Typically, by the time a business project actually is actually begun, the details around the activity have been planned for quite some time. These include the project scope, budget, financial support, resource acquisition, labour and contracted services, and any regulatory or permitting necessary. As a result, a business project will already have considerable limitations and parameters applied to get everything in place for implementation. It becomes the project manager’s job to then bring the project to fruition while meeting the same parameters or staying within their limits.
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Ask any experienced project manager and the first thing he will tell you is to plan for things to go wrong. Fluctuations, errors, bad planning judgment and incorrect assumptions about what is needed all come to play when the implementation process occurs. If the planning and budgeting phases did not account for contingencies or additional, unplanned needs, a project manager will then have to find other efficiencies in the project to make up the difference. This is where a good, seasoned manager becomes apparent because he will see the problem, adjust for it, and keep the project moving to completion.
Cost-creep is another big problem with business projects. When budgetary assumptions are made, they are point in time. If the financial planning does not include adjustments for inflation, many times the set-aside funding for the project will run short. This is where a project manager needs to always keep one hand on the activity and another on the check book. Good managing will find alternative savings by using budgeting software to identify cheaper materials or ways to trim down labour costs that the early budgetary planning may have overlooked. The manager can then use this uncommitted project money to offset cost overruns or as cushion for other unexpected problems.
If a project will rely heavily on contracted services, the project manager will have to keep a close eye on the entire contract process. Many times subcontractors will bid low just to get the work and provide their own businesses cash flow. Smart management will require bid specifications that force bidders to prove their capability and performance. Additionally, no money should be paid until specific contract metrics have been met. Every subcontractor should be held to a list of performance measures to earn any income in the project. Budgetary software can be a helpful tool in tracking contract deliverables. Finally, the project manager should anticipate that some subcontractors will fall through. In such cases, an immediate plan B option should be ready to go so that project is not significantly delayed.
Finally, experienced project managers never assume the final plan is final before implementation. Too often, business management changes its mind, causing related project specification changes. Project managers need to be flexible enough to anticipate these potential curves and find a way to incorporate them into the final project. Doing so will win the favour of the business management and could result in a higher pay-out for the project manager upon completion.
Project management is a fast-moving skill and good project leaders will anticipate problems that don’t appear during planning. They make the difference between a success and a financial boondoggle.
Further reading: Top project management software