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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Programme Management: Planning Your Finances

Programme Management: What You Need to Know to Manage the Budget

The Standard for Program Management, Fourth Edition (2017) defines Program Financial Management like this:

Activities related to identifying the program’s financial sources and resources, integrating the budgets of the program components, developing the overall budget for the program, and controlling costs during the program.

As you can see, there’s a lot more to crunching the numbers for program finances than simply having a single budget spreadsheet!

Let’s look into that definition a bit more and I’ll give some examples from my work as a programme manager (as we would spell programme in the UK).

Identifying financial sources

This means finding out where the money is coming from. In a large program, you might have a single source of funding, or several. Research projects, for example, might have grant income, so within the program you might have several funding sources.

On the large healthcare program I led, the Finance team created a brand new cost centre for the work so everything could be tracked in one place. Funding was centrally agreed and moved into that cost centre.

Identifying resources

This sounds easy, but in practice a large part of my role as a program manager was finding the right people to do the work and then helping them find the time to actually do their tasks! Admittedly, it’s a lot easier if your program has dedicated resources.

For some of my work, we’ve been able to budget for backfilled resources so we could bring people out of their day job and second them to projects. Then the project could pay for someone to cover their job while they dedicated their expertise to the work.

Integrating budgets of program components

Programs are made up of several (sometimes many) different projects and often a BAU component too. As a result, the program manager has to juggle the budgets and create a master, summary budget.

There’s work to be done here in making sure the whole thing is put together holistically and with the least repetition possible. For example, if you are securing a legal expert to support on one project, it makes sense that they are also kept on to help with another project as they will have gained some awareness of the program overall and the company. If the timelines can be made to work, or you can pitch a larger engagement for the legal consultant, you may be able to secure their time to get consistent resource (and maybe even a cheaper price for a longer engagement).

Developing the overall budget

When all the program components are effectively budgeted and you can bring the whole thing together, the program manager can create an overall budget and a way of tracking against that.

Controlling costs

Controlling costs is part of project, program and portfolio management, so it’s definitely up there as an important activity for program managers!

Luckily for me, my program costs were so large that I had the support of the Finance team – I think the company wanted the extra governance and accountability for having accountants pour over the details. Project budgets and costs were centrally managed and controlled in our cost centre. Tracking became a job of getting the data and consolidating it. Controlling costs became an issue of making sure change requests were done in an appropriate way and ensuring there was enough oversight of where we were spending the money.

We did not use EVM to track and monitor costs, but this might be part of your program management environment. If that is the case, you’ll probably have software to help you track and monitor costs and also to support with the reporting.

Summary

Program financial management might seem a daunting task but it’s very similar to managing your project budget. The numbers can be a lot bigger, but the maths is the same principles. What’s your experience of program financial management? I imagine it looks very different for every program as there are plenty of ways of setting up programs, and many variations on what financial management is necessary and appropriate.

Posted on: March 15, 2022 04:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

The role of the CCB

Do you have a formal Change Control Board (CCB)? If not, this is the perfect time of year to be thinking about levelling up your processes and putting new ways of working in place to formalise the way change management is done across projects, programmes and the portfolio.

A Change Control Board is simply a group of experts that represent different organisational departments and who oversee both the process of change management and the different changes being put forward.

At a project level, your CCB is a group of people who know the project well and who can assess project-related changes, but at some point if your project is making changes to the live environment, like most IT and business change projects do, the change will need to be submitted to the wider, department or organisational CCB.

The role of the CCB is to:

  • Assess the change
  • Approve the change – in my experience, if the project team and project sponsor has already approved the change, there are few reasons why the CCB would then block a change
  • Schedule the change
  • Keep records about changes.

How it works

In our CCB, the functional lead or the project manager had to present the change. We had to talk about what it was, why it was useful and what it solved, and then make the case for whether it was a priority fix or not. If the change was considered a priority, it could go in the same day (mostly). If it wasn’t, it could be packaged up with a bunch of other small changes and go in the next release.

That made it easier to communicate changes to the end users.

Discussing the change

First, the change should be analyzed and discussed to see whether it has impacts beyond what the project team can comment on. The Change Control Board is convened to do that. I think the CCB is a really useful group and we relied on it in my last job. Our CCB looked at operational and project changes so the team could see the impact of ‘normal’ changes as well as the project-related ones.

I think it’s important that the CCB is made up of a cross-organisation group. It’s too common for changes (especially IT changes) to go in and for there not be a full understanding of the business impact somewhere else down the line. Complex ERP systems like SAP make that more likely, so a group of functional consultants getting together to discuss changes before they happen is a good thing.

I’ve had some changes rejected by the CCB because they didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision, or because something else was going on and they needed to wait on that, or because there was a change freeze. There might be many reasons why your change doesn’t go through.

Scheduling changes

The CCB can also schedule changes. There are normally scheduled windows to put changes in, especially in the live IT environment. That helps the support teams and the users know what is going to be different and what to look out for when they next log in.

Scheduling as a team also ensures that conflicting changes don’t get put in on top of each other. For example, if my project is updating the list of available categories in one part of the system, and another team is also updating that part of the system but taking away the category feature (that’s a bit extreme, but you see what I mean) then those conflicting changes can be discussed and overseen in an appropriate way.

It might involve putting them live in a particular order, or prioritising the changes so that one piece goes in this time and the additional change is put in next time.

I remember being told a story of a change in a data centre where engineers were working on cabling and flooring on both sides of a server stack. Without the support of flooring on both sides, the server stack toppled over! That’s the importance of making sure that changes are managed in a scheduled and sensible way.

We also had an emergency change procedure for anything that could not wait until the next release. On the SAP projects, for example, mostly things could be scheduled in a batch and changes pushed through on a fortnightly basis. But sometimes it was important to fix an issue straightaway without waiting until the next release. For example:

  • Bug fixes
  • Issues that affected customers
  • Changes that went in and then didn’t work as expected.

All of these are emergency fixes to live systems that wouldn’t be appropriate to delay, and they are all issue-related, not nice-to-have features.

How does your CCB work?

Posted on: February 15, 2022 04:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

How to ask for additional PMO staff [Video]

Categories: PMO

additional pmo staff

As your PMO grows in size and responsibility, you’re going to need to get more people to work in it. That can be quite a hard sell, as it’s often difficult to explain what the PMO does and justify the value it brings, let alone secure the funding for an additional role (or two).

In this video I share ideas for how to put together a successful proposal for securing project management office resources as your team gets bigger. Top tip: use statistics and evidence where you can to show that the remit of the PMO is expanding and that can justify the extra person to support the additional workload.

Tell me in the comments: how many people are in your PMO? Is it easy to get funding for additional resources or are you stuck at a certain team size because of an inaccurate perception about what the PMO does? I’d love to hear!

Pin for later reading

additional pmo staff video

Posted on: May 10, 2021 07:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Simple Measures for Your PMO To Track

Categories: budget, PMO

What does your PMO track about the projects in your business? It’s often difficult to know where to start, especially when some of the measures you might hear about take a lot of data and relatively mature systems in place to start tracking them.

Here are some simple measures that you can track, and at the end of this article are some that are a little bit harder to put in place but are definitely worth the effort.

Number of projects stopped

You can track how many projects are put on hold, cancelled or otherwise stopped. As a number, it doesn’t give you the whole picture, but with some narrative as well it provides some information about how good you are getting as a business at choosing the right projects to do.

% Increase in projects delivering to time and scope

Hopefully you’ll see this number trend up. It speaks to predictability of delivery: how good you are at making sure projects do what they said they would.

% Increase in projects delivering on budget

Hopefully you’ll also see this number trend up. It speaks to predictability of cost: how good teams are at estimating and managing project budgets as they said they would. You could also look at tracking the % of projects with cost overruns and what these are – with a view that it should be going down as maturity improves.

Customer satisfaction

Whether you work for external clients or internal stakeholders, you can ask them how happy they are with your service! It’s easy to track customer satisfaction and the measures can tell an interesting story.

% of Projects on a Red/Amber Status

Measure the number of projects with a red or amber status at gate reviews, stage reviews or at monthly reporting. Alone, this number doesn’t tell you much, and you certainly don’t want to encourage project teams to under-report problems just so their projects aren’t counted in the monthly numbers. However, combined with other measures it can be an interesting (and easy) number to track. You might also want to add the time period that a project has been on the status of red as this would tell you that the issues are not being resolved, or that the project is hitting multiple issues time and time again – also good to know.

Project management skills

If you have a career path, or defined competencies for project managers, you can track the department’s overall growth in skills maturity. Measure competence at the beginning of the year, do your training programme or whatever, and then measure again at the end of the year. It’s a simple way to show that your staff are getting better and that should have an impact on the success of your project management delivery.

Organisational maturity

As you would for project managers, use one of the PMO maturity models or organisational project management maturity models to measure your business’ maturity when it comes to progress. Then take the measure again in 12 months.

This can be subjective, and it feels like ages before you can do the measure again, but it is certainly interesting to see how things have changed!

Here are some other measures, slightly harder to implement.

  • Reduction in benefits loss
  • % of actual benefits delivered compared to what was planned in the business case
  • Reduction in projects started for the wrong reasons (you’ll have to work out what “wrong” means)
  • Reduction in overall resource costs across the delivery portfolio (which is hard to do if you don’t track staff time on projects)

What other measures do you use?

Posted on: February 26, 2018 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

How To Manage A Project Audit

Categories: PMO, reports

So your project is being audited? Lucky you! There’s quite a lot to think about if this is happening to your project, whether the audit is a formal thing or whether you’ve been selected as the project that’s being scrutinised by the PMO this month as part of an informal ongoing review process.

But auditing isn’t that big of a deal if you know what to expect. Every audit process is going to be slightly different but here are some common things that you can prepare for.

project audit process

Provide The Information

The first step is that you’ll have to provide a whole pile of information to the people doing the audit. Whether that’s your best mate from the PMO or a scary-looking external auditor, they’ll give you a list of the kind of things they want to see. This will include:

  • Your plans and project initiation document
  • Latest project reports and budget spreadsheet
  • Risk, issue and change logs
  • Process documents
  • Test scenarios
  • Access control information or policies
  • Strategies that relate to your project such as your approach for data consolidation, cleansing or validation or coding quality approaches.

The auditor (or audit team) will then take some time to go through all of this. It’s likely to be around two weeks as there’s a lot to digest, and they’ll want to understand it so they might come back to you with follow up questions.

They’re preparing to dig deep into the material and establishing what else they might need to know.

First Meeting

Once the audit team has reviewed your paperwork, they’ll start digging more deeply into the project. At your first meeting (for which there should be an agenda so you can prepare adequately in advance), expect to be taken through a list of points. Consider this the orientation meeting.

It can help if you provide an overview of the project and the objectives as part of the scene setting so be prepared to do that on the spot if asked.

Use the time to really understand what is expected of you and what the process is going forward. For example, what are the reporting expectations during the audit period? If they are asking you for updates, how long will you have to put those together and send them over? In what format?

And if you are expected to make changes to the way you are doing things (which might not be at the request of the auditors but by your manager or the PMO perhaps) then how long will you have for doing that?

Try to establish what the outcome of the audit process will be – they should be able to tell you, and should be able to explain what input you will have to the format and content of the final report. There should be a process by which you can comment on a draft and put your points across before anything is published to senior management.

Find out what your management team or project sponsor intends to use the audit output for, so you can better prepare for any action that is coming your way at the end of the audit.

Follow Up

Following the first meeting you should expect lots of emails! The auditors may want to speak to people in your team or subject matter experts, so make the right people available. If you are submitting follow up or additional documentation you may need to upload this to a secure online repository (if they are external) or provide it over email. There are lots of documents whizzing around in a formal audit situation so try to keep track of what you’ve sent to whom and when.

You might find that after a flurry of activity it all goes quiet for a while. This is the time when the report is being written up. Try to find out when the draft will be coming to you for review so you can block out some time to look at it and add your comments. Be honest in your commentary back but be prepared to challenge anything that you don’t think is accurately representative of your project or the processes being used to manage it.

All that sounds quite daunting but taking part in a project audit shouldn’t be scary – it’s just time consuming and a drain on your team’s resources while you are also trying to get work done. Make sure that your stakeholders and project sponsor know what is going on so that they can give you a bit of grace when it comes to short deadlines and the like during the audit period.

Audits like this won’t take more than about 8 weeks start to end as a maximum, from finalising commercial terms and the engagement letter that kicks off the audit process with an external group to the submission of the final report. However, that time can drag when you are trying to hit project milestones and keep all the plates spinning as well!

Remember that audits are supposed to be highly useful, informative exercises, whether that’s a formal external review or an informal assessment by your PMO peers. The outputs are going to help you manage the project more effectively and get better results for the business, so don’t take the recommendations personally and work together with your team to put the advice into action. Not everyone is lucky enough to go through an audit and what you learn can be invaluable to helping you manage future projects more effectively.

Posted on: September 08, 2017 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)
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