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A 10-point Checklist for Project Managers

By: Ari-Pekka Salovaara
Last updated 6/18/2014

What are the benefits of project management?  Put simply, it offers a framework to plan, organize, and manage resources to ensure project success. Whether you are faced with a straightforward half-day assignment or a complex, multi-departmental, year-long project, the fundamental principles of project management remain the same.

The following is a 10-point checklist project managers can use to keep any project on track:
1.  Forward vision: Look a few paces ahead

Resource and revenue forecasting are important tools in project management. Ideally, you should review high-level resource reports that can be separated into individual projects. This type of macro- and micro-analysis of projects can yield a wealth of information about utilization, profits, and the optimum scenario for new projects. Comparing project revenues on a monthly basis will likewise offer insight. For example, when tendering a $50k project, with a 50% win probability, might it make sense to forecast $25k in revenues with 50% resource utilization? This type of creative number crunching improves forecasting accuracy and leads to improved performance. Our experience shows that the best performing service organizations forecast with an impressive 98% accuracy.

2. Pipeline flow: Find and repair your weakest link
A well-known concept in product-based CRM systems, “pipeline flow” is helpful for project-based businesses. Controlling and reviewing how projects move through the pipeline clarifies the big picture of an organization’s health, from sales to billing processes. This approach helps you identify processes that aren’t working and to find effective solutions—an invaluable perspective into the mechanics of a business.  Of course it’s easier to correct a small bottleneck in its infancy than to repair a systemic problem that has become fossilized into your business process.

3. Flawless billing: Bill what you work
It’s critical to have bulletproof billing processes in which sales, time tracking, and invoicing are flawlessly connected. Work hours, travel expenses, products, and services should all be automatically invoiced to reduce errors and expedite billing. The sooner a bill is received the sooner it will be paid.

4. Work your productivity:  Stay goal oriented
Productivity and billing ratios are metrics used to evaluate employee performance. Everyone contributes to the business in different ways, in terms of billable and nonbillable hours. An employee who spends 110 hours on customer projects may put 30 hours into internal projects and 20 hours into non-billable tasks.  This person’s billing ratio is 68.75% and productivity is 87.5%. How does that compare? The first step toward enhancing employee performance is to create billing and productivity goals.  You will then be able to easily track results for individuals, teams, and the whole organization.

5. Stop revenue leakage:  Protect the bottom line
Even with flawless billing processes, businesses must keep track of work hours on a daily basis to prevent losses. Revenue leakage often occurs because employees don’t recall work activities correctly and allocate billable hours as nonbillable hours. That’s a direct hit to your bottom line.  For example, an organization may suffer a 15% profit loss if employees report work hours at the end of the week, compared with a 30% profit loss when employees report work hours at the end of the month.

6. Results:  Get what you measure
Put results, goals, and forecasts in front of everyone—everyday. Making results and goals visible to everyone makes them responsible for their part in the organization’s success. Employees better understand what’s expected of them, and you get better results. Yes, it’s possible to do it manually, creating printouts from Excel, but don’t you have better things to do with your time? Instead, use your project management system to generate real-time reports.

7. Communicate:  Teamwork depends on effective communication 
Project management experts cite “lack of communication” as the number one cause of project failure. Implement tools and strategies—daily progress updates, shared calendars, online documentation, and so forth—that open communication channels to improve teamwork on projects.

8. Use online tools:  Make friends with technology
Web-based applications are a terrific project management tool. They’re excellent for sharing data and planning and collaborating on project work. There is no longer the need to search for files in old e-mails, worry about where files are located, or figuring out which version is the latest file. All team members have access to data stored inside an online project.  For optimal success, make sure your system uses secure SSL connections, creates daily backups, and offers user access controls.

9. Build flexibility:  Allow for change
Make sure your projects are flexible enough to accommodate a change in plans. For example, one extremely successful consulting firm sells only 80% of their customer project capacity. The remaining 20% capacity is reserved for risk management, but it can also be used when necessary for projects that come up unexpectedly. After that, leftover capacity is utilized for internal work.

10. Lessons learned:  There’s nothing like a good post-mortem
Upon completion of every project conduct a thorough review to identify successes, deficiencies, and goals for improvement. It’s important to get input from all members of the project team to determine why things went well or sank like a stone. Document the findings in a short summary and make it available for others to use as reference for similar projects in the future.

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About the Author(s)

Ari-Pekka Salovaara Ari-Pekka Salovaara is CEO of Severa Corporation of Finland (www.severa.com)