Project Management

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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

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The Planning Performance Domain & Cost Planning

Mergers and acquisitions: The basics

5 Reasons why your project needs a business case

How to Prepare for a Project Manager Job Interview

4 Ways to Mitigate Risk

4 Ways to Mitigate Risk

Categories: contingency, risk

Once you’ve ticked ‘mitigate’ as your risk management approach, you then have to think up ways to actually do that. What could you do to make the impact or likelihood of the risk less? Here are 4 options for reducing the risk – they won’t work on every risk, but they are general directions to consider when you’re wondering what to do to lighten the load for the project. And they are pretty easy to implement too, so that’s a bonus.

1. Start small

One of the easiest risk mitigation strategies is to start small. Consider prototypes, models, pilots. Think about how you can avoid a big bang launch and deliver results incrementally instead.

This works well as an approach if your project is using new technology, a new supplier, or is changing something sensitive, like a business critical process.

It doesn’t always work: on one large project I worked on we planned to deliver site by site, rolling out the new software and processes to groups at a time. But it didn’t work: for accounting reasons we had to maintain the integrity of the financial records and go big bang.

However, as a starting point, doing test runs and phased delivery is a good approach to mitigating all kinds of risk.

2. Schedule testing time

How many projects have you worked on where you’ve had enough time for testing? I’m embarrassed to say that plenty of my projects have ended up with testing time being squeezed.

As a project manager, you can control the schedule and double the amount of testing time planned (or whatever allocation of testing you feel appropriate, given input from the people involved in the work). That should give you long enough to wheedle out the bugs, which is another way of mitigating go live risks.

3. Add contingency to the schedule and budget

Explicit contingency is ‘extra’ time that is designed to offset risk: the risk of not knowing what you are doing, or whether it will work!

Manage uncertainty by adding a buffer to the duration of scheduled activities (or at phase level) and also to the budget.

I prefer contingency to be explicitly called out as an additional 10% of the budget and appropriate length for schedule contingency. Document what your approach will be in your schedule management plan and financial management plan.

4. Understand the guardrails for the project

Guardrails are like boundaries; tolerances for what freedom of action you have on the project. When you know where you have wiggle room and where you do not, you can make better decisions. Ultimately, your course of action to mitigate a risk should become easier because you know where you can save time and effort and where you cannot, because doing so will push you outside the guardrails.

When you’re working out what is the best course of action for a risk, think about where those boundaries lie and what options you have to work within them. That can help you decide whether your course of action requires an escalation or whether the team can manage without input from other layers of governance.

The right approach for risk mitigation depends on what the risk is, the risk appetite of your project and organisation, and what resources you have available to you. However, the above ideas are a starting point. What other common approaches do you use to mitigate project risks? Let us know in the comments!

Posted on: October 11, 2022 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

3 Skills Areas To Help Your Team With

These days, project teams are expected to do so many different things, from deep dive root cause analysis to making sure that projects align to strategy. As a team, you’re both in the weeds of the project and also trying to communicate the big picture to stakeholders.

Let’s face it, it can be difficult to have all those skills – I mean, have you seen the latest PMBOK® Guide?! Between that and the Standard for Project Management there are hardly any management and leadership skills that a project manager is not supposed to have.

However, we aren’t able to say, “I’m not very good with PowerPoint so we won’t create slide decks for status reporting.” We have to be all-rounders, even if we aren’t very good in some areas, or don’t enjoy those tasks.

Here are 3 skills for project managers that I know from my mentoring work that people in project roles have difficulty with. I’ve also included some tips for how to improve, if you choose to do so. If you lead a team and find your colleagues struggle in these areas, perhaps the ideas will help them.

1. Risk management

Large programmes may have a dedicated risk manager on the team, but if that isn’t you then you’ll have to get stuck in with risk identification, analysis and management yourself. In my experience, there are several areas that people struggle with:

  • Risk identification: making sure it is not a one off exercise
  • Risk analysis: using metrics to quantify the risk instead of just guessing what the impact might be
  • Risk management: defaulting to mitigation strategies or ‘do nothing’ because the alternatives are poorly understood or too hard.

Address this by:

  • Making sure the team has regular points where risks are discussed. You can put these on the plan.
  • Giving everyone the tools to analyse risk. Use software. Provide details of what it means to be a ‘low risk’ in terms that are financial, reputational, operational and more so they are not guessing
  • Talk about all the different options available to you and manage actively so risks are reduced, not just put on a list.

2. Task Management

This skill is all about managing your To Do list and making sure tasks have owners. It’s also time management overall on the project, so it encompasses resource levelling and capacity planning so you don’t overload people with too many tasks.

People seem to struggle managing their workload and time, and that leads to them feeling overwhelmed and overloaded.

Address this by:

  • Making sure everyone knows what is a priority task and what can wait. That will help people understand how they should be spending their time.
  • Consider using timesheets to track where time is being spent, if you don’t already use them.
  • Use milestone schedules to draw attention to the next big milestone coming up.

3. Managing multiple projects

These days, most people are managing more than one project. There are still people who lead one large, complex project, but many people are finding themselves running several initiatives at the same time, sometimes with the same resources.

This can lead to each project inching forward at a snail’s pace, lack of understanding about which project should be worked on, feeling overwhelmed as your To Do list encompasses several projects, dealing with conflict between stakeholders, all of whom feel their project is the top priority.

I wrote a book about this exact problem, which came out last month, so check out Managing Multiple Projects from wherever you buy your books if you are struggling with the juggling.

Meanwhile, here are some tips to help.

Address this by:

  • Prioritising projects. Make sure you know and are telling people what priority their projects have so they can apportion their time appropriately.
  • Using software to track actions. I’m a big fan of pen and paper but even I have moved to digital task management to keep track of multiple projects.
  • Time-boxing instead of multi-tasking. Block out time for a project, or for similar tasks across projects (like status reporting) as this is more efficient.

What other skills do you think are key to project management but are actually pretty hard to do? Let me know in the comments!

Posted on: June 14, 2022 04:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

5 Ways to Mitigate Risk [Video]

Categories: leadership, methods, risk

How do you actually go about mitigating risk? We talk about the need to mitigate all the time, but what kinds of things can you do to ensure that risks really are managed appropriately and mitigated to avoid the impact you think might be on the horizon? In this video, I talk about 5 different things you can try to mitigate risks. They are simple and practical, and you can easily turn them into solid actions for your risk log.

If you want a couple of extra suggestions, and some more detail (or you just prefer to read rather than watch), then the original article that prompted this video is available here: 7 Ways to Mitigate Risk.


Posted on: November 02, 2021 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

3 More Impacts of Risk Management [Video]

Categories: risk, video

Risk management processes affect more than simply risk. Or rather, the impact of project risk management runs far deeper than just helping you plan for what might happen. There are lots of other reasons to do risk management too – and in this video I’m exploring 3 more reasons why you might want to take a bit more time to do risk management because poor risk management has consequences.

The topics discussed in today’s video are:

  1. The impact of risk on managing budget overspends
  2. How risk management can mitigate against unhappy stakeholders
  3. And how risk management can address issues of reputation management.

Watch the video for more on these! Hopefully it’s a slightly different way of thinking about the value of doing risk management, and something you can get your stakeholders to buy into.

For more on this topic, check out last time’s video where I looked at another 3 impacts of risk management on the wider business.

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Posted on: September 08, 2021 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

3 Impacts of Risk Management [Video]

Categories: risk

risk management

Poor risk management can impact your project and massively affect your business more broadly as well. In this video, I discuss 3 impacts of less-than-optimal risk management which you might not have considered:

  1. Poor user adoption
  2. Not getting the full business case benefits
  3. Delays to delivery.

Interested in finding out why risk management can affect those areas of your project and what you can do about them? There’s more in the video!

You can switch subtitles on if you are in a place where you can’t have the sound up or have other reasons to want to use closed captioning: Simply click the little icon at the bottom of the video that looks like a square with dots in, and the subtitles will automagically appear for you.

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Posted on: August 03, 2021 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

"One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important. "

- Bertrand Russell