For consultancy businesses it’s essential that they are able to tightly manage the progress of a project. When every project involves a degree of risk, relevant information needed to manage that risk can’t only be stored in the laptop or head of the project manager. The key is to ensure that the necessary data is available to all, something made possible with the appropriate project management IT solution. The question is, how do you choose the right one?
Here, I look at six crucial areas to think about when investigating this kind of software for your organization:
1. Central information
If all your information on the project is centrally organized, you can manage adjustments quickly and easily, helping in turn to ensure that subsequent problems are avoided.
Managing projects effectively is largely a communication challenge. Communicating with the team, the customer and the rest of the organization. If keeping all stakeholders up to date is has become a full-time job in itself, that’s not going to benefit the project as a whole.
By creating a central store of information that’s genuinely accessible, you make sure that all the people in your organization who need information can find it with the minimum of effort. It could also be sufficient to merely steer people to a non-centralized location where information is stored. However, if this is your approach, think carefully about how you’ll control who gets access to what.
Projects of course also involve planning: people, materials, agreements and deadlines. This should ideally be managed in a way that ensures everyone has access to those plans and fully understands what needs to happen when. That means that the planning genuinely has to be a component of the wider organization. Leave of absence requests, for example, should not be registered somewhere else. In the ideal situation, a consultant should also be able to confirm his completed hours based on the planning entries, without having to complete further manual administration. That dramatically decreases the barrier to timely hour entry throughout the business.
4. Financial administration
Ultimately, the results of your project find their way to your finance department. That’s where the practical results of your work are converted into an effect on your business’ bottom line. Invoicing a project on the hours worked results in cost and revenue entries being created. When you work with an integrated solution, this can happen automatically. When you don’t, the bookkeeping and invoice administration processes need to be managed separately. This not only equals more work, but leaves you open to mistakes when information needs to copied between systems by hand.
Laying down project information costs a lot of time. As such, it’s a pity when that information can’t be used immediately in useful business reporting. None the less, there are still a lot of organizations that invest a lot of time trying to uncover and combine data that’s already been stored into business critical KPIs.
As such, think about integrated reporting and analytics possibilities – functionality that ensures the information you do record can easily been explored and manipulated into value-adding insight. That will save you double work.
Entering realized hours is still the Achilles heel for many consultants – that ‘must do’ that’s continually put off to the last possible moment. But who still knows after a month exactly what they actually did with their time? That one hour spent on an extra report one evening, that morning in the office where one unexpected extra task came through? Consultants that have the possibility to enter their hours via mobile devices, on the move, on location, have a much better chance of creating accurate, sufficiently detailed submissions. The result? A clearer overview of the business thanks to a more accurate record of what’s actually been done.
Project managers are busy. Managing projects well is not something that’s just done. That’s why it’s so important that business software supports proper collaboration and the sharing of information. Make life easier not only for your project managers, but for your consultants and finance people as well. Choose a project management solution that’s as integrated with as many of your other business processes as possible. That’s how you’ll avoid double work, and help your projects stay on course to deliver profitability and happy customers.