Category: Uncategorized

Creating and Maintaining Project budgets

Project Budgets

A project is deemed successful based on many criteria, in particular cost, scope and time, staying within budget is paramount. There are six steps which can help create the budget and establish a dependable system to track project expenses. All projects cost money, being able to manage and track expenses is what keeps the project within a budget. Stakeholders are not likely to consider the project a success if it costs them too much.

To avoid expenses from getting away, there must be a system in place to monitor and track it. That’s the only way to control expenses and in so doing stay on budget. Have a system in place to deal with project expenses and have the capacity to track them. This can be via a robust project management software with dynamic functionality or something more static like an Excel spreadsheet.

Regardless of which mechanism is chosen, data must be collected and identify who is spending what and when. This is the bare minimum and a good place to start. Without a system in place there’s no way to know where money is going.

The next logical step is to have a system that is online. Being able to gain access to tracking system anywhere and at any time is more than just a luxury. It has become an essential part of any project management plan. Team members may not be in the office every day, hence an online tool provides access to the system.

A system is important, but it’s useless until items have been identified in the budget. Understanding where the costs are going. To create a budget, estimate the cost of all the tasks that make up the project, including all the resources needed to execute them.

For example, money on resources will be spent, such as equipment and the team; their might be real-estate costs, legal and travel expenses. All these items must be identified and listed in order for expenses to be tracked.

It’s all part and parcel to creating a budget, identify fixed and variable costs and expenses figured out before tracking them. The budget will be the umbrella under which all the project expenses will be covered.

Once the budget is created, it must be approved. This will allow parameters for expenses and help tracking and determining the permissible spend and when those costs are going beyond what has been earmarked for the project.

A system, budget and everything related to managing the project costs are all for nil if there is not a person in charge of overseeing this process. Assign someone from the team who is tasked with operating the system devised to track expenses. This person will become invaluable. They’ll be on the front lines of the actual budget and can raise concerns when costs are exceeding what has been approved for the budget expenses.

To streamline this process and make it more effective, use an online tool. In this respect online project management software has an advantage over Excel, in that it’s constantly updated and reflects actual spending on expenses. Therefore, if a spike in spending is noticed, not only has it been identified quickly but can be addressed before overspending occurs.

The six steps mentioned are critical to ensure there is a handle to a budget, and avoid expense overrun. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it should be maintained, to avoid headaches during the delivery of the project. Use templates if they are available and pay attention to details.

If you have tips and tricks on maintaining a project budget, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Project Tracking Essentials

Project Tracking Essentials

Project tracking is an essential part of staying on schedule and within budget. A project management method used to track the progress of tasks in a project. By tracking projects, it is possible to compare actual planned progress, and identify issues that may prevent the project from staying on schedule and within budget.

Project tracking helps project managers and stakeholders know what work has been done, the resources that have been used to execute those tasks, and helps them create an earned value analysis by measuring project variance and tracking milestones.

Key to project tracking is the use of project tracking tools and project management techniques. For example, status reports allow managers to track project progress by providing an overview of tasks, risks and milestones at any point of the project life cycle. Other types of project reports like progress reports can gather extra details that provide further insight into deliverables and performance. This data can then be distributed to the project team and stakeholders to keep them updated.

A project tracker is a tool that lets managers measure the progress of their team as they execute tasks and use resources. It’s an essential tool to keeping projects on schedule and within their budgets.

The use of project management software to track projects is recommended. Online tools are updated in real time, and that data is shared throughout the software. It can then create reports with live data to help make better decisions.

Tracking the progress of projects can seem like a daunting task, but by laying out the process and planning ahead, is a pathway to success. The following are a few ways to get on the right track;

  • Start with a project outline
  • Create deliverables and milestones
  • Set realistic, clear and measurable goals
  • Use a project tracker template or a project tracking software to keep track of time, costs and tasks
  • Meet regularly with team and stakeholders
  • Have clear deadlines
  • Support transparency

These suggestions are structural and should be set up for every project. They can work with project tracking software to give project managers the details they need to hold their teams to the planned schedule and budget.

Additionally, with project tracking, it’s important to remember the triple constraint, which are time, cost and scope. The key to managing these interrelated variables is proper estimation and control. First estimate costs to create a project budget, the time that tasks will take to create a project timeline and the project scope to create the project schedule. Then control them during the execution phase by using a project tracker that allows for tracking of time, costs and tasks.

Project tracking software is the best way to keep track of projects because it monitors all the tasks associated with project and helps to stay on schedule. Most project tracker software is not used only for tasks; it can also keep track of budget and resource management.

A project tracker is useful even before the execution phase of a project. During planning, it can help manage the resources needed to complete the tasks. When in the monitoring and control stage of the project, the software can be of real assistance, providing visibility of actual progress.

Using a project tracking software is essential to manage any project. It provides a tool to control the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. Managers know when tasks are completed and that they’re not sucking up more than the allocated costs and resources.

As the execution phase progresses, it’s important to report on project progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray. Comprehensive project reports include six elements:

Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective time, cost and task tracking requires detailed information. Provide the information which is needed, even if it seems like overkill. This helps things run smoothly, and also sets groundwork for the project to be referenced as a precedent when future projects are being planned.

Report dates are the most important project status information. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.

Milestones are major touch-points for the project. They play an essential role when it comes to time tracking because they serve as a guidepost for remaining work, and the timeline for it to get done. Conducting a milestone review lets stakeholders see actual progress versus what was estimated in the project proposal.

The project summary includes a projected completion date, as well as resources and costs expended. Inclusion of issues causing delays is an important summary component. There should be a clear explanation of how these issues could affect budget and timeline, and work being done to ensure things are corrected to get the project back on track.

List issues and risks encountered, note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution. Risk assessment and risk management processes must be implemented throughout the project life cycle.

Back up statements with hard numbers and data points. Project planning details should have outlined these metrics. Show how data illustrates the success of the project to date, or, highlight needs for immediate improvement. Determining metrics to measure project progress is essential for tracking tasks, time, costs and managing teams.

There are some project reporting best practices to consider:

  • Communication is the cornerstone: Status reports are a key element of communications plan. However, these reports don’t have to cover everything, and be all things to all people. Writing reports in a way that delivers the right information to the right people, at the right time, should be the overarching goal. Weekly status reports are the most common to keep track of project progress.
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key. Find a format and distribution method that works for stakeholders, and stick with it. They’ll appreciate the predictability of the information they receive.
  • Set targets and measure against them: Establishing metrics is an important part of project reporting and monitoring. Accordingly, these metrics should be how project progress is measured against goals throughout its life-cycle.
  • Keep things simple: Keep reports simple to ensure effectiveness. Don’t pull in details unrelated to the issue on which you’re reporting.
  • Always verify what you’re reporting: It’s a bad idea to assume information is correct without doing due diligence to ensure it is.
  • Have some standards: Reporting simplification is made easier through creation of standards defining report structure, and how information is presented. Given this, building templates to make the work easier is a great first step.

Throughout any project, it’s important to evaluate reporting to avoid scope creep. As project teams start to work, and silos of activity develop, it’s vital to keep everyone aligned. This ensures project scope doesn’t creep.

Defining the project scope and keeping track of it must be a priority for every project manager. There are five ways to avoid scope creep:

  1. Document all project requirements: We’ve covered this at length, above.
  2. Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
  3. Create a clear project schedule: A thorough project schedule outlines project goals. It outlines tasks to be done to reach those goals. This schedule is referenced against the project plan’s requirements document to make sure everything is moving forward. If not, the schedule sets the course for tweaks or changes.
  4. Verify scope with stakeholders: It’s worthwhile during a project’s lifecycle to review scope with all stakeholders. Reviewing the schedule together, and making sure all tasks stakeholders are expecting to be done on a given timeline is also a good idea.
  5. Engage the project team: Make sure your project team is happy with how things are going throughout the project. As the change control process starts to take hold, let the team know how it will affect them. Weekly 1:1 meetings or team meetings to review tasks, and also overall project progress is a great way to keep your team engaged.

Project reporting can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Taking things step-by-step can help ease anxieties among everyone involved, and ensure a winning result. Make sure you use project management software, or at least a project tracking template, to facilitate the creation of reports.

Project reporting can be tough, but also efficient with the right tools. Tool can make collaboration and development of project reports less time-consuming and more intuitive. Let us know your thoughts and methods on project tracking. All the very best on your project management journey.

Managing multiple projects simultaneously

Managing multiple projects

For project managers who need to juggle multiple projects simultaneously it could seem like a daunting task, stuff of nightmares. Especially if you have been assigned many small projects to complete, each has their own governance, budgets, stakeholders to appease and more. Only because the projects are small doesn’t mean you should cut corners. As they still need to be kept on track, ensuring the right processes and strategies are still being maintained, stay within deadline, keep employees motivated, and be mindful of expenses.

Data even shows that on average, 88% of remote workers experience miscommunications and inconsistent leadership with team members, highlighting the importance of proper program and project management. For those experienced project managers who have been there before, there are five core tactics to best handle delivering multiple projects concurrently.

Regardless of how carefully a project is planned, everything can easily go off track if a schedule is not established that includes the team’s work for the month, quarter, or year.

For instance, without a clear schedule, team members might fail to prioritize tasks, overlook critical jobs, and miss deadlines, which can seriously hinder the project’s delivery and even impact the result’s quality.  

Use reliable work scheduling software to ensure every project team member is on the same page, keep workflows moving seamlessly, and keep everything on track.

A robust scheduling tool helps ensure lines are no crossed, work gets done, and project deadlines met. This helps keep multiple projects on track and team members more productive. Project schedules will also be maximized for optimum efficiency, avoiding potential delays.

The ability to prioritise is a major skill; priority should be based on tasks that will have the most significant impact on the project and program goals. This helps the management of several priorities while working on multiple projects effectively.

Doing so allows the team to work strategically on both micro (i.e., organizing daily to-dos based on importance) and macro (i.e., moving low-impact projects to the following quarter) levels.   For instance, if the project is working on four products launches simultaneously, and the overarching goal is to increase customer revenue.

While the four projects require about the same amount of time, effort, and resources to complete and roll out, assess which one has the potential to generate a bigger impact on the customer revenue than the other three.

Prioritize the project (or projects) that have the most significant contribution to achieving the goals.

This helps with managing resources and allocates time better while ensuring efforts align with project goals and deliver desired results.   

Without establishing a standard project planning process or workflow, then each project is likely to be managed differently.

This can lead to issues down the line, such as inconsistencies in deliverables and precious time wasted on setting up new processes for each project. 

Having a solid plan is a must, establish standard processes, and identify responsibilities from the start.

Outline everything from goals, each step, and task necessary for project completion, schedules and deadlines, and the persons and teams responsible for specific jobs at the project level.

At the program level, develop plans, processes, and clarify responsibilities. Establish team-level goals and communicate the projects crucial to achieving those objectives.

A sound start is by outlining goals using a Specific, Measurable, Accurate, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) approach.

Optimize project management processes by setting team-wide standards. For instance, request project team leads to submit a brief before outlining a project plan for big projects.

Creating templates for projects saves precious time; this will also ensure consistency across projects for the team

Clear goals, plans, and responsibilities help teams avoid inconsistencies in processes and deliverables.

Tracking status and progress updates in a multi-project environment are critical to keeping stakeholders and key project players in the loop.

Establish smart, systematic status updates so that stakeholder expectations can be managed efficiently.

Some tips for doing strategic and systematic project status updates are;

  •     Define expectations. Layout the specific steps task owners or the team members in-charge of particular tasks are expected to follow. Identify a time frame for updating relevant stakeholders, whether every three days, weekly, monthly, etc.
  •     Include a high-level overview of key areas in the project. Add several bullet points that provide an update on the accomplishments, progress, and upcoming work for each key area of the project’s status. This ensures essential points are covered, and stakeholders get all the necessary updates they need.
  •     Schedule accountability. Have third-parties, such as staff in another department, the project sponsor, or other stakeholders, conduct reviews to ensure the resource person or task owner follows protocol and the specified updating time frame.

Implement a systematic status updating process to keep the project team motivated, ensure they understand the project plan, why it’s crucial to stay up to date, and clearly see the multiple demands the team must meet.

Exercise effective delegation in resource management by adopting clarity, authority, and accountability.

For instance, empowering the graphic designer to create a landing page for a new project means making sure he/she is absolutely clear about the task by providing a work breakdown structure.

A work breakdown structure outlines the phases of the project process clearly.

Additionally, to ensure the project process and phases are when delegating, be sure to:

  •     Clearly communicate the work breakdown structure
  •     Set a project deadline
  •     Relay specific client expectations
  •     List down the available resources the task owner has
  •     Describe the workload
  •     Provide him/her the authority to make and carry out decisions

Clarity ensures the team is clear on the direction. Team members avoid any guesswork and prioritize critical tasks and projects. 

A clear work breakdown structure and project scope will also empower teamwork that boosts productivity while giving members a sense of fulfillment for meeting multiple demands.  Leverage a reliable project management tool that can streamline the work breakdown structure’s workflows and processes. 

Data can back up the effectiveness of using the right project management tool with 77% of high-performing projects using project management software.

Being able to handle multiple projects at the same time is inevitable in project management, while the tips mentioned here are in no way guaranteed formulas for success, they are good building blocks to help develop strategies for effective and strategic multiple project management. Try and leverage the tactics shared to stay on top of projects’ moving pieces, meet deadlines, and achieve goals. Let us know the tactics you use to keep delivering multiple projects simultaneously. All the very best on your project management journey.

The Role of Activity Feeds in Project Management

Activity Feeds in Project Management

It takes many people to deliver a project, the practice of collaboration and teamwork is often necessary in order to complete a project, there is a downside. There could be times when team members who are sharing the same project management software, delete information that wasn’t meant to be deleted. Could be something as innocuous as change in dates without consultation, or otherwise make mistakes that can set a project back.

To ensure project management goes smoothly, then, it’s a smart idea to use project management software that comes with an activity feed. An activity feed tracks data in project management software, allowing teams to monitor real-time updates and therefore negating the need of sending emails to ask questions. Activity feeds let teams see what changes have been made, who made them, and whether the changes were made correctly or in error.

The specific data an activity feed tracks vary according to the exact software, but they generally track the following:

  •     Project creation.
  •     Task creation.
  •     Folder creation.
  •     Changes in project dates.
  •     Changes in assignees.
  •     Tags removed or added.
  •     Labels removed or added.
  •     Checklist items added.
  •     Checklist items completed.
  •     Time logged.
  •     Comments changed.

In order for a project to be successful, it needs to be successfully managed. This can only happen if everyone in the team is on the same wavelength. If tasks are being changed or even deleted without approval of the other team members, it can cause delays.

This is where an activity feed comes in. An activity feed is the quickest way for teams to learn about the latest updates and changes. It can highlight things such as when a change was made, as well as who made the modification. This then allows teams to open up communication so that they can learn whether a mistake was made, and if it was, rectify it as quickly as possible.

Moreover, each change is stored in the same location, which means that the team is able to respond to changes efficiently. An activity feed provides an overview of changes made within a task so that it can stay on track and up-to-date.

When selecting project management software, here are some activity feed features to be considered;

One of the most important features to look out for is the filtering option. A filtering option is beneficial because it allows the team to filter updates according to important tasks. This ensures that the feed is never clogged with information and tasks that aren’t a priority at the moment. Instead, only a notification when a change is made to a followed task is received.

Feed according to comments and changes on tasks that are assigned to particular team members, as well as tasks that have been created or commented on previously.

All in all, filtering options mean that team members aren’t distracted by constant updates that are largely irrelevant, but instead have personalized feeds.

Real time updates are important because they allow a reaction to changes as and when they happen. This is opposed to checking for updates periodically, at which point there may be too many updates to track, and the damage is thus irreversible. As soon as a change is made, there is advice from the feed.

As such, it’s a good idea to find activity feeds that provides track updates instantly without having to reload the page.

When checking an activity feed, there is an ability to switch to default view so latest changes are on top. This allows a response to items as a matter of priority and urgency. It also helps with organization and allows for rectification of any potential mistakes almost as soon as they were made. This improves efficiency and workflow.

With an activity feed, the team is able to stay on track with a project via timely updates to tasks, folders and more. When looking for an activity feed, make sure to find one that’s got all the key features, and which enhances project management, allowing the personalization of feeds, get real-time updates and open up the lines of communication so that nothing gets missed. Let us know your approach to activity feeds and which software works best for you.

All the very best on your project management journey.

Work Orders & Work Order Management

Work Orders and Work Order Management

Project Management touches upon many different aspects when delivering, one of those aspects are work orders. Work orders should do more than simply describe jobs to contractors. There are many different types of work orders that can be used and any business can benefit from implementing a superior work order process. 

A work order is the channel between the customer and the work to be done. It’s the paper trail defining what needs to be done, by when and for how much. As project managers, we would have signed off or been given a work order, but is there a real understanding on why it is such a crucial link in many business transactions.

A work order is a document that describes a job between a customer and a contractor. Work orders can be generated for use within an organization, but they most commonly serve as a contract between the customer and whomever they contract to execute the desired work.

A work order includes a description of the job with an estimate of what it will cost to get it done, including labour, parts and materials. There might be forms attached depending on the type of work being assigned, which may require permits or other paperwork.

The work order will also have information on the location where the work is needed, who will carry it out and the timeframe in which it should be completed. The customer information is also included and can be used as an invoice for the work.

Work orders standardize workflow and create a simple and fast process for scheduling, assigning and tracking work while documenting resources and tracking performance. Primarily used in the construction industry for service requests, but can also be used for products, inspections and audits. In manufacturing a work order is often called a sales order when a build or engineering is to take place.

Regardless of what industry a work order is used in, it is used to track and monitor progress of the status of the job. This is true when used in field service or within an industry that is tasked with regular inspection. In that regard they act almost like a status report.

In terms of structure there are several types of work orders.

  • Quotes: This type of work order is a list of products with their pricing included. These quotes are captured and the customer can then make the decision as to whether they meet their financial requirements for the work. These products are not committed to inventory.
  • Orders: The difference between a quote work order and an orders-based work order is that the latter is a list of products that are more likely to be purchased by the customer. Therefore, these can be committed to an inventory.
  • Unplanned Work Order: This addresses work that has not been planned ahead, such as when machinery breaks down.
  • Planned Work Order: When there is work that recurs and can be scheduled, such as preventive maintenance, then it’s called a planned work order.
  • Internal Work Order: These are work orders that originate from someone in the organization and are sent to another person in the organization.
  • External Work Order: When a work order originates from outside the organization.
  • Manual Work Order: This work order is scheduled by hand after getting a work request.
  • Automatic Work Order: When a work order can be set up to automatically schedule assignments, such as a software tool.

These types are somewhat flexible in that once the work order is made, it can be changed from a quote to an order, detailing how many products on the quote can be committed to. An order to a quote has the order-only information, such as an authorization date.

A work order is in effect a task. It’s a way to describe, assign and track a job to make sure it is completed on time and within an agreed-upon budget. Managing the creating and flow of a work order as it moves from initiation to execution and completion is key.

The work order process follows three steps:

1. Create a new work order
2. Traffic through the organization
3. Close the work order when complete

In terms of those who are involved in work order management, they include the person who requested the work, the individual who is authorized to approve it and those who carry it out.

Having some reporting mechanism will also help to keep track of the work and make sure that it’s finished by the deadline. When finished, payment is required, and so payroll needs to be involved to manage any down payments and then final pay.

Project Software can help organize work and drive efficiency. Generating, tracking and paying for work orders is enhanced by cloud-based tool that provides real-time data to always know if the project is on schedule.

Kanban boards can be used to create work orders, add attachments, set priorities and track progress. Work orders are made on cards that are then placed beneath columns that represent the phases of the work, which can be customized to match an organization’s nomenclature.

Keep track of progress on dashboards that automatically reflect status updates and calculate metrics such as time, tasks, costs and more. If the crew is predominately in the field, as long as there is internet connectivity, they can update their status or collaborate by commenting at the task level.

Time logged on work can also be tracked with time sheets that streamline payroll as well. They’re secure and easy to use. Let us know your work order experience, approach taken and results to the project’s success. All the very best on your project management journey.

Project Timeline Explained

Project Timeline

Project timelines are planning tools that allow you to organize all the activities that make up a project, in order. Create milestones, set deadlines, and manage tasks, all in one easy to view location.  Using timelines with project timeline software unlocks interactive features that dramatically improve the way they can be visualized and collaborate on projects.

Providing a visual representation, timeline are a visual list of tasks or activities placed in chronological order, which lets project managers view the entirety of the project in one place. A project timeline typically takes the form of a horizontal bar chart, where each task is given a name and a corresponding start and end date. It also provides an in-depth overview of the entire project from start to finish. When a task starts and when it’s due—and importantly, whether or not it’s dependent on another task.

Project timelines give project managers an opportunity to:

  • Organize their tasks
  • Show when in the project the tasks start
  • View task deadlines
  • Link dependent tasks
  • Break the project into phases
  • Identify team members assigned to a task

To make a thorough project timeline, follow these steps:

  • Write a project scope statement: A scope statement outlines the tasks, milestones and deliverables for the project. It’s an essential part of the project management plan and it has all the information needed for the project plan timeline
  • Make a work breakdown structure (WBS): Use this graphic tool to break down the project scope into smaller work packages. The WBS allows the visualization and organize the project’s tasks, milestones and deliverables by hierarchy to establish a chronological order
  • Identify task dependencies:  find out which of those activities are dependent on other tasks to start or end
  • Estimate task duration: Make a reasonable time estimate for each task. This is a critical step to create the project management timeline, and determine the time required to complete the project
  • Define deadlines: Determine how much time the team can spend on each task
  • Set milestones: Milestones are important dates that mark the end of one phase and the beginning of the next, which makes them an important component of a project management timeline. Milestones are reached by completing task sequences and deliverables

Project management timelines can take many different forms with varying levels of efficacy. They can be drawn by hand, or on a whiteboard, but this method is inflexible and large changes to your project might require scrapping the entire timeline.

Using a spreadsheet loaded up with macros can make for very capable, if time consuming to create, timeline. A project timeline excel template can save effort and time it takes to create the spreadsheet.

To run projects effectively and efficiently, project managers prefer project timeline software that integrates their tasks with an interactive, feature-rich Gantt chart that can schedule, assign tasks, monitor progress and report on performance. Project timeline software is more versatile than project timeline templates because it allows project managers to easily update the timeline and keep track of tasks with dashboards and reports.

As stated, software is commonly used by project managers to create their project plan timelines. Project timeline software is an integral part of the planning process and often includes additional features that help to monitor progress when executing the project.

Using project timeline software is generally regarded as a necessity for keeping a modern project on schedule. It allows managers and teams to see the status of their tasks; that is, whether they’re in progress, overdue or done.

At its most basic, project timeline software creates a graphic representation of the project on a timeline with tasks and milestones plotted across. Tasks can be assigned start and end dates, and display a duration bar that indicates the planned amount of time to complete the tasks. More powerful software offerings can also include further options to manage tasks.

Online project timeline software offers a centralized data repository in which everyone involved in the project can access the project timeline and other critical project documents and data. This means that managers and teams can access the project timeline when they need to, even if they’re working different shifts and located in different time-zones.

Every project is impacted by the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. To start controlling the time and scope part of that important triangle, create a project timeline during the planning stage.

The project timeline helps everyone on the project team by giving them a roadmap of where they are, and where they should be, at every point in the project. Timelines and schedules are essential to execute the project plan.

As planning tools, project timelines and understanding how to compose them is essential to every project manager, let us know your thoughts, tips and trick you use when creating a project timeline, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Tasks are given start and end dates and show on the timeline as a line connecting to points in time. If some of those tasks are dependent on another to start or finish, these task dependencies can be indicated on the project timeline as well.

This assists a manager by keeping those dependencies visible and preventing possible bottlenecks that could block the time during the execution of the tasks.