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.

About this Blog


Recent Posts

3 More Ways to Track Schedule Performance [Video]

What’s New in Project Resource Management (pt 5: Manage Team)

Comparing Management Reserves and Contingency [Infographic]

Collaboration Tools for Project Managers: Q&A (Part 2)

4 Steps for Managing Project Stakeholders [Infographic]

5 Levels of Project Financial Management Maturity [Infographic]

Categories: financial management

I put this infographic together to show the various different levels of project financial management maturity, as outlined by the P3O guidance from AXELOS. My view is that most companies should be looking to aim for Level 4. Level 5, with the implications that you are using Monte Carlo simulations and other types of advanced estimating tools, is probably overkill for most smaller projects or businesses without the exposure to risk that this helps mitigate. What are your thoughts? Is Level 5 where we should all be heading?

If you’d like to read more about the different levels, you can in this article.

Posted on: November 16, 2017 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Project Filing: Sorting Out Your Financial Papers [Video]

Keep the records on paper? Electronically? Or shred them? This video will tell you what project financial paperwork you need to keep (and how) and what you can destroy.

Posted on: April 04, 2016 11:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

5 Project Management resolutions with a financial theme

It’s the time of year when project managers (and everyone else) are looking to make resolutions. You know, the kind of promises you make to yourself in the dark days of winter and then have completely forgotten by Easter.

On the off chance that you’ll be making resolutions this year, here are some you could consider. They all have a money-related theme, so if you want to brush up your budgeting or polish your financial management skills in 2013, these could be great resolutions for you to adopt. So here we go: 5 promises for better money management over the next 12 months.

1. I will look at historical data for forecasts

When you are managing projects that are repetitive in nature and that the team has a lot of experience of, it’s very tempting to simply let them estimate the length of tasks and assume that they know what they are doing. Most of the time, they probably will. But it is worth validating their estimates against historical data from timesheets and previous project schedules. Use your online project management software to pull up reports of how long things took the last time you did them.

This could be at the level of an individual task, like completing a particular piece of coding, or a project phase, like testing. Or both. The purpose of checking is to make sure that your estimates really are sound and that the people who are estimating are not making the same mistakes about task duration on every project.

2. I will do my timesheets in a timely fashion

This is a personal resolution for you, although you could extend it to all your project team members. The risk of not doing your timesheets on time is that you forget exactly what it was that you were doing. As a result, you block out 8 hours per day for a task called ‘project management’ which doesn’t give you any breakdown of how you actually spent the time. Worse, you could be booking time to one project when in reality you got pulled off that project to spend half a day on some other project. These things happen in real life, to you and your team members.

By aiming to complete your timesheets at least weekly you’ll not have long enough to forget what you were working on!


3. I will understand Earned Value Analysis (or teach someone else how to do it)

If you don’t understand EVA, make 2013 the year when you get your books out and study how it works. If you do understand EVA, make a resolution to share your knowledge with someone else this year. Even if you don’t use EVA on your projects, it is a very useful skill to have.

4. I will do my expenses on time

Most project managers will incur expenses in the course of their job, such as travel to meetings. Not doing your expenses on time means that you are out of pocket. Many companies only pay expenses once a month in the monthly pay run, so don’t let your expense bill mount up – that’s effectively a loan to your company.

Get your personal paperwork in order by keeping receipts together, noting down your mileage after every trip and understanding the schedule for submitting expenses so that you don’t miss the deadlines.

If your expenses are being cross-charged to your project it is even more important to get your expenses in on time. If you don’t, your project budget will reflect that you have more ‘in the bank’ than you actually do.

5. I will review my budget quarterly

You do this already, don’t you? If not, make 2013 the year when you review your project budget forecasts regularly. If your project runs over two quarters you’ll probably be asked to do this by your finance team anyway, but even if you are not, it is still good practice to get out your spreadsheets and just check that you are still on track to stick within your budget tolerance limits.

Have you chosen any of these as your resolutions for 2013? If not, what are you having as your resolutions instead?

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

Posted on: January 17, 2013 03:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

3 ways expenses can pace costs

ExpensesProject expenses aren’t always spread evenly throughout the life of a project. Understanding how costs are split is one way to make sure that your project budget is appropriately phased. For example, if you will incur more costs at the beginning, then you’ll need to factor that in to the budget. If you will pay out lots of money at the end, you need to factor that in as well, to make sure that you have some money left!

Here are 3 ways that costs can be linked to project activities.

Start of activity

Some projects incur the majority of their costs at the beginning. Examples would be:

  • Buying hardware like servers so that the rest of the project can use them for development effort.
  • Software licences that are required up front before you can start using the product.
  • Buying equipment or heavy machinery that enables you to produce the output of a project, for example if you are making widgets.
  • Buying a building for the project team to work in or a building for the project, such as a shop or work facility.

In this case, you’ll want to make sure that your project budget is available to you as soon as you start the project, and isn’t phased by quarter or reliant on some cash flow issue being resolved. You’ll need to spend a large chunk of your budget from day 1, so talk to your project sponsor or your project accountant and make sure that the provisions are available for you.

End of activity

Some projects incur costs at the end of the project. This could be, for example:

  • Paying a contractor in one lump sum for the work they have done, on completion of that work.
  • Paying for equipment retrospectively, if you have managed to negotiate a period of lease or free use until project completion.

In this situation, you’ll need to make sure that your project funds are still available to you at the end of the project. Finance teams often review budgets and if it looks as if you aren’t spending much of your project budget, they might ask for some of it back! It’s good to be able to justify why you need to hang on to the cash, so that you guarantee it is still available to you when you come to need it at the end.

Uniformly spread across activity

The third way that project costs can be linked to activities is through being spread evenly across the lifecycle of the project. Some examples of this are:

  • Paying contractors monthly.
  • Paying third parties monthly or regular service fees, such as for the provision of online project management software.
  • Subscriptions.
  • Property or machinery leases that require a regular payment, such as monthly or quarterly, in advance or in arrears.

This is probably the easiest type of split to manage. Regular payments for regular activities means that your budget will be consumed in an even way across the lifecycle of the project. You can quickly see if you are half way through the project then you should be about half way through your budget too.

Of course, one project could use all of these, as different activities could have different spreads of costs. You’ll have to take that into account when you plan how your budget is phased. If that is the case for you, you’ll also have to consider phasing per task/activity/item as well as what the overall profile looks like. That way you can build up a picture of how much money you’ll need when.

Which is the model that your project uses, or do you phase your project budget in a different way?

Posted on: October 21, 2012 07:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Austerity Debate: What’s the cost of project management?

The cost of project managementAndy Murray, Director of Outperform, and lead author of PRINCE2:2009, spoke at the Austerity Debate at Lloyd’s Register in London recently about the role project management plays in this difficult economy.

When times are tough, senior management look to reduce costs and that sometimes means cutting projects and project management.  So how much does project management cost?  Murray explained that there several ways to look at this question.

The cost of managing a project

Each project has an overhead, including the cost of the project manager, the sponsor, a risk budget, the project board and any project support services.

The cost of failure

What does it cost if you don’t do projects well?  There’s rework, the cost of overruns, poor outputs, under-delivery, consequential loss, and benefits that remain unrealised.

The cost of managing projects

This is the infrastructure related to managing projects and includes any Centre of Excellence overheads, the PMO, support, monitoring, tools, evaluation, assurance, the Portfolio Office and audits.

Reducing these costs is possible, Murray explained.  He presented several options that senior managers could consider:

  • Reducing the number of projects
  • Reducing the cost of managing a project – giving each project manager more projects to run, for example
  • Reducing the cost of managing projects but minimising the central overheads
  • Reducing the cost of failure
  • Improving performance with better targets and delivering more benefits.

Andy's slideMurray said that the contribution project management offers is a mix of the value of increased performance, plus a reduced cost of failure and a lower cost projects, less the cost of project management itself.  I’ve represented this as a sum in the picture here.

In the last decade the focus has been on methods, training and techniques, Murray said.  There’s been no focus on behaviour, although he admitted that things have been looking up over the past three years.  There’s been a bit of development in the organisational space around P3O and strategic planning, but he believes we can do better.

What do you think?

Posted on: December 07, 2010 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Work like you don't need the money, love like you've never been hurt, and dance like there's nobody watching.