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

Last time I looked at 7 types of expense that are worth mentioning in your business case, to show that you’ve got a rounded handle on all the costs.

The Better Business CasesTM model that I mentioned last time goes on to describe even more different cost types that you should be aware of. I did know about some of these, but this list has some in that I wouldn’t routinely think of.

We might not need to mention or use them all in business case preparation, but it is worth having a general awareness of them, not least so you can ask your Finance colleagues smart questions!

cost for business case

1. Sunk costs

If your business case represents a Phase 2 or subsequent investment, then it’s worth mentioning the sunk costs: the money already spent on other parts of the work that you cannot get back. These might be in contracts already issued, purchase orders already raised that must be fulfilled or previous steps of the project.

They get a mention in the business case but they aren’t part of the appraisal. In other words, talk about them so that decision-makers have the whole picture, but don’t include them in the cost assessment or budget figures for this part of the project.

2. Full economic costs

This is another term I wasn’t aware of but it only means including direct, indirect and attributable costs for each option mentioned in the business case. In other words, flesh out your finances so they show the whole, true picture. Use a bottom up approach to get the real figures.

3. Attributable costs

Wondering what attributable costs are from the section above? These are generally the costs related to staff time. If your team members are caught up delivering the project in this business case, they aren’t doing work on other business cases, that might be equally or even more important. So attributable costs are things that don’t fall into the direct or indirect category but are relevant as they round out the business case.

I think too many managers forget that if you are working on Project A you can’t be working on Project B at the same time (because they expect that everything gets done, most likely!). It’s worth calling out that if you tie up a team full-time on this initiative, their costs go towards the project and their staff time is allocated.

4. Organisational development

Organisational development costs are the figures related to change management. These are definitely worth including. I can’t even remember the number of times I’ve had a project budget handed to me and there has been no allocation for training, printing, change management, travel and room hire for workshops or town halls, or anything else. Make sure your business case includes the costs of what it will take to go from the current way of working to the new way of working, including any process updates, change activity and staff development required to make proper use of the thing you are delivering. 

5. Contingent liabilities

Now, I confess to including these in business cases in the past but not knowing the correct term for them. You are probably aware of them too: they are the expenses related to future events. For example, the costs you may incur to buy yourself out of a contract early. Make a mention of those in your financials as well.

So, we have all those, as well as capital, revenue, fixed, variable, step, opportunity costs and inflation that I covered last time.

It feels like this business case is going to be weighty! Remember to draw on your sponsor, finance analyst and the finance team more broadly for support with the numbers and to make sure your maths stacks up. Ideally, they should be providing the underlying assumptions and algorithms that make up the financial parts of the business case template. As the business case is a major input to how much money you get to do the work, it’s important.

Posted on: January 24, 2023 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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)

EV: Start by Organising Your Project

Categories: earned value, organization

The first process detailed by the Earned Value standard is ‘Organise Project’. Basically, you can’t run earned value management on your project if your project is a disorganised mess. But it also means more than that: you have to have an understanding of scope so you can split the project into work packages that make sense and can be tracked.

How do you work out the scope?

The easiest way to work out the scope of the project is from the charter: this outlines what you were tasked with doing. The requirements documentation will also have useful information.

However, that’s all likely to be quite high level. To get to work package level, you have to use decomposition. All this means is breaking down big chunks of work into smaller sections until you get to a level where it’s possible for someone to take responsibility for managing the thing.

This is how you create the work breakdown structure: take the high level requirements and decompose them, structure them, into something that gives you a logical overview of what is happening on the project.

You might think it’s not worth starting at the top and breaking it down. Why not start at the bottom and build it up? I suppose either works fine. For me the default would be to start with the big picture because then we make sure that what we build meets that need. There’s a chance that if you start at the bottom and build up, what you actually end up with isn’t quite what was asked for. However, do what works for you: as long as you end up with decomposed work packages (as in, broken down, not mouldy), then you’re good.

The WBS is linear, in that the branches don’t twine together. Once you’re on a branch, you stay on that branch, and all you are doing is breaking the work down further and further. How do you know when to stop? I say that’s a judgement call. The work package size needs to be controlled enough for someone to feel like they can get their arms around it and lead it, but not so detailed that you are creating a ton of WBS paperwork for something that ends up taking a couple of hours.

How to represent your WBS: diagram or list?

When you see WBS info in textbooks, and indeed, in the EV standard, you’ll see it as a picture; a kind of tree diagram or hierarchy chart. Personally, I don’t think in pictures so I prefer to create a numbered list. I love the fact that my scheduling tool of choice will add in the WBS numbering automatically as I create the list. Creating your WBS directly into your scheduling tool is not (in my view) a great practice, but it works for the kind of projects I do as they are generally pretty small at the moment.

Your project is organised

The end result of the first EV process is that you end up with a WBS and some other scope documentation that fleshes out what you have agreed to do, like the scope statement and a plan for managing scope should things change. If you’re going down the route of preparing a ‘proper’ WBS instead of a simple numbered list of tasks – which is necessary if you are handing work packages over to teams to run with – then you’ll also have a WBS dictionary which is the text part that adds detail and colour to the titles on the WBS diagram.

All this forms your scope baseline: the official statement of what it is you intend to deliver. The important thing to remember is that you do not create this alone – just don’t! Scope needs to be created with input from technical experts because you don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you think you are an expert in the subject – or you were at some point in your career – the people doing the work need a say in what they are doing so they can start thinking about how best to do it. Collaboration is your friend: yes, it takes longer but the end result is a project that everyone can buy into, and that will save you a lot more time in the long run.

Setting up your project for success with a solid scope is important all the time, but if you are going to follow the EV standard, it’s essential. You can’t measure project performance unless you know what you should be performing!

Pin for later reading

Posted on: February 22, 2021 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

How To Measure Project Performance

Categories: organization, scheduling

We need to measure project performance to see if the project is on track.

The graphic below shares some ideas on the different ways you can measure work performance. None of these suggestions is better than any other – they are all appropriate for different projects, environments and levels of project management maturity.

measuring performance

Do you use any of these approaches to measure progress on your projects? Why (or why not)? Let us know in the comments section below!

For more on this idea, and a bit more background on the performance measures, check out this article:

5 Common Approaches to Performance Measurement

Posted on: August 01, 2019 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

3 Productivity Tips for the End of the Week [Video]

Categories: organization, productivity

In this video I share 3 tips with you to help you feel more organised for the coming week. These are quick(ish) things to do on a Friday afternoon, or the last day of your working week. I use these tips myself and they help me waste less time overall. I hope they help you too!

Read more here: http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/The-Money-Files/7537/

Posted on: March 15, 2018 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)
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