“Project Management is for big companies, we don’t have the resources to do that – everyone here is busy getting the job done,” said the CEO of a reasonably successful, family-owned SME. That was about 5 years ago. These days he’s changed his tune and is into Project Management in a big way. His company is more efficient, costs are down, customer satisfaction was this year measured at 97% and morale is better than ever.
He is in his early 50s, had always been the “hands on” type of manager – reluctant to delegate anything in the belief that no-one could do the job as well as he could and he now accepts that this possessiveness was as frustrating for his staff as it was bad for profitability.
These days he uses Project Managers for everything from individual client briefs, to implementation of IT systems and this year, the move to larger premises. He has allowed me to use his story as an illustration, in return for a degree of anonymity (the reasons for this will be clear by the end of the blog) – so, at his request, let’s call him Ben.
The first half of this story is very common – many SMEs believe that Project Management is for the big companies, something that only larger organisations have the time and capacity for. The second half, Ben’s epiphany, is less common. Many business owners still feel this way.
And for Ben, it wasn’t easy to begin with. He found it hard to delegate, he went through withdrawal symptoms as he loosened his hold of key operational functions – his staff did too, as they accepted more responsibility – they shouldered more risk. According to Ben, these were the 8 key benefits of applying a Project Management structure to his operation. See how many of them would be answer current problems in your organisation.
1. COSTS – Project Management disciplines have kept projects “within budget, without fail”.
2. INTELLIGENT ALLOCATION OF RESOURCES – Allocation of resources, staff and skills is better managed and monitored, reducing cost leakage and staff discontentment.
3. QUALITY – 97% customer satisfaction. By keeping client facing projects “on mission”, Ben’s company is enjoying record retention levels.
4. ON TIME, (almost) ALWAYS – Project Management procedures have allowed for intelligent “chunking” of time, tasks and distribution of resources to the extent that lead times have been reduced. Effective governance of deliverables has lead to early identification of issues that could delay the project allowing for either quick remediation or communication of the delay to the client.
5. NAMED TOUCH-POINT – Communication between all stakeholders and transparency are improved by having a named person with an overall responsibility for project delivery. Clients, team leaders, staff, board members – everyone is kept in the loop and knows where to go for information and decisions.
6. RISK MITIGATION – Drawing upon a wider pool of “on the job” expertise has, in Ben’s words, “steered projects around potholes that previously we’d have driven straight into. We always used to say ‘in hindsight we’d have done this or that’ … Project Management is as close as you get to foresight.”
7. BETTER SEIZING OF OPPORTUNITIES – Often better processes and systems are indentified by Project Managers, who rather than being mired in the day to day management of tasks and production are leading projects from a higher viewpoint. Huge efficiencies can be made by simply identifying and implementing a better way of doing what you set out to do. Flexibility is one of the key strengths of your Project Management Office.
8. FUTURE PROOFING – The Project Management Office becomes a library of information that can be referenced on future projects, creating a viral spread of efficiencies across all aspects of the business – right now and on future projects.
It is that last point that excites our friend Ben the most, and is the reason for the cloak of anonymity. Five years ago, the business was reasonably successful, but the writing was on the wall, costs were spiralling, bigger players were eating into his clientele, his company’s structures and systems were out of date and struggling to meet customer expectations. His staff clocked in and clocked out but didn’t really leave much of their DNA on the business. The medium term future was a worry – the long term future was a bleak projection at best.
Now I’m not saying that Project Management is the difference between success and extinction for your business, but it can be the path to greater efficiency and agility. Projects that are managed, are projects that can be measured and projects that are measured, are the ones with the greatest chance of coming in on time and within budget. If you still think that Project Management is just for the big boys, accept this challenge.
Start with something small, delegate Project Management responsibility for organising a client event, or the ordering of cleaning supplies or saving money on electricity – something that’s not going to impact your business too much – measure the improvements in morale, staff ownership of roles and tasks, work out percentage cost savings and imagine them across your whole business, take time to enjoy the new control and transparency over simple deliverables and visualise the impact such improvements would have on your core systems and services.
Who knew Project Management could stir such excitement? If after doing this and identifying the benefits you are still reluctant to apply this approach to your key activities – look into the exciting new ways that you can buy in Project Management as a Service. As your business expands, its budgets, projects, resources, teams, challenges and opportunities grow too and they’re usually not in neat bordered silos – they intersect and impact each other like ripples in a lake during a rain storm.