Project-based companies live or die by how they manage their projects. Chances are you already have a project management software or process in place, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely safe from some unexpected hiccups along the way.
Here are four of the most common mistakes in project management and how WORKetc can help you avoid them.
Putting the Wrong Person in Charge
Any project management software is only as good as the people who use it, and if the designated project manager isn’t up to snuff there’s not much the system can do to save a project from failing. Thus, it falls to company leadership to make sure that their projects are placed in capable hands.
WORKetc’s Reports and Smartlists let you collate the data you need to evaluate your team members’ performance on previous projects for possible project management roles in the future. You can check past timesheets to measure productivity or just see whether someone is currently assigned to any projects.
As the name suggests, Timesheet reports are very useful when you want to check employee timesheets. Different reports let you see different data: you can check a list of total hours per activity, see timesheet data per project or per day, even review time logged per client, including hours and amounts per individual employee.
Smartlists, on the other hand, give you finer control for when you want to slice and dice the data even further. You can, for example, create a smartlist that shows all projects tagged “Graphic Design” and “Print Campaign” with a budget greater than $1,000 on which a specific employee worked.
Let’s say you’re choosing between two members of your in-house graphic design team, Terry and Grace, to head an upcoming big-budget print-only marketing project. You create smartlists that show all past print-only projects that each of them has done with budgets close to the one set for your upcoming project.
The data show that Terry has only handled a project with a budget as big as this new one twice, while Grace already has experience with three such projects. Upon checking the individual projects, however, you discover Terry’s projects were always delivered well within budget and on time. Grace, meanwhile, had gone over budget and delivered a couple of days late on her last two projects, so you decide to give Terry the job.
So now you have your project manager. Time to start the project, right? Wrong! First, you have to make sure that everyone involved in the project understands all of the project requirements as well as its scope. Everything about the project might immediately make sense to your new project manager Terry, but does your new graphic designer John understand it?
A kickoff meeting is perfect for checking if everyone is on the same page. WORKetc’s “attach anything to anything” approach will help make sure that they are. Simply attach all of the pertinent information to the main project—images, design briefs, all email correspondence between your team and the client, team discussions—and your team can be assured that any information it might need can easily be found with a few clicks.
This is the approach used by one of our clients, the animation studio EVCL, to manage its multi-city animation team, which has some members who work remotely. EVCL founder and project lead Adamu Waziri explains that it’s proven particularly useful whenever team members need to find and use numerous assets to create a scene.
“For instance, somebody needs to do a scene,” he said. “For that they’ll need a character rig, they’ll need a sound file which the voice actor has recorded, and then maybe reference pictures for the scene, etc. We can upload all of these to WORKetc. We have one guy in Kenya, actually, so if he needs something from the guys in Lagos, he can simply check if it’s already in WORKetc.”
Any updates to the project made past the kickoff meeting can also be easily appended to the information that’s already there. If a client emails you with a brand new list of approved colors for its logo redesign project, for example, you can use the Gmail or Outlook add-ins to quickly attach that email to the right project. The design team working on the project can immediately be notified of the changes.
Making sure that project deadlines are clear is also key. Here, the Project module’s Gantt chart view will prove indispensable. It gives your team a clear graphical view of the project schedule, letting it quickly see exactly when each deliverable is due.
OK, so now everybody knows their tasks and they have easy access to all the information they need. Your team members can now go about doing their specific jobs, but without proper and effective communication between you, your team members, and your client, your project can still go down in flames.
You can mitigate misunderstandings by using WORKetc’s built-in Discussions tool. You can start and attach threaded forum-style Discussions from just about any item in WORKetc. If you need a reply from a specific team member, you can set a Reply Request. Once a thread no longer involves you, you can choose to hide it at your own discretion.
The Discussions tool also helps cut down on the amount of email you receive. Massive back-and-forth email chains clutter up your inbox and can be hard to track—a problem that English Garden Group was able to solve using WORKetc.
“Our biggest problem was inbound communication, keeping the right group of people up to date with what’s going on,” said English Garden Group director James Hartley. “The only way to keep track of things before was with cumbersome email chains, and when unsure, the only alternative was calling the office and asking everybody.”
“Now, inbound email comes in to the platform and automatically slots into the projects, updating everybody who’s assigned to that project so we can compartmentalize. Nobody sends anything out of this company from a private email inbox anymore. It all goes out from WORKetc so you can always find it, know who’s had what, at what stage each project, lead, or enquiry is at, who said what to whom and what interactions they’ve had.”
As for communication with your client, the Customer Portal will prove invaluable. By giving them access to the Portal, you can let your clients see email correspondence between them and your company, any tasks that have been assigned to them (approving a new design, for example), their project’s activity stream, and even attachments. Your projects can have a high level of transparency.
Sudden Scope Changes
This common issue is closely tied to the “Misunderstood Requirements” section above, but it isn’t limited to the project team not understanding the full scope of a project. Sometimes, the client may want to add or remove target deliverables, or it may expect to get something that isn’t actually included in the project.
These changes can have a massive effect on your estimated completion time and allocated budget. Thankfully, you can keep a close eye on both straight from WORKetc’s Projects module. First off, timesheets and the Budget tab let you accurately track how much time and money you’ve spent on a project. This can help inform you on whether a change in scope can still net you a profit.
For example, your logo design project has an allocated budget of $1,500 for five days’ work. You’ve already sent your client the third of three revisions, but he requests one last revision. You check the Budget tab and see that you’re actually one day ahead of schedule and still well within the allocated budget. Since you’re still making money on the project, you can decide to accept the additional revision without charging extra—just a little added value for a client you want to work with again in the future.
If you don’t have that extra leeway in your project schedule, you can still easily change the current schedule by way of the Gantt Chart. Rescheduling a task is as easy as clicking and dragging, and any future tasks that are dependent on the edited task will automatically be rescheduled as well. Just remember to properly bill for the extra work using the Invoice module.
Finally, you should also make sure that the client is properly briefed on the scope, duration, budget, and deliverables of the project. This is tightly intertwined with client communication, so again, the Customer Portal will prove invaluable. You can add any and all needed project documentation to your WORKetc Knowledge Base and make it accessible to your client via the portal.
As I said before, you can also use the Customer Portal to keep your client updated regarding the project’s progress. This is the method used by Arkieva implementation partner Solventure, whose iterative approach to implementation means it has to communicate closely with its clients.
Any issues with scope and the final invoice can also be mitigated by being as detailed as possible in your final invoice. The WORKetc Invoice module allows you to add detailed line items to your invoices. You can even include images—a very useful feature for product suppliers and design firms.
Brilliant insights – thanks for the tips.
We’ve found the Gantt chart module invaluable to planning our projects. We have set up a number of templates with items that are greyed out until the previous steps are complete. This way anybody looking at the project deliverables needs to understand that once previous items are ticked off – the new ones should not be started. I find this approach extremely useful.
The hardest part for us is getting our customers to actually use the customer portal.They just like to call or email or whatever and we need to keep telling them “please use the support system we already have set up”. I think they just like hearing our voices…
I ensure worketc helps my projects go smoothly by confirming with every department stages of development. The only way to stay on top of customers and their projects is to keep dedicated and consistent notes in the customer accounts. I love to use worketc for its discussions by maintaining the project status and keeping people posted on status.
As an agency, we offer a variety of different projects to clients, and many times clients purchase 3, 4, 5 or more services at once. To make sure all these projects get done in the right order, we have built out individual project templates for each of these services. When we get a new client, we create a blank master project for them. After that is done, we duplicate each of the project templates for the services they bought, attach each of them to the client’s master project, and set the dependencies for each of those projects based on the completion of tasks or subprojects in other projects, or the completion of another project entirely. This allows us to have a continuous stream of tasks and projects weaving in and out of a timeline that can sometimes be 3 months long and requires minimal oversight by a project manager. The trick is just setting up up the inter-project dependencies correctly and then just letting it run.