It is not news that the global economic outlook remains gloomy but the knock-on effect in many major projects is that budgets are still being seriously impacted. Project managers are being expected to achieve similar end results on lower budgets, which means fewer people and/or less time. This situation seems unlikely to change for some time.
In such an economic climate, organisations are naturally looking at ways to improve efficiency but, conversely, the only way to achieve efficiency savings is by embarking on a project to change business processes or develop new, more efficient products and tools. And such projects are also being subjected to cost-cutting measures.
So what is the solution to meeting project expectations whilst financially constrained?
Your ability to deliver successful projects is probably being further hampered by cutbacks to your experienced team members. So you are struggling to deal with project requests with a shrinking budget and a limited number of project team members.
But fear not – there are some ways to still deliver successful projects in the face of slashed budgets:
Focus on Visible Improvements
Try to exert influence over the projects that are approved, with particular focus on those that will quickly and noticeably improve efficiency. Ensure that improvements promised by a project delivery coincide with business objectives and avoid projects with no clear business aim.
Deliver a Business Benefit
It is easy as a project manager to sometimes think that the journey is more important than the destination and get wrapped up in project management processes and while procedures such as those advocated by methodologies such as the APMP from the Association for Project Management can help with efficiency remember the ultimate goal. Never forget that a project will only have value (and only be viewed as successful) if it delivers a clear business benefit (tangible or intangible).
Break The Project Into Deliverable Chunks
If possible, break the project into a number of small, discrete deliverables with each part providing some business benefit. This has two advantages – it shows visible progress, which should encourage continued investment in the project but it also offers some protection should budgets be slashed even further as some benefits will already have been delivered for the money spent.
Champion Small, Simple Projects
Try to gain authorisation for small, simple projects where some of the costs can be borne from existing operating budgets and where risks tend to be lower. This approach will ensure that your project team has the opportunity to deliver improvements and build up confidence in senior executives that projects offer a good return on investement (ROI) even on small budgets.
Use Your Budget Innovatively
There are many ways to reap value for money so when you are planning the project and allocating resources be open to solutions that might seem unconventional – they might just be the creative idea that will deliver success on a shoestring. And, yes, they may also be a risky approach but it is often through risk-taking that new skills or insights are gained. Of course, the risk should be balanced against the predicted benefits and getting that balance right is not always easy.
Streamline existing project processes
With budgets cut to a minimum now is the time to cut waste and improve efficiency. But instead of making people fear for their jobs, encourage positive thinking and new ideas on ways to streamline working practises. Look at developing existing talent through a mentoring system where junior staff can learn from the more experienced and the more experienced staff can gain motivation and enthusiasm by passing on their skills and knowledge.