Managing Your Project’s Budget

Project Management

Managing Your Project’s Budget

By: Savitha Meda | Project Manager/Solutions Analyst

As a project manager, I love the beginning of a new project. I always look forward to having that first kickoff meeting with your team where everyone is excited to tackle a new challenge. As a project manager, you work on ensuring everyone that a great idea is in store for them for next several weeks or months.

When working in a firm like TekStream, project managers are often involved in the sales cycle. Therefore, we have a solid plan on how to deliver the project. With any project, our ultimate goal is to deliver a solution that our customers are excited about and that will add value to ultimately improve their business processes.

How does this relate to managing your project’s budget? Easy, none of us have a crystal ball or can predict the future. The status of the project’s budget helps us keep our finger on the pulse of how the project is tracking and ultimately how we are driving customer satisfaction. A project that is running over budget can be warning signs of issues such as scope creep, improper resource mix, or even not being able to meet delivery timelines promised.

The ultimate goal of a project manager is to deliver a project on time, on or under budget, that meets the customer’s needs. If a project goes over budget (which can happen for numerous reasons) the project is not considered financially successful and may not deliver the solution a customer expected in the timeframe they specified.

Here are a few strategies for successfully managing a project’s budget:

  1. Manage Project Scope

    Without knowing all of the variables at the beginning of a project there is always the possibility of unplanned work finding its way into the project plan. Either customers change their minds after design or development has started, or the team uncovers some additional work that needs to be addressed. Scope changes are considered okay if at the end of the day it helps us deliver a better solution. The key is to minimize the impact it has on the budget and the timeframe of delivery. Communicating these changes up front to the customer in a timely manner helps us determine if this extra work is really necessary. If it is, a Project Change Requests (PCRs) should be executed for work that was not covered in the project’s initial scoping efforts. PCRs authorize additional funding to cover the cost of extra work, and keep the project at its new budget.

  2. Manage the Plan in a Timely Manner

    The key to this strategy is to review your project plan often and ensure it reflects what is happening “on the ground”. This is done in a few ways. The first way is to compare all the tasks that were needed to be completed in a certain time span (I do this on a weekly basis) against what has actually been completed. This helps assess what was supposed to be completed and if any further reprioritization is needed for the work that still waiting completion. If it looks like tasks are being finished earlier than anticipated, then that may allow for a buffer in case other tasks take longer. Or, more importantly if tasks are taking longer to complete, this may be a warning sign of scope creep or the need to change that resource working on the task. Either way, these overruns need to be escalated with management in a timely manner and communicated to the customer in case it jeopardizes the ability to deliver a project on time.

  3. Manage Resources

    Meeting with your project team regularly will also help ensure the project budget stays intact since your team members will contribute to the project costs as well as drive revenue (as they record billable hours). Weekly team meetings help with the process of reviewing the tasks needing completion as well as informing the team of next steps. Sometimes, these meetings uncover the need to add extra team members or swap out tasks between team members to maintain the project budget and timeline. Typically, the project manager owns managing the project plan. However, the plan should be reviewed regularly with the team to assess if the project is on track for on time delivery and help to ensure everyone is being utilized effectively. Not only does this help ensure the plan is reflecting what is actually happening “on the ground,” but provides a shared sense of responsibility amongst the team for a successful project delivery.

Hopefully you have noticed that communication is the common theme in the above strategies. The project budget helps provide the data we need in order to communicate changes to scope, not only to customers, but to management and the project teams as well. It also uncovers resourcing opportunities/challenges and ultimately helps asses if we are going to deliver a project on time and on or under budget. The project budget is a living, breathing animal and needs to be reviewed regularly. In my experience, project managers who follow the steps above have a good grasp on their budgets throughout the life of their projects and are able keep customers and management happy.

Contact Savitha or TekStream Today

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Waterfall vs. Agile Process for PaaS Projects

Waterfall vs Agile

Waterfall vs. Agile Process for PaaS Projects

By: Matt Chumley | Project Manager/Solutions Analyst

In order to attempt to choose between Waterfall and Agile approaches to a project implementing a cloud solution, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of each methodology. In a technological world that is increasingly becoming more and more demanding, aspects of Agile are being used to facilitate projects to successful completion.

The push towards a full Agile approach to cloud solutions, such as PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) projects, could potentially post major concerns and problems to your project. This is why the best approach should ideally be some type of hybrid, with the user/manager’s choice of how many Agile aspects are actually used while keeping some of the structure of Waterfall processes.

Benefits/Challenges of Waterfall vs Agile

Waterfall Approach

Waterfall Approach

(Figure A)

The Waterfall method involves using strict, concrete plan from day one of the project with tasks in a specific sequential order. Each stage in the process is treated as its own component, and there is no going back or reverting to previous stages of the project that are already completed.

Benefits:

  • Plan is very strict and predictable
  • Promotes a repeatable process for others to follow
  • Strong documentation is key
  • Ideal for projects where all requirements are known up front, and very few changes are anticipated (as change means high cost)

Challenges:

  • Since the plan was set at the very beginning and is fixed, there is no room to incorporate changes mid-project. Therefore, once an error is detected in testing the team must start all over from the beginning.
  • Being only one phase dedicated for implementation, testing can only occur at the end of project. There is no chance to review/test any deliverables mid-project.

Agile Approach

(Figure B)

(Figure B)

Unlike the Waterfall method, the Agile approach embraces change and allows the Project Manager to account for uncertainty throughout the project plan. The project is broken down into multiple iterations, or sprints, in order to create multiple development cycles.  Each sprint is, in essence, a small project that involves a working deliverable that can be reviewed/tested.

Benefits:

  • Better and faster feedback on deliverables
  • More frequent iterations meaning less impact with changes
  • More requirements met
  • Less change requests
  • Faster time-to-market

Challenges:

  • Time to completion takes priority over documentation.
  • Much of the project cannot be predicted, as only the first iteration is planned at project start.
  • Difficulty of creating a project team that has the correct training and skill sets to complete a fluid project.

Hybrid Approach for PaaS Solutions

It is evident that the two project management methodologies are polar opposites and that one must choose either one or the other. When you examine the benefits and challenges of both Waterfall and Agile, it can be beneficial to use certain parts of each process and blend them together when planning out a cloud solution project.

One of the best examples involves the combination of speed (time-to-market) with proper documentation.  When working on a PaaS solution, the client would most likely desire to have the Agile benefits of speed and flexibility. That would allow incremental steps in developing the overall solution, and changes to be inserted at various points.  However, the lack of documentation may not be appealing to the client as they consider employee turnover or hiring new developers for cloud implementation.  This is why the idea of incorporating the rigid structure and planning of the Waterfall method may be very beneficial.

Many times a company may choose to use both Waterfall and Agile methodologies simultaneously and in-tandem. Using the defined, repeatable process for established services, while using multiple small iterations for new activities like migrating customers to the cloud.  The choice on management styles does not have to be black or white, as it can be some type of hybrid in which the parts of each process that benefit that particular project can be hand-picked and used.  It is up to the discretion of the Project Manager to put together the most effective processes in order to satisfy the goals of the project.

 

Contact Matt or TekStream Today

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