I'm not the best at making resolutions for the new year. Last year, for example, I vouched to spend more time on self-care and say no to too much work. That didn't work out so well.
Project managers sometimes ask me what I think they should be doing better or differently. We all seem to have the common goal of wanting to improve our skills and do better at our jobs. It's part of the challenge and the fun of project management - continuous improvement.
So this year I've put together a list of three simple things that you can easily do to improve your approach to project cost management. These resolutions will help you stay on top of your project budget and have more confidence dealing with the financial aspects of work.
They are easy to do. You just have to commit to do them.
Here they are:
I don't know about you, but my time tracking is still quite spotty. I have had two main projects this year. I work out my hours on a monthly basis, using the average length of a working day and then broadly how many days/half days I spent on each project, looking at the meetings I had.
This is not scientific at all.
Luckily, we are an internal team and don't bill our colleagues or clients for our time, so in the grand scheme of things it doesn't much matter. But if you work in an agency setting, time tracking becomes essential. Do it properly and encourage your team to do the same.
Monthly Budget Reviews
If you don't do these already, you should. Right now I'm reviewing the budget almost daily to make sure we get everything accounted for before year end. The busy times for you will depend on your company's year end and how you account for multi-year projects.
Check through the budget every month. It will make your reporting better too.
I don't really do this. I trust my colleagues to tell me the truth. I have no reason not to believe them when they tell me a task will take 72 days. But next year, I'm going to try to challenge appropriately. The question I'm going to use is: "What would it take to do it faster?"
That's not undermining their expertise. In fact, it's drawing it on even more. I'm asking for their expert input into how we could get the task done more quickly. I think this way of challenging could help us all get more delivered but with less conflict.
What are you going to try to do differently in 2019 to help your projects manage cost better? Or more generally? Do you set professional resolutions at all? Let me know in the comments!
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Data protection has been a hot topic this year because of GDPR coming into force in the EU earlier in 2018. Other countries are following – keeping customer, supplier and staff data confidential is so important. Data breaches have massive implications for projects and organisations.
As you know, much of this regular blog is all about budgeting and project financials, so I have come up with some ways to financially incentivise you to take data protection seriously on your projects – if you weren’t already.
Here are 5 ways that data protection can help you reduce the overall cost of your project.
1. Avoid Fines
Get your project requirements right and you are less likely to implement something that puts you at risk of regulatory fines.
Regulations vary from country to country but many jurisdictions have strict penalties and the potential for fines for data breaches. Thinking about data protection can protect your project from being the cause of a data breach and opening up the organisation to fines.
2. Preserve Your Reputation
Do you really want your project to be the reason the company makes the front page of the financial news? Data loss and breaches can cause significant reputational damage to companies.
Putting data protection at the heart of what you deliver on your project also has a positive effect. Consumers are more interested in data protection now than ever before (at least, that’s how it seems to me). So you may gain market share and more acceptance for your project because you’ve taken data concerns seriously.
3. Avoid Litigation
It isn’t just regulatory fines and regulatory bodies that may take action against your company. Members of the public (including staff) can also bring claims against your company due to data loss. After all, if your personal details were made public in a way that caused you loss or damaged your reputation, wouldn’t you want some justice for the situation?
If individuals are not interested in financial payouts for themselves, they may want to bring what they see as large corporations who haven’t acted fairly into the spotlight. The intention may be to damage the reputation of your firm through a court case, or simply to make sure that companies like yours take data protection seriously. A claim could be motivated by someone not wanting others to suffer the indiscretions that they themselves have been subject to.
4. Shine a Light on Problems
Experienced project managers know that fixing problems early in a project is the way to make changes cheaply. It’s more expensive to change a product the further along the project timeline it is. The more work that’s been done, the more needs to be undone, changed and done again.
Looking at data protection and privacy early on in the project helps you shine a light on things that might be an issue. For example, you can spot where, say, an IT project gathers information that might be intrusive to privacy, so you can rethink the data collected by the software. Or you could incorporate more security protocols to boost customer confidence in your software. Even small things, like training new staff recruited to work in your new shop, can be planned for and managed easier if the requirements are identified at the beginning of a project.
5. Improve Staff Morale and Loyalty
Data protection isn’t the most exciting of subjects, but staff see training as an investment in their careers. If you build data protection training into the way your project is deployed, or for your team members working on the project deliverables, you can influence their intention to stay with the company. Training and investing in people can improve staff morale.
In reality, I don’t think anyone is going to declare undying loyalty to your business just because you offered them data protection training as part of your project, but it contributes to the overall feeling that staff have about the business. Especially about the organisation’s commitment to staff development.
However, it’s also a way to improve staff retention. If you can give team members skills that they can use going forward, they are more likely to be useful to the business. Research by PwC shows that 74% of people are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable – and I’m sure that data protection and data privacy are topics that are definitely going to be needed in the future.
So how do you build data protection into your project plan?
Incorporating Data Protection into Project Plans
Data protection considerations can be built into your project plans early. Make data protection and privacy implications part of the non-functional requirements for the project.
Use a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) document template to help you identify potential pitfalls in the project.
There’s more information about what needs to go in a DPIA and what it is for on the ICO website, along with a sample DPIA template (scroll down). The ICO is the UK data regulator. You may find that your own country’s data regulator/information commissioner has a template they would prefer you to use, or that is written in your language.
The point of a DPIA is to bring to the front of people’s minds the fact that personal data is a big part of your project. It helps you ask the right questions about the project and what it is going to deliver. Then you can make sure you are thinking about the right things for your requirements such as database security, minimising the amount of data collected, access rights and destruction policies and more.
Not sure what topics you should be thinking about? Here are 10 data protection considerations for your project to get you started off in the right direction.
Overall, data protection can be a costly issue for businesses, so it really does pay to get your privacy requirements set up correctly from the start. If you do this, you can avoid budget overruns and project delays because you’ll be getting data protection right first time.
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I know this is a topic I have returned to several times, but I feel really strongly that project budgeting shouldn’t be hard, and we should all learn from past experiences. In the infographic below, I share three really common budgeting mistakes that I see happen time and time again, especially with project manager who are managing project budgets for the first time.
I’m sure you can think of other errors that newbie budgeters might face. Why not leave a comment below and share some of your tips about what to look out for when creating a project budget for the first time?
For more on the tax issue, take a look at this article, which discusses common budgeting mistakes and especially the tax thing, in a bit more details.
Budget “overs” are a way of filling the gaps in your budgeting process and acting as a safety net for when things go wrong, right?
Management reserves and contingency reserves are two very specific types of “extra” money in your project budget. They both have distinct roles to play in helping the business achieve the deliverables in line with the forecasted expenditure.
In this infographic I summarise the differences between these two different types of funding. Personally, I think contingency reserves are the more useful as they are tied to a specific event so they help improve risk management as well. What do you think?
You can read more about some of the ideas on this infographic in this article.
I’ve been managing projects for a long time, and I’ve had budget responsibility (at least for the tracking, if not the actual spending) since virtually the beginning. In this short video I summarise 3 things I wish I had known about project budgeting. These are the hard-won tips that I’m sharing so you don’t have to make the same mistakes or wonder the same things!
Read more here: http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/The-Money-Files/7491/