will include financial updates in my reports

Project status reports don’t always include a section on finances. This could be because your project sponsor isn’t that interested, or because you are sharing the information with people with whom it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss the project finances with. But if your reports don’t include a budget update, you should be clear why this is – don’t just leave it out because it’s too hard or because you don’t know what to include.

Talk to your sponsor about what he or she would like to see in your status report and provide budget updates as required on at least a quarterly basis.

5. I will quantify the cost of risks

Does your project risk log include the financial impact of risks? Many don’t, because many risks aren’t quantified like this (or at least, many project teams don’t bother to quantify them like this). Of course, quantifying your risks in a financial way may not be appropriate for all the risks on your log. There are probably some risks that affect the project in ways that will not have a financial impact, or where you’ll be trying to calculate the financial impact based on some arbitrary figures.

But there will be a financial cost for many project risks. This is either the cost of the risk occurring or the cost of the mitigation plan – either way you can calculate the impact and then add this to your project budget so that you are clear about what implications the risk has on your financial planning for the project.

Will you use any of these as your resolutions for 2014? If not, what are you having as your resolutions instead (if any)?

Elizabeth Harrin is Director of The Otobos Group, a project management communications consultancy. Find her on and Facebook.

Posted on: January 13, 2014 09:02 AM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Good resolutions, and I especially like number 5, as someone who is always pushing my PMs to do proper quantified assessment of risk rather than the vague approach that is commonplace.

I do have to add, however, some recent advice I saw in a NLP source, which is that tying these to "New Year" is actually not helpful. For most people the period afterwards is rather depressing - the sudden end of all that socialising, and for those in the northern hemisphere a couple of months of short days, lots of gloomy mornings and evenings, bad weather and for many the creeping approach of financial and tax year ends. All make it hard to be inspired - in fact this may well be the worst time of year to make such resolutions and expect you'll keep them!

Add to that, there is a deeply buried element in our psyche, based on established traditions that New Year resolutions are just not going to work - everything we've experienced and everything in common culture says these are highly unlikely to be stuck to, so we are programmed to expect failure.

And one final factor - we make lots of these, as if we expect most to fail and are hoping if we make enough then we might get lucky with that scatter-gun approach one may stick! Actually what this does is dilute our commitment energy making it even less likely any will work. Recent research has shown that commitment to something like this does actually take physical energy just like any physical exertion.

If you really have a resolution you want to make, make it when you think of it, not at New Year, and just make the one you can focus all your commitment on.

Yes, I used to make my New Year's resolutions in February as I thought that would help me keep to them. And it did, really. At least, it gave me more of a chance than it would have done otherwise, taking into account everything you've said!

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