The Money Files

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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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Project Scope Management Part 5: Validate Scope

3 Ways to Think About Risk [Video]

5 Non-Financial Benefits for Your Business Case

Stage Budgets (for Project Board Members)

Project Scope Management Part 4: Create WBS

Project Scope Management Part 5: Validate Scope

Categories: scope

It’s time for part 5 of our journey through the Scope Management Knowledge Area from the PMBOK® Guide-- Sixth Edition, although it does feel like once I’ve got through the whole PMBOK® Guide we’ll be on the Seventh Edition, as I know that will be with us before we know it.

Anyhow, today, we’re looking at the Validate Scope process.

You can find the previous parts here:

This will be a super-short look at the process, because there haven’t been many changes and it’s a pretty simple process.

The Validate Scope Process

This is the fifth process in the Knowledge Area. We have moved from the Planning process group to the Monitoring and Controlling process group.

What we’re doing at this point in the project is formalising the process of acceptance. As we’re in Monitoring and Controlling, we’ve got to the point in the project where something has been delivered. Now we have to check whether we’ve delivered the right thing.

Basically, you review the deliverable with the person responsible for approving it, and receive formal sign off. When you’re doing this process in real life, it’s likely to overlap with with the Control Quality process, because you have to check the deliverables match the defined quality standards before you ask a sponsor to sign them off.

So now we know what this process is all about, let’s look at what we need to perform it.

Inputs

There isn’t much that has changed from the Fifth Edition. Instead of requirements documentation and requirements traceability matrix, we just have project documents. No biggie. That means the inputs to this process are:

  • Project management plan
  • Project documents
  • Verified deliverables i.e. ones that have been through the quality processes
  • Work performance data – personally I think it’s a bit vague as to why you would need this, but it could overlap with quality requirements and the example given in the PMBOK® Guide is that of documenting number of validation cycles and nonconformities. So you could find it useful in a discussion with a project sponsor, I suppose.

Tools & Techniques

Group decision making techniques has dropped off the list of Tools and Techniques, to be replaced by generic decision making (which includes, of course, techniques for groups to make decisions like voting).

Personally, I can’t think of many (any?) situations where my project quality would be assessed by vote. The deliverable either meets the criteria or it doesn’t. However, the PMBOK® Guide does list voting as a way to reach a conclusion when “the validation is performed by the project team and other stakeholders.”

Alongside that, we also have inspection (as previously in the Fifth Edition).

Outputs

Once again, there are no new or changed outputs to this process.

The outputs are:

  • Accepted deliverables
  • Work performance information
  • Change requests
  • Project document updates.

Of these, the most important for me is the accepted deliverables. The formal documentation for sign off of a deliverable is used later in the process for closing down the project, because you can’t close a project if the deliverables haven’t been accepted.

Next time I’ll be looking at the sixth and final process in this Knowledge Area: Control Scope.

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validate scope management

Posted on: November 11, 2019 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

3 Ways to Think About Risk [Video]

Categories: risk

Getting a handle on risk is so important when it comes to keeping your project under control.

There are plenty of different ways to categorise and think about risk, and today’s video considers three ways you can group risk:

  • Hazard risk
  • Control risk
  • Opportunity risk.

Watch the video below and then let me know – do you agree with these categories, or do you use a different way of bundling your risks together?

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project risk

Posted on: November 05, 2019 03:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

5 Non-Financial Benefits for Your Business Case

Categories: business case

When your project is making a tangible financial contribution to the company’s profit or revenue, then putting your business case together is pretty easy. If the financial case stands up, many execs will put a tick in the box. But when you can’t demonstrate that there are financial reasons to do your project, should you put the business case in the bin?

No, of course not. There are lots of non-financial reasons to invest money in a project. And some of them might even pay back in cash! It’s just that measuring them and attributing the benefit specifically to your project could be difficult to do.

Here are 5 common non-financial benefits that you could consider adding into your business case, even if there are plenty of cash benefits too.

non-financial benefits for your business case infographic

There’s more information about the concepts of non-financial benefits in this article.

Posted on: October 22, 2019 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Stage Budgets (for Project Board Members)

Categories: budget

stage budgets

So you’re a new member of the Project Board? And wondering how to approve funding for the project?

Come in, sit down, let me tell you what to expect!

First, you should know that every project-led organisation tends to do things in a slightly different way, and managing money is no exception. So you’ll need to find out exactly how your PMO process works for project funding. What I’ll describe here is a generic, common process. There might be unique tweaks for your environment, depending on how your PMO and exec team work together, what country you are in, whether you are a non-profit, and so on.

But broadly, this is how project funding approvals work.

Funding in principle: the business case

Projects start with a good idea, which is summarised and explained in the business case. At this point, senior decision makers will choose to accept (or reject) the project. If it goes ahead, they’ve approved the funding in principle, even though no one actually gets the money to spend at that time.

Typically, projects are prioritised by importance and need, so your project might not get started for a few more months. When the time comes for your project to start, the project moves into project initiation (kick off) and work can begin.

Stage budgets

Budgets are typically handed out in phases. If you have a 5-year project, for example, you won’t get handed all the cash on Day 1. That’s bad business planning because there might be other things you can be doing with the Years 2-5 money right now. Plus, I expect it would give your business a massive cashflow problem to tie up money for that length of time when you aren’t forecasting to spend it for ages.

So money is dripped out, normally linked to the project stage.

When the project begins, you’re in the kick off and planning phase, so the money is allocated for the planned work happening in the current phase.

When you reach the end of this phase, you’ll move into the next phase of the project. There’s normally a Project Board meeting or other approval point, at which everyone agrees that the project is on track, going to deliver what it said it would, and it’s worth carrying on with the work.

You approve the project to continue, and that is the milestone that releases the next wave of funding for the next phase of planned work.

Change budgets

You’ll also be asked, in your capacity as a Project Board member, to have some degree of oversight over the change budget.

Change budgets are money set aside to pay for changes. The project budget only covers the planned work. Changes – the clue is in the name – are changes to the original scope that you didn’t know about at the time of planning the original budget. And normally changes cost more. You’re either paying to redo work, or to increase the scope and add extra stuff in.

The change budget is there to cover the cost of changes. The Project Board can sign off on a change and release the money from the change budget to pay for it.

Note: the change budget isn’t there as a lovely cushion for overspending. If the project manager asks to dip into it but there isn’t actually an associated change, then your answer should be no. It’s not there to fund general bad planning. If no one requests a change, then you can’t spend it!

Risk budget

The final type of budget that the Project Board will get involved with is the risk budget. Again, this is a budget only to be used for certain things, not as a slush fund to dip into whenever you feel like the project needs a bit extra to help get over a challenge.

The risk budget is to pay for risk management activities and the impact of risk. Once a risk has been identified, and the financial impacts of it are known, the project manager can ask the Project Board to approve spending. The money goes towards taking steps to mitigate or better manage the risk in some way. Or it could be used to pay for whatever is needed at the point the risk occurs.

Don’t let project managers spend it without it being attributed to a specific risk management task! And if you are feeling really strict (or if your PMO dictates) you shouldn’t use the risk budget for any risk other than the one that was specifically allocated at the time.

Personally, that final clause feels a bit draconian, but look at your local rules.

So that begs the question: if you can’t use change and risk budgets to deal with things other than changes and risks, what happens when the project goes over budget?

Great question!

You decide. The Project Board either needs to decide that the project is “worth” the extra and puts extra money into the project. Or it decides the business can’t fund that. Your business is not an unlimited pot of money. Being careful with how it is managed is the only way to ensure more projects come in on budget, every time.

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Posted on: October 15, 2019 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Project Scope Management Part 4: Create WBS

Categories: scope

project scope management

It’s time for part 4 of our journey through the Scope Management Knowledge Area from the PMBOK Guide®-- Sixth Edition. Today, we’re looking at the Create WBS process.

You can find the previous parts here:

The point of this process is to move from having the scope statement (from the Define Scope process) to a scope baseline. The Work Breakdown Structure (the WBS of the process name) gives you the baseline for what the project is going to create. It’s scope, but in a lot more detail than a scope statement.

Personally, I don’t often use the full WBS process. If you are on a small project, or leading a project where you have done similar work in the past and are working with an experienced team, or you have a scope that isn’t easy to button down, then approach the WBS process with an open mind. I have lost too much time in the past creating a full WBS and WBS dictionary, with lovely descriptions of everything, only to find that the next week the scope changes due to the whim of senior management, and all my work is rendered pointless. So this is definitely a process where tailoring comes into play, especially if your ‘predictive’ environment isn’t really that predictive!

You need a scope baseline in order to exercise change control, but you might not need to follow this process to the letter to get it. Just sayin’.

Create WBS Process

This is the fourth process in the Knowledge Area. We are still in the Planning process group.

While I might not use the full WBS process and terminology, the overall objective of this process is to break down the work into smaller components that are more manageable to deliver. You take your scope statement and basically turn it into chunks of work that people can actually do.

This is a process you can do at various points in the project so you might not be able to decompose everything at the beginning and that’s fine. Repeat the decomposition effort as you move through the project and more scope is known, or you find out you have to break it down further to get where you want to be.

Inputs

There isn’t much that has changed from the Fifth Edition with this process, and in fact the only small changes are here with the inputs. The inputs to this process are:

  • Project management plan – instead of the scope management plan (the same change as we saw in the Define Scope process).
  • Project documents – these were also added to the Define Scope process, and here replace the project scope statement and requirements documentation, which are now out. We’ve seen this trend towards more generic terminology across the whole Fifth-to-Sixth rewrite, and it is to be welcomed. While the scope statement, for example, is no longer specifically mentioned, you would want to refer to it (obviously). However, there’s now the explicit understanding that there might be other documents beyond the requirements documentation and scope statement that could be useful to you at this point.
  • Enterprise environmental factors – no change here, it was on the list before.
  • Organisational process assets – again, this was previously on the list so isn’t a change.

Tools & Techniques

Nothing has changed with the Tools and Techniques. The list still remains:

  • Expert judgment
  • Decomposition.

Although if you want to get picky I think they were listed in the other order in the Fifth Edition. Frankly, I don’t think the order of techniques matters much. I have never thought they were listed in priority order.

Outputs

Once again, there are no new or changed outputs to this process.

You still end up with the scope baseline, which was the ultimate goal of doing the WBS and ‘project documents updates’, which is so broad it could include anything. However, it’s really talking about updating any documents that need a reference to the final scope.

People often think of the WBS as a diagram, but it’s much more than that. The graphic is useful, but on larger projects they can get so complicated they are difficult to interpret. Also, I’m not a visual thinker – I expect that’s another reason why me and the WBS have never really got on.

The scope baseline includes:

The scope statement – you probably won’t need to amend this much from previously, but you might want to check it over as you work through the detail of the scope, to make sure it remains consistent.

  • The WBS
  • The work packages
  • The planning packages, if you need to describe work without schedules (because the work package should have schedule information in)
  • The WBS dictionary – a summary of all the work packages so you can easily reference them.

I do like the idea of work packages, and I do use this concept on my projects. If the language of work package isn’t understood, I create a terms of reference which covers the same main elements as a work package, and this can go to workstream leaders.

Next time I’ll be looking at the fourth process in this Knowledge Area: Validate Scope.

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Posted on: October 08, 2019 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
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