Full Sail Partners Blog

The Pitfalls of Project Management Planning for Project-based Firms

Posted by Scott Seal on Wed, Oct 14, 2015 @ 12:00 PM

Project Planning Blog GraphicCongratulations! Your firm just won the largest project in its history and it’s time to celebrate, or is it? Unfortunately, winning the big project doesn’t guarantee success and big profits. For project-based firms, project management is synonymous with profit management, but many projects start in the red making it nearly impossible to make a profit. Here’s a look at some common pitfalls project-based firms face before they ever start a project.

Accurate Job Costing

If you have been on a proposal team, you know the feeling of relief that overcomes you once you finally submit the proposal. Weeks of working long hours reading and writing exhilarating technical content and attending meeting after meeting. All this work and time exhausted by several people when in reality, your final price is the biggest factor in winning. But, can your firm deliver the project on the proposed budget?

Accurate job costing requires accurate information, and most firms believe they have the right systems for their business model. Excel sheets and the time clock work, but these systems don’t communicate very well. Even more, consider the unreported overhead time to reconcile these systems and the mistakes made during this process.

“If it works, don’t fix it” doesn’t always apply, and information in more than one system doesn’t work when trying to maximize profit. When it comes to job costing, you already have to worry about inaccurate estimates from suppliers. These are costs you can’t control, so be sure to take control of your internal cost monitoring to create profitable bids you can deliver.

Establishing Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are various quantifiable measurements used for determining the success of the project. The KPIs establish a guide to the project and are used as the basis for critical decision-making. More importantly, not executing on a specific KPI can affect the project’s profitability for your firm and your client’s satisfaction.

Here’s where some project-based firms struggle. In many cases, several of the KPIs are destined for failure before the project starts. The problem is that defining KPIs is truly challenging and your clients usually lack experience with the process. All too often, this results in KPIs that are unrealistic and unmeasurable.

Establishing realistic KPIs is the first step to managing the profit of a project. As the project manager, it’s in your best interest to have a strong role in creating the KPIs. Good project KPIs have values that can be accurately measured and clearly reported on. Further, they need to be understood and agreed to by all parties. To learn more about project KPIs, click here.

Risk Management

Projects are full of unforeseen obstacles and predicting these is not always possible, but this doesn’t mean your firm can’t minimize the impacts. They just need to have a formal risk management strategy. Although this might be a time consuming process, it’s a necessary process required to protect your profit.    

A study by Info-Tech Research Group found that organizations with a formal risk management strategy are more than half as likely to have project management success than those with a reactive approach. To put it another way, having a risk management strategy before the project gets started is critical to the project’s success and profitability.

A risk management strategy starts with identifying common risks such as unrealistic schedules and requirements that fail to align with the strategy of the project. Once these risks are identified, evaluate the impact each risk will have on the project. From there, make a contingency plan that has a pre-planned response to the unexpected event.       

Become a Profit Manager

Don’t start your next project in the red. Project management starts with project planning, and not having the right systems and processes in place can hinder the success of the project. If your firm is falling into any of these pitfalls, consider the changes that you can make to become an effective profit manager.  

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Topics: Project Management, Building Business, Professional Services