How can you justify the gap between the initial estimate and the actual Project when almost all projects developed in the last decade have been done in Agile mode, which is a good thing because short delivery cycles are implemented, which implies a better communication with the Customers.
This management approach works like a charm with IT people who understand the impact of this management philosophy in terms of cost, time, and scope on a project: fixed time and cost with variable scope.
However, while developers and IT teams have a good grasp of the subtleties of Agile, this is far from always being the case for other Managers and Senior Management for whom, everything should be fixed: time, cost, and scope!!!
The secret is in the sauce
And it’s in these moments that the magic of metrics works, allowing a clear and transparent conversation about what has been executed and not just the Remaining Work. Managers are almost always able to understand a justifiable delay when it is well documented and, that is the secret. To illustrate the nomenclature, consider this table:
|justifiable delay||documented||negative but acceptable|
The nature of the Project data
There are two types of data that can be useful in the management of your projects and your client relationships.
There is structured data recorded in the timesheets (hours) which are precise measures allowing to calculate the production capacity associated with tasks and directly affected by the allocation of resources, for example.
And there is unstructured data such as the description of tasks that allows to evaluate the complexity of execution and the time required for these tasks and therefore, to follow the evolution of the project.
We must emphasize the degree of complexity of today’s IT projects, the unexpected integration needs that arise, the multiple departments involved, not to mention the possible and totally unpredictable pitfalls involved in the development of highly complex and powerful software or functions. The fact is that in IT, as the degree of complexity increases, the degree of predictability decreases; that’s a fact.
And what happens when a problem, a difficulty or an unforeseen event occurs in a project? Well, you stop the development and go back to Management & Evaluation mode… and talk to your client.
It is important to communicate with the client to evaluate the situation together: should a parallel project be started to solve this new problem, or should a new task be created to be added to the project? In which case, the delivery date and related costs will have to be re-evaluated.
The need for the right tools
Not only is it very useful to have the right metrics in place for your projects, but it is also important that these metrics draw their data from the right tools such as timesheets, for example, that would have been put in place.
We cannot underestimate the usefulness of a timesheet for service companies, and more than anything, for software development firms. Far from being a coercive measure, the timesheet will provide you with sound data about the performance of employees, the assessment of tasks difficulty and the management of your Projects.
Any Manager will appreciate a tool dedicated to Expense Management, as well. Such a tool should allow him to automatically associate any expense made within the framework of a Project (travel, rent, equipment, per diem, etc.) to the Project or, even better, to a specific task of a Project. This is the kind of tool that will save you a lot of heated discussions with your clients and maybe save you a Client Relationship from time to time!
Any Expense Management tool should allow the export of expense data to an Invoicing tool or else it should be integrated to your Invoicing tool.
Another tool that is equally useful for the Services company is, of course, the Resource Planning tool. This tool will greatly assist you in managing your execution capacity. It will allow you to clearly see the availability of your different resources over time and thus better plan the resources required for each Project over time.
And finally, is it necessary to remind the necessity of a Project Planning tool for all companies that manage… Projects?
In summary, here is what we consider a winning combination of tools for the Service Business Manager:
Timesheet + Expense Management + Billing + Resource & Project Planning
And this winning combination of integrated software tools do exist, it is called eMalaya.
In short, when everything is clear, it usually reads black and white. And there is nothing like good metrics supported by good tools to maintain good Client Relationships.