Being on time, on budget and on scope. How to tackle this challenge?

This is the discussion between a project manager in one of the top rated IT companies in the city and his colleague.

5 out of the last 8 projects failed man; we were not able to deliver them on time. I’m really in big trouble. And, the worst part is that my performance review is due next month” sighed Andy. “My annual raise is going down in the doldrums now.” he concluded.

This was not just Andy’s story. In fact, it was the story of majority of the managers out there. Ever wondered why? Why is it that teams find it so difficult to keep projects on track? What’s the root cause of all this?

Teams usually face similar problems. That’s why, we’ve listed down those problems, take a look and see if you can relate to them -

Time

Poor time estimation

Time is money. But, seldom do teams realize that the biggest asset for any organization is being so misused. Why? Because no one estimates how much time a task actually deserves.

The biggest reason why projects get delayed is because there was poor estimation of time done in the first place. As a manager, it is your responsibility to get in touch with the resources who will be working on the tasks to get to know about their workload, their availability and an accurate estimation of the time that it will take to complete the task. But, only a few managers take the pain of doing so.

And, that’s why the first problem i.e. not getting projects delivered on the set time arises.

A solution for this is having a system in place where you can set time estimate for each task. What this will do is that it will make each individual accountable of the number of hours that a task will take. So, on one side the team member will know how many hours they have to spend on the task. On the other hand, the manager can keep an eye when the tasks is consuming more hours than estimated and take remediation measures accordingly.

Taking deadlines lightly

Another major reason that projects get delayed is because there is no system in place. The manager has assigned a task to the team, but there are no-clearly defined deadlines. Everything is just a pile of information shared by the client and nothing more than a heap of data. There are no milestones to make sure that a seamless flow is maintained during the project.

This will create a sense of ease in the behavior from the team members, as they might presume there are no deadlines for the task. However, as soon as the delivery date starts to approach there is a sense of panic within the manager, which is transferred to the team. The end result being, incomplete projects, poor quality and failure.

project management tool like ProofHub that allows you to set a start and end date for each project. Define milestones in each project. Create events so that everyone in the team gets to know when something important, like completion of first phase of the project, is due.

Budget

Bad cost analysis

Cost analysis is imperative to make sure that you are making profit by undertaking a project. After all, there is no point in taking a project that earns you a certain amount but you that the resources employed to get it done will cost you more than what you are earning. This is the reason that planning the project, and estimating a precise amount of resources that you need to employ in order to keep project costs under check becomes so imperative. But, not many businesses or managers are able to do this thing precisely. Inaccuracy in cost estimation can lead to overspending on the project, which leads to its failure.

So, how can you solve this problem? Planning is the first step. Creating a blueprint of the entire project, dividing the project into different phases should be the first thing that needs to be done. Based on the tasks that need to be done, calculate the number of hours each of these employees will be devoting to the project, and how much do these resources cost to the organization?

Proper understanding of the client expectations, detailed planning in the first place, and a thorough analysis of all this, and you can be right on the money to keep project costs from going out of hands.

Poor resource utilization

You will be amazed to know that most organizations underutilize their most important resources. Researches have shown that one of the biggest reasons why projects fail to achieve desirable targets is because teams don’t make the most of their available resources. The reason for this is because wrong person is assigned to do the wrong job. This is where team bonding and clear communication comes into the picture.

A manager who has great understanding of the skill set of team members knows which person is best suited for the job. Based on this understanding, he/she can define the task in a clear manner and assign the subject matter expert to it. But, most of the times managers fail to notice that the best person to do a job is busy just making reports or doing something unimportant.

Create a culture where teams know each other, and communicates clearly, is the only way to solve this problem. As a manager you must be willing to learn something new from every team member. After all, there is a reason why each member in the team has been hired, and each of them possesses a unique skill set which is required to get things done in the project. So, why under-utilize it?

Scope

Unclear understanding

Starting as soon as a project arrives is a huge mistake. And, that’s’ something which almost all the project managers do. Why? Because they are worried about getting things finished on time. But, in all this they forget the most basic thing — failing to plan is simply planning to fail.

You’ve not planned out how things will be undertaken, who will be doing what, what’s the ultimate goal where you need to reach by the end of the project? No one knows the answers to these questions. Did you communicate with them to make everything clear? As a manager you’ve just undertaken the project and told the team to start with it. But, don’t you think the team needs to have a clear understanding about the project scope and requirements? Don’t you think communication as integral part of succeeding in the project? After all, how can you expect to get the best results for the project when the team does not even know what they are doing?

To solve this, the managers should document the scope of a project with well defined roles for each team member. And, providing access to each team member involved in the project to this document is just an icing on the cake. So, everyone knows what is expected out of their services and what are the expectations of the client. When everyone knows what they have to do, and have a clear vision of that things start to fall into their place.

Not keeping the stakeholder in picture

One of the biggest mistakes that every manager makes, without even knowing is to ignore the expectations of the client. Yes, you have had a discussion with client about the project. Yes, you’ve got an email about the requirements. Yes, you’ve got a list of changes in first draft of project requirements, after a few weeks into the project. But, did you document them? Did you put them all at one place? Did you share those requirements and client expectations with the team members? No — surely that’s that’s the answer we can expect here.

Missed emails, lost documents with important information written on them; all these are pretty common in every company. But, when you take a look at the combined effect of these small things, then you get to see the real picture. All this adds to create a big number in monetary terms.

But what can you do about it? Well, that’s precisely what ProofHub notes are for. You can jot down all the information here and share with team members to make sure that everyone has a clear understanding of the client wants and what they need to do. And, in case you need to get everyone on the same page, you can go ahead and start an online discussion as well.

Not staying in top of everything!

Apart from all this, the biggest responsibility of a project manager is to keep an eye on everything. How are things progressing? Is every aspect of the project running on the right track? Are the team members spending the right amount of time on the right tasks? The manager must have an eye on the tiniest of details involved in the project.

And, doing all this manually is not a good idea. Having a project management tool like ProofHub in the first place can make all this a piece of cake. Features like project overview, Gantt chart and reports come handy in gauging the rate at which the project is proceeding. Plus there are resource reports as well, which show the efforts put by each team member and their accountability towards the tasks they are assigned to.

All in all, everything becomes as easy as 1–2–3!

There you have it; everything you need to know about meeting the biggest challenge that a manager has to face in every project i.e. the OTOBOS (On Time, On Budget, On Scope) philosophy.

Hope after reading this post, you will have a better understanding of why you were failing in your projects. And, will find a solution to remedy these problems.