Project Management

The Money Files

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

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Recent Posts

What’s happening in Q3?

Navigating the Summer Slowdown: Maintaining Momentum in Project Teams

Spring clean your portfolio: Setting clear priorities and roadmapping

Spring clean your portfolio: Resource management

Spring clean your portfolio: Portfolio review


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What’s happening in Q3?

Quarter 3 of a calendar year is July, August and September. Your business year might not follow the same quarters, but wherever you are in your business year, it’s probably the right time to be looking ahead at what needs to come next. Here are 3 focus areas for Quarter 3.

3 focus areas for quarter 3

Forward planning

Begin strategising and planning for high-priority projects in the upcoming quarters. That might look like warming up stakeholders, seeing who is going to be available to work on upcoming projects, doing some light discovery work or pre-initiation investigation, especially on the areas that are likely to take the most time such as procurement and contract negotiations, or getting suppliers to submit security information and forms, or the RFP process. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything!)

Involving the team in these discussions can help maintain their focus on future goals and the bigger picture, while hopefully getting you a head start when you come to get those projects going in earnest.

Process optimisation

There’s never a right time to optimise processes, in my experience. The process is in use and it works, so often it feels better to sort out something that is broken, or that is strategically important. But those inefficient processes contribute to low staff morale and wasting time, month after month, so it’s worth scheduling some time to put some effort in. Each quarter, tackle one point or a couple of points, and soon you’ll build up a momentum and improvements.

So how do we do this? Analyse the project management processes and methodologies. Look for inefficiencies or bottlenecks in workflows that could be streamlined for better performance in busier times. I would look through the lessons learned from recent projects and see what’s highlighted there that could be improved.

Ideally, you’d do a full analysis of all possible problems and highlight one or two from the priority list, but in reality that’s a load of work before you see any improvements. A better option might be to just trust your team. If they are telling you that the change control process is a pain in the behind, just focus in on that for now. Improve what is causing people the most headaches, and trust me, they’ll have an opinion on what that is if you ask them.

Tool use

Do a quick review of who is still using the project management software tools you have. People move on so it might be time to claw back licences from users who are no longer in the business or who have changed roles. And other people might benefit from having the licences.

On the topic of forward planning for the quarter, look at what projects are coming up and whether your current licence package is adequate. You might need to add in more licences if you’ve got more projects or more stakeholders needing access to the tools.

If you foresee a need to add in more users, it might be worth scheduling the training for them now so they can hit the ground running when they get their own account.

What else would you be doing at this time to feel prepared for the upcoming months ahead? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on: June 11, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Spring clean your portfolio: Setting clear priorities and roadmapping

Earlier this month I looked at spring cleaning your portfolio to check for strategic fit and also to ensure resources were being managed appropriately.

Now it’s time for step 3 of my decluttering plan: setting clear priorities. You can’t keep everything tidy if you don’t have a plan for how to manage the space going forward. Otherwise, the clutter starts to build up again (looking at you, cupboard under the stairs).

It’s really important to set clear priorities for the remaining projects in the portfolio (the ones you haven’t swept away with the clean sweep brush) and develop a roadmap for execution that aligns with organisational goals.

You probably already have a strategic, portfolio roadmap, and if you haven’t reviewed that yet, it’s worth it, so you’re starting this section of the year with a fresh slate and clarity about where everyone is going.

Focus on high-impact initiatives

Scan through the portfolio and make sure projects are prioritised appropriately. Use scoring models and an alignment matrix, or whatever prioritisation model you have agreed with your stakeholders, to ensure everyone is focused on the high-impact initiatives. Typically, these are the ones which are relatively straightforward to deliver and have high benefits. You might use a PICK chart (let me know if you want me to write about PICK in a future article, it’s quite a useful tool to Google if you don’t already use it) or something similar to pull out the projects where it’s worth investing your time and resources.

Remember, even if you did this exercise a while ago, things might have changed. The business context is different now to how it was even 3 months ago, so it’s worth keeping prioritisation under review.

Create (or refresh) your roadmap

If you already have a roadmap, pull it up and check that the key milestones and timelines are still valid. Adjust as necessary, being as flexible as you need to be and flag anything that needs approval before it is updated. For example, you may have internal rules about the number of projects that can go live at any one time in an area and now the portfolio plan shows that guidance would be broken with the current timescales. Discuss internally and update so that you’re not overloading any single area with too much change at once.

Engage stakeholders

Finally – although this is something you’ll be doing throughout the spring cleaning process – check in with key stakeholders. They should be aligned and supportive of project prioritisation, both the process for assessing priorities and the final outcome of the prioritised list.

Hopefully, getting buy in is straightforward, because you’ve aligned priorities to the strategic plan and everyone can see that this roadmap is the best approach to making sure all the projects get the organisation closer to delivering on the overall objectives.

When all that is done, you can put down your dustpan and brush. The old stuff has been swept away and the portfolio is looking clean and refreshed. After your spring cleaning I think you deserve a well-earned rest!

portfolio management

Posted on: May 14, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Spring clean your portfolio: Portfolio review

Here is the Northern Hemisphere it really feels like spring has sprung. Evenings are lighter, there is less rain (and while the garden won’t thank me for saying it – we had a soggy start to the year so this is something I’m really pleased about) and I don’t know about you but I’m feeling like I’ve got renewed energy for a spring clean. It truly is the season of starting fresh.

That goes for project portfolios too. If you haven’t looked at the work you’re doing across the organisation, across your department, or even simply your personal workload, then now is a good time to take stock of what’s still outstanding and what (maybe) is no longer relevant.

Are you ready to spring clean your portfolio? The way I’ve been thinking about this is in 3 steps. First, we assess and rationalise, which I’ll talk about in this article. Then we review resource optimisation and reallocate where necessary. Finally, we set clear priorities and a roadmap to take us through the rest of the seasons until it’s time to review again.

Step 1 is decluttering – you might have already done some spring cleaning at home, and now is the time to do the same for your work! So let’s share some strategies for renewal and realignment.

Review the current portfolio

First, take a look at the current project portfolio. Make sure your list of projects is up to date, and that it’s complete. There shouldn’t be any projects that have snuck on to the list without the proper approvals, but if there are, add them formally.

Check the basics for each project: they have formal approvals, there is an assigned project manager, they are hitting their governance milestones or anything else that is the normal for your portfolio.

Identify performance issues and misalignments

Next, identify performance issues, overlaps where several projects are tackling the same thing, and any misalignments with strategic goals. Make sure reporting is up to date and source new reports if they are not. Look for milestones that have been missed or risks that are not managed. When was the last time there was a peer review or an audit? Check that each project still meets its financial objectives and is still viable, with a business case that has been recently reviewed and a benefits case that still makes sense.

Review the ‘go’ criteria

Refresh your criteria for project assessment. Remind yourself of how decisions are taken about pausing, continuing or terminating projects. Do you need to update any criteria or measures around financial performance tracking? Perhaps there are new metrics to include.

Review how resources are allocated to live projects and check everything on the list is a good fit strategically. You might not end up changing any of your criteria or measures, but it’s still worth the effort to run through them and check they are still fit for purpose.

Involve your stakeholders

Finally for this step, talk to stakeholders so you can build in their perception of project value and potential. Are there any projects that sponsors have fallen out of love with? If so, these could be taken off the list and the resources reassigned to projects that will add more value.

Next time, I’ll look at step 2 in your spring cleaning plan, which is dealing with resource optimisation.

portfolio review

Posted on: May 01, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Quarterly review time: How was your Q1?

We’re almost at the end of quarter 1, so it’s time to reflect on how the first 3 months of the year. Here are some suggestions on what you could be doing now.

Reflect on personal goals

Did you set personal New Year’s resolutions? I’m not a big fan of resolutions as I think we can start new habits whenever, and January is a particularly bleak time of year in this part of the world, so not necessarily the best time to be trying to do new things when all you want to do is huddle under a blanket with hot chocolate.

However, maybe you did set some personal goals for this year, or a word of the year. How are you doing with that? If you’re doing well, how are you going to maintain that momentum? And if things haven’t started out as well as you would have hoped, how are you going to make the next 3 months any different?

Reflect on professional goals

This is also a good point to reflect on professional goals, like earning a certification. I have talked to people who wanted to achieve something (like sitting an exam) and then found the year has gone by so quickly they haven’t managed to make any time for it.

If the first 3 months of this year have sped past without you making up much ground on your professional goals, take a look at how you can break those down into smaller, achievable chunks and schedule the time to do the work.

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Reflect on your objectives

The professional development and performance management process in many organisations requires setting objectives at the beginning of the year. If you have had objectives set, it might be too early to have really made much progress towards fully achieving them.

However, you can make sure that you are clear about what they are, when they have to be achieved by, and what you should be doing to complete them. For example, schedule time for any courses you need to take, or block out some time to review progress monthly. If necessary, book quarterly reviews with your manager or mentor to go through the objectives and refresh them – I recommend getting these in the diary now as people’s calendars fill up remarkably quickly.

You might find it helpful to print out your objectives so you can carry them round with you or have them pinned up next to your desk. Then you’ll be able to check in regularly and remind yourself of the progress still required.

Another thing to start doing is making a note of the actions you have completed that count towards your performance review at the end of the year. Will you really remember what you did in February when you sit down with your manager in December or January next year? Probably not. Use this time (and block out an hour in your diary once a month) to update your objectives with a progress report.

Save any nice emails or examples of evidence you can use to show that you have achieved the objectives.

Get ready for quarter 2!

Next, put some time in your diary to do the exact same exercise in 3 months, when quarter 2 comes to a close. Regular reviews are an easy way to stay on top on your objectives – or at least identify where you are not able to meet the targets, giving you the chance to put plans into action or change them before it becomes a problem.

Posted on: March 18, 2024 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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