February 3rd, 2020 in Productivity
What is important as a consultant? Project Management for Engineers is at the forefront of running a successful business. It also includes satisfying your client, delivering results, but also ensuring you make money on the project.
For all of that to be possible, you need a plan for the project, you need to manage the client’s expectations throughout the length of the project, and your team members need to know their role and their deliverables. This will set the base for a project that will succeed.
When listed out, all these things sound simple, but how are you doing them today? How can you improve these processes to get better results? In this guide to project management for Engineers, we will look at steps you can take to streamline your project management process for better results.
You don’t need a “Project Management for Engineers” handbook to make a plan that will result in a successful project. Start with a simple question, “What needs to happen for you to get from step A to B?” Having the answer to this question makes the journey smoother and involves fewer pivots and usually fewer unexpected roadblocks.
The first thing is to plan the path to deliver what you’ve promised, from there, decide what is needed to deliver the result using that path. This could be specific employees such as analysts, or associates to deliver the results, or it could be software that you need to execute the plan.
Once a plan is solidified, break the project down into smaller digestible tasks and assign responsibility for tasks amongst the team. Identify the timeline for each task and what needs to get done first. Tasks that are high risk should be done first to avoid unexpected roadblocks later in the project. Now, we have an initial project plan, which includes responsibilities, timelines, and priorities of tasks for this project. This project plan will also give you a clear picture of the resources you need to execute the plan. The plan will evolve over the span of the project, but having a strong baseline at the start is important for a project to run as smoothly as possible.
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A project will not seem like a success if your client’s expectations of the deliverable are not aligned with yours, even if you deliver everything that you promised. This creates friction between the parties, leads to delays, and ultimately an unhappy client.
Clear deliverables need to be set at the start of the project. This usually happens, however, the problems usually arise while the project is in progress, expectations change, and the deliverables are not revisited or properly managed.
What can be done about it? You are working on the project for a client, so It goes without saying that the client has a vested interest in the quality of the deliverables. There is no better way to set expectations than to engage the client throughout the process and make them feel like they are part of the team.
From the client’s perspective, being involved in the process will create transparency. From the perspective of project management for engineers, as the project progresses, there is a real-time feedback loop that converges your project plan with the client’s vision. If the client is involved, it is hard for the client to have unrealistic expectations because they are a direct contributor to the success of the project.
How many times have you had to dig through five different applications, multiple emails, and countless personal notes to find information that is crucial for a project? McKinsey reported that an average worker spends about 1.8 hours per day searching and gathering information. If I had to give one tip about project management for engineers it would be this, consolidate your information into one place.
Consolidating information in one place helps solve the problem of using productive time on non-productive tasks and reduces the inefficiencies this creates for the project team. Having one hub for all project communications, deliverables, and files in one accessible location will save crucial time for everyone working on the project. The time saved can be spent on more productive tasks or can be invested in other projects. The old saying that “Time is Money” is very true, and is especially true for engineers, because time wasted is money taken straight off the margin of the project.
It can’t be stressed enough, consolidating your project information in one place will make the process more efficient, transparent and ultimately saves time every day for each member of the project.
Tracking numbers such as project budget, the cost to date for the project, cost of project resources and remaining budget are some of the numbers that are essential for project management for engineers to track actively. Knowing the numbers will allow you to adjust plans and minimize or eliminate cost overruns toward the end of the project.
Budgets are initial estimates, but many outside factors influence actual spend on a project. By tracking project numbers actively, you can adjust the budget of each task to fit the overall budget of the project. This may involve cutting back on services or putting more resources on high-risk tasks. But without tracking the numbers, the actual cost drifts further from the initial budget and increases the chances of cost overruns. Each extra cost in a project comes directly from your profit margin or by asking your client for more money. As the project plan changes, project numbers change, tracking these numbers helps to manage expectations and keep the project profitable.
Similar to consolidating information, creating a repeatable process will save you and your team time, which can then be invested elsewhere. In most cases, project management for engineers can be divided into similar processes that need to get done from project to project. Having a project template that incorporates all of the standard processes and tasks for you, saves from the project management team having to manually organize these tasks.
By creating an easy to follow project template that has common tasks predetermined, you are not starting a new project from a blank canvas. Your employees will know what deliverables are expected of them, and your project management team can focus on the important deliverables of the project, instead of the repeatable processes. This template will cut down on time needed to get the project going and the processes within the template can be tweaked over time to better fit your team and how they operate.
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