The Money Files

A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts.

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Recent Posts

5 Tips for Better Project Estimates [Infographic]

What’s New in Project Resource Management (pt 3: Acquire Resources)

3 Ways to Track Schedule Performance [Video]

5 Essential Skills for Contract Managers

5 Tips for Better Decision Making [Infographic]

5 Tips for Better Project Estimates [Infographic]

Categories: estimating

When estimating feels like nothing more than a best (even educated) guess, how can you improve your project results? Great – or at least effective – estimating is something that can vastly improve your stakeholders’ confidence levels, help your team plan their work better and give you more chance of hitting your budget or time targets. So why does it feel so hard?

In this infographic I share 5 tips for making estimating that little bit easier. What other advice do you have for improving the estimating process with your team? Let us know in the comments!

You can read more about some of the ideas on this infographic in this article.

Posted on: July 18, 2018 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

What’s New in Project Resource Management (pt 3: Acquire Resources)

Categories: resources

Hello again, and welcome to another column in what has now become established as a regular-ish feature on The Money Files blog: What’s New In the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition. Last month I took my second look at Project Resource Management (read Part 1 here and Part 2, on Estimate Activity Resources here). Today, it’s the turn of the third process in this knowledge area: Acquire Resources.

The name of this process is slightly different to what you might remember from the last version. Previously, the process was Acquire Project Team. I think the updated name is better, not because it’s cool to refer to people as ‘resources’ (it’s not) but because it is a broader description of the resources required to run a project.

‘Resources’ can include equipment, and even the budget. And as we are using it to refer to people, it can also mean getting the support and buy in of people who aren’t directly on the core team.

Acquire Resources Process

This is the third process in the Knowledge Area. We’re now in the Executing process group.

This process is where you get what you need to do the project, be that people, supplies, equipment, facilities, a temporary office or whatever.


There are two new inputs, which are:

Project management plan: This simply replaces the ‘human resource management plan’ that was in the last version. As with a lot of these changes, they have made the inputs broader. Instead of referencing the particular pages within the project management plan, the reference is to the whole thing.

This makes a lot more sense to me because it’s clearer that the project management plan is one document with sub-sections and not lots of documentation (although it could be… tailoring, right?). Also, there might be other sections of the plan that are useful for securing resources including the procurement management plan (as you don’t want to go over budget) and the resource management plan.

Project documents: Again we see this vague input here. It could basically cover anything but most likely you’ll be thinking about:

  • The project schedule, so you can plan when resources are required
  • Resource calendars, which make more sense here than in the previous process. You can’t secure resources if they are off on long term sick leave or have planned maternity leave just at the point you need them.
  • Resource requirements, which will be documented somewhere and relate to what you need – you can’t acquire what you don’t know about
  • Stakeholder register.

You can also include other documentation as required, like the assumptions log – there might be things in here relating to how tasks need to be carried out.

Tools and Techniques

There are 4 tools and techniques for this process. Negotiation, acquisition and multi-criteria decision analysis have been removed. That leaves us with pre-assignment and virtual teams.

The two new ones are:

Technique: Decision making. Multi-criteria decision analysis is something that fits into the broader category of decision making, so it hasn’t really disappeared, just been ‘rolled up’. Personally I find it strange to consider decision making something to be used specifically here. Don’t we make decisions all the time? You probably do multi-criteria decision analysis every single day without calling it that. It’s just part of the job.

In case you aren’t sure what it means, it’s taking lots of factors into account when making a decision. For resource allocation, this could include:

  • Availability of the resource
  • How much it costs
  • Whether the person has the right skills and experience
  • Whether the person has the right attitude and temperament for the project
  • The location of the resource and whether it (or they) can be transported to the project’s location as required, or whether it (or they) can be used virtually.

Technique: Interpersonal and team skills. Negotiation is something that fits into the broader category of interpersonal skills, so that hasn’t really disappeared either. You may have to negotiate to get the resources that you need.


The outputs to this process have changed quite a lot, but there’s nothing surprising here. Project staff assignments have dropped out. That leaves resource calendars and project management plan updates, plus some new ones.

We have:

Physical resource assignments: these relate to the non-people resources that you need for the project.

Project team assignments: these relate to the people that you need for the project. You should also document what those people are going to do e.g. roles and responsibilities.

Change requests: I don’t know why this doesn’t appear more frequently. Carrying out any process may result in something changing. Perhaps the specific reference here relates to the fact that when you are trying to book resources, you’ll often find you can’t have who you want when you want and that may change the schedule.

Project documents updates: Lots of documents might get updated as a result of this process. As a prompt, some are listed in the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition including the lessons learned register, the project schedule, the resource breakdown structure, resource calendars, the risk register and the stakeholder register. Update whatever you think needs updating.

Enterprise environmental factors updates: There might be some need to update enterprise information for some reason, perhaps if you have a central resource pool, for example.

Organisational process assets updates: There might be some incredible insight you’ve gained through securing resources for this project that means you have to change the way the whole organisation deals with resource management and results in you updating OPAs.

That’s the end of this process. The Knowledge Area has 3 more processes to work through, so next time I’ll take a look at Develop Team.

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Posted on: July 10, 2018 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

3 Ways to Track Schedule Performance [Video]

Categories: scheduling

In this quick video I share three different ways to track schedule performance. Do you use these methods already? Let me know in the comments below.

If you’d like to read more about this, or you just can’t watch the videos where you are, then you can read more about schedule tracking in this article.

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Posted on: July 03, 2018 05:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

5 Essential Skills for Contract Managers

Categories: contracts

You might be lucky enough to be working with contract managers on your project. This is normally the case if you have a massive procurement to do, or there are lots of high-value contracts relating to what you are building. Think civil engineering projects, construction, oil and gas – that kind of thing.

However, contract management is also a skill that many of us have to have by default, because we don’t have contract management personnel available to our projects. If you aren’t working on the country’s biggest IT project supporting the national infrastructure, perhaps you will have to manage the contracts and relationships with suppliers yourself.

So what does that mean for you? Here are 5 of the essential skills a good contract manager needs. Can you see the overlap with project management?

1.  Communication Skills

I can’t actually think of many jobs that don’t need decent communication skills, so this one should be a given.

2. Contract Awareness

You need to understand the contract. That might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how difficult some contracts are to read and understand. You’ll have to explain parts of the contract to people who have no idea what any of the legal speak means.

If you think this is something you’ll have to do a lot, it would be worth preparing a short, easy to understand executive summary of the contract to use. You’re trying to highlight the key provisions, and what each party has signed up to.

3. Negotiation

You’d expect this as well, and there is normally a fair amount of negotiation to do in all areas on projects. This is a huge part of the day to day work of a full-time contract manager because they will be talking to suppliers all the time.

Negotiation with third parties involves preparation work, and looking for points of mutual interest from which to craft solutions that work for everyone. You’re trying to be proactive but get the best outcome for your own side of the discussions. It’s also important to be fair and respectful, because that’s the tone you want to set for your relationship.

4. Risk Management

Another key project management area that is useful in the contracting environment.

A contract manager – or a project manager fulfilling the role of a contract manager – should be looking for the risks in the relationships.

These could be:

  • New vendors whom you haven’t worked with before – there’s a risk they won’t be very good
  • Vendors who are struggling financially – there’s a risk they might tip over into insolvency or financial difficulties
  • Risks related to specific areas of the contract, such as contract terms about liability or indemnity
  • Risks related to specific deliverables from the contract, that you have asked the vendor to track and manage or mitigate on your behalf

And I’m sure you can think of others. The point is to make sure that contract and vendor risks are managed in the same way as your other areas of project risk.

5. Conflict Resolution

When negotiation and risk management don’t go to plan, you could find yourself in a conflict situation. Being able to successful deal with that is another important skill for contract managers.

You’re looking for an outcome that supports the relationship, assuming that it is worth saving. Conflict resolution includes a range of different options from sitting down and talking together through to the more formally defined options like alternative dispute resolution or ending up in court for litigation. Which, for the avoidance of doubt, I would suggest you strongly avoid!

Ideally, you should be sorting out any conflicts in an agreeable and professional way. As well as being generally nicer to do it that way, you will save your company a lot of money in legal costs.

Whether you have a contract manager doing the contract discussions for you, or you are being your own procurement expert, these are the skills that will help you get the best out of the contract.

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Posted on: June 26, 2018 09:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

5 Tips for Better Decision Making [Infographic]

Categories: tips

When decision making falls on your shoulders, you need to be able to step up and make the decision quickly! Here are 5 tips for making better decisions.

You can read more about some of the ideas on this infographic in this article.

Posted on: June 22, 2018 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

"If a man does only what is required of him, he is a slave. If a man does more than is required of him, he is a free man."

- Chinese Proverb