Project Management

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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5 More Cost Types to Include in Your Business Case

7 Types of cost for your business case

New Year Goals: 2023 Edition

4 Different Types of Estimating

How to show your project meets strategic objectives

New Year Goals: 2023 Edition

Categories: future, success factors

If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you’ll remember that I’m not much into New Year’s Resolutions because they always seem hard to keep. It’s difficult to make new habits and stick to them.

It’s easier – I think – to try to refocus on the core competencies and behaviours that I know make a difference but because of one thing or another tend to have fallen by the wayside as we get busier.

For example, Quarter 4, the September to December period is always busy for me. Partly it’s because of family commitments: birthdays, school holidays, endless school-related events and things to remember, and of course the run up to the end of year holiday season. But it’s also because it’s financial year end, strategic planning for the next year and project review time.

I’ve just filled out the 2023 annual family planner with the key dates for the year and hung it in the kitchen. It always surprises me that the gap between December and January is literally going to bed and waking up and it being a whole new year. But the effort we put into prep – like getting a new calendar and forecasting forward – feels heavy. Why don’t we plan on a rolling cycle? Why do we get to December and think, “I’ll deal with that next year”? Next year is just a couple of weeks away. If the decision had to be made in April, you wouldn’t think, “I’ll deal with that in May.” You’d just do it.

So my objectives for the coming 12 months are simple, and things I have focused on in the past. There are no shortcuts in project management but there are definitely things we can do to help edge closer to successful results.

I’m going to work on the following.

Learning. On reflection, I’ve had a couple of years where I haven’t developed my skills in project management. I’ve been busy doing and teaching, but not learning. I think I need to find events and conferences to attend that are stretching and that will meet me where I am. In the past, I’ve ducked out of attending events because I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. That’s probably wrong: even a refresh of comfortable skills is worth doing. But I’d like to attend events that cover the topics for mid-career professionals, where I can come away with genuinely new ideas and having been inspired. If you know of any, let me know!

Setting my future self up for success. In the rush, I have found myself this year making brief notes on a process or doing something without documenting it. Then I’ve come to do it again and had to start it from scratch. I need to build in time to make life easier for my future self because I’ve done it right the first time. Proper notes, documented assumptions, records of what is included in financial reports (project monthly summary slide deck: I’m looking at you) so I can easily replicate the numbers and justify them.

And that’s enough. The idea of having too many things to focus on for the coming year is overwhelming. It’s enough to have one goal, or two. Or none. We’re all getting through the days the best we can, trying to get our work done, manage our relationships, support friends and family and get everyone fed and into bed at the end of every day.

Are you going to make ‘professional’ resolutions? Or is this really now a thing of the past as our ways of identifying self-development opportunities have moved far beyond needing the scaffolding of a new year to set goals?

And if you are going to make them, how do you decide on what’s enough for you? I’m genuinely interested in how you approach going into a new calendar year. Let me know in the comments!

new year resolutions

Posted on: January 03, 2023 07:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Holiday season for projects!

holiday checklist

Are you winding down for the end of year festivities? Whatever that looks like for you, here are 10 things to consider when heading into the holidays.

1. Thank your team

I’m sure you do this all the time anyway, but as a gentle reminder, this is a great time of year to be thanking people for the work they have done over the past 12 months.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money (or any money). A digital card, a message on your corporate internal social network, a thank you in person or on email: it all makes a difference.

2. Thank your suppliers

Suppliers have had a tough year, just like the rest of us. Rising costs and clients who have had to scale back their plans as a result of belt-tightening have made it a difficult economic climate for many, especially small businesses.

3. Organise a celebration

Whether it’s a Christmas jumper day, a lunch out to mark the end of another year and still being together as a team, or simply the option of meeting in person, try to find some time to celebrate what you have achieved this year.

Look back at the projects that the team delivered, or the successes that have happened on your journey in your current project. Find something that everyone can do, so your celebration is inclusive.

4. Remember that payment runs are early

Back to business: payment runs are early in December. Your Finance team might be processing everything a week or so before the normal cutoffs to account for people being out of the office or bank deadlines due to the holiday season.

Make sure you get any invoices or expense claims in on time so you don’t miss out.

5. Be prepared for the change freeze

Your IT department probably has a change freeze planned for the holiday period. This is a time when they won’t make changes to production systems, normally because they are running with a reduced staff due to people taking time off. It might also be because it’s a busy time of year for your business and they don’t want to do anything that would mess stuff up.

If your project needs IT changes, talk to them about the dates for the freeze and get your change requests to the CAB (Change Advisory Board) as soon as you can.

6. Do your accruals

If the end of the calendar year coincides with the end of your financial year, you might have to do accruals. This is where you financially account for items that have not yet been delivered but have been ordered, or have been delivered but haven’t yet been invoiced.

Talk to your finance team about what they need from you. In my old job, we used to get a form to complete from Finance that detailed all the info they needed about open purchase orders so they could close the books for the year.

7. Send feedback to line managers

If you have benefited from having subject matter experts on your team, take a moment to send some feedback to them and their line manager about their contribution to your project. That can be included in their performance appraisal.

8. Prep for your end of year review

On the topic of appraisals, if you have an end of year review coming up (ours are often in January), take half an hour or so to document what you have achieved this year so you can reference it in your meeting.

9. Be mindful of other people’s leave

Even if you aren’t taking much (or any) time away from the office, your colleagues may well be. Try to bear in mind their leave dates so you aren’t bothering them with emails during their break.

10. Set your out of office

It’s time to take a break from the office, so update your out of office message and let people know who to contact while you are away.

Now all that is done, you can rest up and enjoy the holidays! I hope you have something lovely planned to mark the end of another year.

Posted on: December 01, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

5 Reasons why your project needs a business case

How many of your projects got started just because someone said they should? When times are tough – and in the UK there is certainly a tightening of belts happening – we need to make sure we are working on the right projects.

The pipeline is so important, and that’s why your business case needs to stand out – so you can secure the funding to get the work going.

Don’t think business cases are necessary? Let me change your mind. Here are 5 reasons why your project needs a business case.

1. A business case shows your project aligns with strategy

We do projects to make a difference and deliver change within the organisation. That change should be aligned to the strategy because then we can be sure it delivers to the overall plan for the business.

Your project is more likely to get funding if you can demonstrate it supports the organisation’s objectives.

2. A business case shows the work is commercially viable

Do the numbers stack up? This is what we ask ourselves in our project office – all the time. However good the idea, the project has to be viable. You need to be able to secure the supplies, equipment or resources at a rate that makes it financially attractive.

Use the business case to show the rationale for make-or-buy decisions, or explain why you have selected a particular supplier.

3. A business case shows the project will be a long-term financial success

Part of the work involved in putting together a business case is the thinking. It means you’ve secured support from various parts of the organisation. It means you’ve done the maths. There is a justification for delivery and you can evidence the thought process that sits behind that.

Generally that means that there is a commercial reason for doing it: for example updating old equipment that supports bringing in new business, or launching something that will sell. You should show consideration for costs along the whole product lifecycle, including decommissioning anything that is no longer required and the cost of managing the asset once it is created.

4. A business case shows you’ve selected the right response to a challenge

Business cases typically make a least a nod to other options that have been considered and rejected. There should be an options appraisal section that looks at a range of solutions and summarises pros and cons.

The document focus on the solution you are recommending, outlining why that’s the best choice. It should be clear why that route forward is the best fit for the organisation’s goals and capacity to deliver.

5. A business case shows the project management structure is in place to support the work

It’s no good securing funding for an idea but not having the first clue about how to implement it. The business case will have a section on implementation plans, covering what resources are needed (and how much they cost) and how long it will take. There should be an outline, high level plan with milestones. There will probably be some high-level risks, assumptions and constraints – the bones of a project initiation document or charter.

Help decision makers understand what they are signing up to and what is required to deliver the change, should they go ahead and approve it.

That’s why you should have a business case. What other reasons can you think of? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on: November 02, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

The State of Project Management Jobs in 2022

Categories: pmi, success factors, trends

PMI has released a new 2022 jobs report, which provides some insights into how the profession is looking around the globe. It’s not terrible, which chimes with my own experience here in the UK. I often mentor project managers who are looking for jobs and after interview practice or a CV review, and the market feels pretty good.

But anecdotal feedback aside, what do the numbers say about the future of the jobs market? Here are my key takeaways from the situation in Europe according the PMI survey.

Issues with supply chain

I know of projects that are on hold at the moment due to supply chain issues. My projects are being affected by longer lead times. Even buying a sofa is affected by long lead times: we have been told our sofa will arrive in 16 weeks and we can’t order an armchair because there is no fabric in stock.

So project managers might feel like the job situation isn’t too bad at the moment, but projects are certainly not progressing at the pace they used to. According to the PMI study, the supply chain issues have contributed to an inflation spike of 5%, which is going to affect salaries and put people under more pressure as the cost of living rises.

Demand for IT professionals

The report says that IT is the area to focus on if you are job hunting. The talent gap in this sector is huge, and there is a lot of tech funding around. Plus our ways of working since the pandemic began have massively changed – along with our customers’ expectations of what they can do online. That’s changed the requirements for many long-term projects and no doubt boosted the need for more IT project managers.

Hybrid working

If you are a European project manager who wants to live the hybrid life, watch out for what your employer expects. My takeaway from the PMI survey is that employers want more of us back in the office – and we don’t want to go. Only 28% of employers believe that the model of work they are offering is aligned to their employees’ preferences.

Employees want more hybrid and remote; employers want more bums on seats in the office. I’m not sure how we reconcile that to be honest. However, it is worth spending some time thinking about how you can make hybrid work for your project team. Nearly 60% of people report that remote and hybrid work options result in increased job satisfaction, and that has to be good for project team morale.

However, only 34% believe that remote options lead to greater productivity. Perhaps there is a backlash against only seeing your colleagues as a tiny head on MS Teams. I think that hybrid certainly has a place, and I know of project managers who have turned down roles that were not hybrid or remote-friendly.

Overall though, the outlook for work in the project sector in Europe seems optimistic. There is still a lot of concern about job security and the cost of living – although I can only speak for what I see here – but globally money is being made available to reinvent and innovate where we can.

If you want to succeed amidst the current global economic situation and all the uncertainties that brings, it would be good to focus on adaptability, change, flexibility and resilience as there are all the signs that these skills are going to be in demand for many years to come.

Posted on: August 16, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

5 Ways to Add Value as a Project Manager

You hear it all the time: “We want our project managers to add value.” “How are you adding value to the organisation?” “I want to spend more time on valued-added activities.”

But what does adding value actually mean?

I’m not a great fan of buzzwords that I can’t explain and turn into practical actions, so I’ve given this topic quite a lot of thought over the years. Here are 5 things I think you can do to add value (in a meaningful way) as a project manager.

1. Team building

Projects are done by people. People make up teams. Groups of people don’t have the same impact as a well-functioning team. Therefore, spending time on team building is worthwhile and will create value for the organisation because you’ll be better at delivering whatever it is you are delivering.

Focus on creating a positive work environment. Think about what people need to get their tasks done. Look for roadblocks you can remove, processes you can streamline. Talk about the blockers and why they are a problem.

And get some fun in there too.

2. Tenacity

Being committed to the team and the job, and the project, is a sure way to add value because it increases the chance the project will actually get done. How many projects do you know of that started but didn’t have the momentum to get across the line? That’s what tenacity will help you avoid.

Assuming you are working on the right projects, the ability to follow through and get the work done is important for making sure your time pays off for the company.

3. Relationship-building

This is such a large topic, which includes resolving conflict, smoothing over awkwardness, being diplomatic while speaking truth to power, respectful challenge and knowing who to connect and when. There’s a whole bunch of soft skills (or power skills, as it is trendy to call them now) that fall into this bucket.

They are important because this is what helps you get work done even when the environment is tricky. The more you listen, the more you understand and the easier it is to get your projects done. You’ll understand more of the business context that lets you make the right decisions that – you guessed it – lead to delivering a higher-value result.

4. Control the process

Governance might not seem like a particularly value-added thing to do, but when you understand and use the processes of project management, you can structure, standardise, save time, automate, compare and improve so much more easily.

If you have a standard approach, however informal, everyone knows what to do and what to expect and that takes some of the uncertainty out of what is normally a pretty uncertain time for people – projects deliver change and that comes with an overhead of having to live with not knowing exactly what the future will look like. That can be an added source of anxiety and stress for the team and wider stakeholder community.

5. Change management

Projects start to feel out of control when change is not managed appropriately, and that’s when stakeholders start to get nervous. You can help your projects be more successful and ‘land’ better with the receiving organisation, if you manage change properly.

That goes for both the process-led effort of receiving and handling change requests as part of your project management work, and also integrating what you are delivering into the business in a way that makes it possible for the benefits to be received as soon as possible, with the least disruption. Benefits = value.

How do you interpret ‘adding value’ as a project manager? I think it could go much further than what I’ve written here. I’m sure there are many other ways of looking at our role and how we can serve our stakeholder communities in the most value-adding way. Let me know by leaving a comment below!

Posted on: March 22, 2022 04:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)
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