Mostly on projects we think of ‘resource’ costs and ‘resources’ as people. Because mostly, with the majority of office-based, corporate-led projects, what we need to get the work done is people’s time. And people are expensive.
Meetings in particular are often left out of the time-budget. We’ve factored in the cost of the hours required for them to deliver their tasks, but not for them to show up to project team meetings, lessons learned calls, extra meetings because something in someone else’s area has gone wrong, and so on.
So factor in enough buffer time for the overhead of meetings for resources that are booked out to do work on the project.
But what about the other things we need to cost out in project budgets that aren’t people’s time? There is a whole host of smaller (and bigger) costs that it is worth building into your financial planning if they are relevant to you – because even the small costs start to add up when you are asking for ‘real’ money (versus people’s time which is wooden dollars if they are internal resources).
Here are 12 non-labour costs that you might incur on your project.
1. Room hire and hospitality
In my last job, we had open plan office space and very few meeting rooms. They were reserved for the exec, and it was difficult to book them. Even if we did book them, I remember being bumped out of a room because someone more important than me needed it (they did give me notice, to be fair).
Room hire costs might be something you need to factor in, and with that comes catering for people attending.
In fact, it’s not just meetings. On one project, the team had a portacabin on site as their project war room. That was a space we had to pay to hire.
2. Event hosting
Event hosting also falls into the bracket of room hire and hospitality – but it’s not necessarily project stakeholders attending.
Perhaps you have clients who need to see the new release of a software product. Perhaps you’re running an industry conference as part of the product launch. Perhaps you have training events for internal staff who need to travel and be fed when they arrive.
Training events might also incur the cost of producing materials for the delegates or paying an external trainer, as well as hire for the AV kit in the room.
3. Admin support
Sometimes projects require admin support.
You could buy in a VA (virtual assistant), or even buy access to an AI-powered assistant for meeting note taking or meeting booking, and all the many other things AI can do for you these days.
You may also need transcription or translation services, depending on what you are working on and who is involved.
4. Travel and accommodation
On my first project in my last job, there was a lot of travel for the implementation teams. They were out on the road 4 days a week during most of the go live periods, supporting locations to implement new processes and tools. As a result, we had huge expense bills for petrol, rail travel, accommodation and food.
Fortunately for me, most of it went through the corporate expense booking system so all I had to do was add the numbers to the budget at the end of every month. It was part of the cost of doing business and keeping the project going.
These days, we travel less for work and do a lot more remotely, but you may still have to factor in days out of the office and on the road for some team members.
In addition, your in-house guidelines might allow for per diems or expense allowances for colleagues out and about. Be clear on whether you have your own internal rates or are using industry published guidance for these so you don’t have any queries when people submit their expenses.
Technology costs crop up even in projects that are not tech-led.
For example, you might need to access webinar tech to deliver training, or buy an online learning package. Even loading training videos to your existing online learning platform might incur a fee.
Most of the tech costs I have been involved with on projects come from having to buy hardware items or software licences. Those items rack up the cost, but they are often clearly known and factored into the budget from the start.
In addition to those items above, you might also have these on your projects:
- Other materials
- Utilities if these are costed to your project or required specially.
- Printing and binding (less used now with the focus on sustainable project management and green delivery, but there might be some things you have to create as hard copies)
- Web page and creative supportive
- Photography or photocopying
- Subcontracts – again, normally clear and well-known at the outset.
Link these costs to the person who is incurring them in the work package so they can be accounted for appropriately in the budget.
Have you ever been caught out with a project cost (and was it on the list above)? Share your non-labour common expense items in the comments below!