I’ve been reading the Project Routemap Procurement Module and it’s got some really interesting things in around setting up a project for success. It’s a UK Government publication, aimed at large-scale public sector initiatives, but there is a lot we can pull out and apply to other, smaller projects.
The procurement module is one of several, and I’ve been reading it in light of it being a good resource for project audits and peer reviews. For example, there’s a short sidebar of different project documents and reports that might be helpful for finding out more about the existing procurement arrangements on an in-flight project. I’ve pulled out some from the list below, along with my own explanation of what these might tell you.
This will be the main one. The procurement strategy for your project might be a simple ‘we’re buying this thing’ in the business case or it might be a more detailed, evolved document that lays out a multi-year, multi-vendor approach.
ITT and bid selection docs
Invitation to tender (ITT), the responses and the bid selection criteria help you decide which supplier to go with. We also found them useful to go back to and review why decisions were made and what assumptions were made at the time. The bid selection criteria are so important to get right, so involve the right users and teams in pulling those together!
Regulatory and statutory requirements
Any compliance requirements that affect your project will also affect your ability to procure services from certain suppliers. For example, in UK healthcare, there are many requirements that must be in place to allow organisations to contract with the NHS. If the supplier cannot meet those requirements, that might affect the ability to deliver the service.
Many organisations now have a sustainability strategy or environmental goals. For example, choosing to partner with suppliers who are making the commitment to working in sustainable ways, or only buying energy efficient light solutions, and so on.
There may also be environmental impact assessments for the project that show what the impact will be and how that can be mitigated or approached.
Another big one: I remember having a bound copy of a contract on my desk during a long project. Not because we needed to refer to it to hold the supplier to account, but simply because it had useful appendices that documented the payment schedules, milestones, service levels and lots of other things I seemed to need to look up often.
Any framework agreements and other types of third party agreements (like heads of terms or service levels) would also fall into this category. They shape the relationship between the supplier and customer, so they are useful to know in detail.
If your project is being funded from grant income, or there is a limited window in which to spend the funding, or you have to apply for funding to be released in stages… all that is good to know as you enter the delivery planning. Funding milestones are typically big ones because you don’t want to miss the deadlines.
Toy trains are now part of my daily life. In fact, I’ve had my routine disrupted several times by Percy from Thomas & Friends going missing, so much so that I’ve put plans in place to mitigate the risk of it happening again by shifting in other areas of the household routine.
That is why we went to visit a model railway exhibition, and that’s why I got started thinking about things in miniature – and those tiny projects you work on in parallel to the big things you have going on at the same time.
What makes a miniature project?
I’m not aware that there is any formal way of classifying tiny projects. For me, these criteria would define a miniature project:
There are probably other characteristics as well, but those are the ones that immediately jump out at me.
What project processes can you miniaturise?
I have a couple of small projects on at the moment – one at work and one organizing a summer event for a group of friends. It’s not a big thing but it will take a bit of planning and a few phone calls to sort out. I want to apply project management techniques so I approach the work in a structured way, but I don’t want to go overboard.
I looked at what project tools I could use and scale right down:
Planning: No need for a Gantt chart. I can cut the planning right down to just a task list.
Meetings: Nope. Not when there is just me on the ‘team’ with a few other stakeholders who need to be kept informed. But in terms of planning and doing the work, I can do that alone. At least, that’s the view at the moment. If I need help I’ll ask for it.
Other communication: I can use email and texts. No need for formal status reporting.
Change management process: There will be changes. If you have ever tried to organise an event for a group you’ll know that there are normally several iterations of the right date, the activity, the cost, the guest list and so on. I can keep track of all that with my task list. If I consider anything a material change (such as the cost going up by enough that I feel everyone else should know), I’ll communicate and manage that accordingly.
What can’t you miniaturise?
There are some things that can’t be scaled down, even on small projects:
Quality: We still need a quality event. Just because the project is easy to manage and it’s small doesn’t mean the end deliverable should be boring or shoddy.
Risk management: OK, I’m not maintaining a huge risk log and holding a risk mitigation budget. But I am still taking contingency planning seriously, with the same effort as I would on a larger project. This ties into the point about quality: if I want my event to go off without a problem, I need to plan for the problems and head them off before they happen. In practice, that means having a wet weather plan and making sure that someone apart from me has the details for the day so that if I’m struck down by illness or delayed en route, they can pick up and start without me.
The difference is judgement
The main thing that I can identify from this is that it boils down to: “I’ll use my judgement”. And given my years of experience in project management, I like to think that my judgement is pretty good when it comes to getting things done.
Professional judgement helps you decide how to scale processes and what the end result should look like. It helps you decide who needs to know and how best to handle a decision. Mostly, I think, judgement comes with experience, but it’s a personal quality you can develop through observing others and continuous professional development as well. You don’t have to be a project manager of advancing years to have good judgement or to apply it intelligently.
I like small projects. They are easy to manage and rewarding, because you see results more quickly. Would you rather work on large initiatives or several small ones? Let us know in the comments and feel free to share your favourite techniques for scaling down your processes to deal with the miniature projects in your portfolio.