Sound Scheduling: Keep Your Projects from Going Sideways – Part 2
By Amy Champigny, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Deltek
Common scheduling challenges and the impacts of these pitfalls on both individual projects and a company’s bottom line were outlined in part one of this series. They illustrate both the complexity involved in creating and managing effective schedules and their importance. You are certainly not alone if you have experienced any of these difficulties, but I now challenge you to take it a step beyond just acknowledging that issues exist. Are you able to pinpoint the root causes? For many, it is a result of relying on outdated, insufficient scheduling solutions. Or worse yet, not having a formal scheduling tool at all.
Championing change can feel like an overwhelming undertaking, but following these steps will help streamline the scheduling software evaluation, selection and implementation process and put your organization on the path to future success.
Step #1: Evaluate Where You Are
It will be ineffective to select tools and update processes without first evaluating the current state of your business. What tools are you using? What processes are in place? Do they make sense? It is important to remember that just because something has “always been done a certain way” doesn’t automatically mean that it is correct or the most efficient. Be open minded to new ways of doing work.
Step #2: Outline Your Needs
Once you have taken time to thoroughly assess existing tools and processes it is time to begin outlining your needs. Some important questions to ask during this phase are:
1) Where does your current solution fall short?
2) What do you need in a new tool?
3) Is there a specific project management methodology the solution should be compatible with?
4) Who in the organization will use the software and what does their position require from the tool?
When asking these questions it is imperative to not look only to the immediate future, but through the lens of long-term growth. All too frequently organization make changes or select tools that satisfy current needs, but fail to take future growth/plans into account and as a result have to start the process over again several years later.
Also, make certain the determination of must haves and decisions aren’t being made in a silo. Including team members who will be impacted by changes in these conversations will not only help identify needs that might have otherwise been overlooked, but will also go a long way toward future buy-in when the new tool is implemented.
Step #3: Evaluate Options
Now that you have an inclusive outline of your company’s needs, it is time to begin evaluation process. To start, cast a wide net to ensure you do not miss lesser-known tools, but you should still be able to whittle the list down to three or so potential top scheduling solutions fairly quickly. Once you have confirmed these can meet your requirements, are compatible with the way your teams do work and have most of the features you are looking for, it is important to then take the evaluation beyond the “bells and whistles” and consider two areas.
The first is the total cost of ownership, including the cost of the software and implementation costs in the initial period. As nice as it would be to make decisions without having to factor in cost, the business reality is that this is an important aspect to identify and one that can cause issues down the road if not a part of the evaluation process.
The second is to take the time to really understand the vendors and the extent they are willing and able to become a trusted partner to your business. This is a consideration that is often overlooked, yet has a large impact on long-term success beyond just how the software functions.
Step #4: Implementation
After final vendor selection, the next step is the software implementation and the change management involved. The challenges surrounding change management is one of the leading reasons individuals are hesitant to make software changes, but considering the following best practices when developing your plan will go a long way toward ensuring success.
Build the right team
Implementation is not something that should be executed by a single person. Make certain to involve a core team that includes a mix of subject matter experts, end users and stakeholders in the process. The buy-in and support from these champions will be invaluable in getting others on board.
Create communications plan
Consider how these changes will be communicated to all internal stakeholders in step with the implementation. Having a well thought out, cohesive message and story around the selection and changes being made will help to generate excitement and drive momentum toward faster adoption of the new tool.
Fail fast and adjust
Even with a strong implementation and communication plan in place, there will inevitably be bumps along the way. That is okay. The important thing is to make certain everyone is kept informed and the core team is able adjust as quickly as possible to get back on course.
Benefits of Sound Scheduling Practices
So, your organization is committed to investing in a new scheduling solution and processes and a solid plan is in place to implement. After all of this hard work what changes should you expect to see? The benefits are very similar to the negative effects brought about by poor scheduling in part one, but instead of being challenges they become opportunities for growth and valuable means to differentiate your organization from the competition.
With sound scheduling practices in place you can gain a true picture of where activities will land and be proactive about making adjustments with accurate predictions of delays and completion.
By creating accountability and improving schedule maturity through optimization your team will be able to deliver more projects on time and within budget. As a result, you will be able to protect, and even grow, project profit margins.
With key scheduling information at your fingertips, communicating with stakeholders early and often becomes much easier and will positively impact customer satisfaction and loyalty. Can you say the same about your competition? If not (and chances are good the answer is no), then it is much more likely these customers/owners will turn to your team for future business.
For a deeper dive into the importance of scheduling and additional tips and tricks I encourage you to watch the on-demand webinar Sound Scheduling: The Keystone of Project Success. Also, check out Deltek Virtual Insight 2020 to discover how Deltek’s Project & Portfolio Management suite, including our industry-leading scheduling tool, Open Plan, can help drive peak project performance.
About the Author
Amy Champigny is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Deltek who works with government contractors, architecture & engineering firms and consulting firms around the world. Amy helps improve their business processes through technology and thought leadership with resources like Deltek Clarity and Deltek’s leading project-based software solutions. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.
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