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Who doesn’t like finishing projects on time or even before their deadlines? Adherence to timelines gives you that sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. But how often do you really get to achieve that?
You may sign off on a project, allocate resources, commence work, and finish it, but there may still be “special” requests your clients may want you to fulfill. Requests can be raised at any point during the project, even when the work is at the completion stage. Can you deny them? Probably not, unless client satisfaction is not your priority.
The reality is, no matter how well you plan, these ad-hoc requests will keep cropping up. What’s the best way to deal with them? Create an action plan.
This guide looks at everything you need to know about ad-hoc projects and requests. It includes insights to empower you to handle ad-hoc projects better in the future.
What Are Ad-hoc Projects?
Ad-hoc projects are unexpected client requests that can pop up even when you are fast asleep. They impact not just you, but your teammates, who may have to put aside their current tasks to take on the ad-hoc work. Moreover, your team may have to put in 2-3 times the effort, since such requests often need urgent attention.
Ad-hoc requests usually result from mismanagement or roadblocks that stall projects. Ad-hoc requests can also be a consequence of failing to set appropriate expectations and deadlines. Or, requests can result from such things as changes to personnel, budget, etc.
Personal and emergency issues can also lead to ad-hoc requests. Considering them part of the territory when managing projects will help you come to terms with reality.
Why Are Ad-hoc Projects Exceptional?
Ad-hoc requests are not the standard projects you will execute. They arise out of the blue and usually have urgent deadlines. Here are some other things that make them unique.
You will not need to scratch your head much to get started with ad-hoc tasks. There will likely be very few or no approvals required to proceed. The scope of work will also be less.
Shorter Time Span
As the turnaround time will be shorter, deadlines will be on the shorter side. The task duration could be from a few days to weeks, based on complexities.
No Resource Stretch
You will usually not need a large resource pool to address ad-hoc requests. However, you may need a few specialist hands to ensure there are no hiccups.
Best Practices to Deal With Ad-hoc Projects
An unexpected client request may take you by surprise. Sudden requests can also put you off gear, necessitating careful planning. Here are some tips to help you meet ad-hoc requests successfully.
Follow Your Project Management Practices
Ad-hoc requests should not mean that you skip your regular project management practices. Get formal permission before proceeding, as the stakeholders will remain accountable for progress. Once you have approvals in place, you’ll need to gain an understanding of the nuances of the task at hand.
For example, what are the project goals? How many resources are required? How soon do you need to deliver? Answering these questions will help you schedule the project’s tasks and allocate resources. Be prepared to take your team into your confidence to ensure the successful completion of the request.
Understand the Complications
Ad-hoc projects are an addition to the existing workload of your team. While these requests are deadline-critical, there could be other priority tasks for everyone. Understand whether you have the time and the expertise to meet the request in a short timeframe.
Though most ad-hoc requests aren’t complex, understanding the finer nuances will help. Keep in mind all execution factors, like your team’s bandwidth, and see how well you can prioritize the ad-hoc request.
Track Ad-hoc Requests
Every ad-hoc request should be recorded in your project management tool. Such requests, if unaccounted for, can give a misleading picture about resource utilization when you tally everything at the end of the month, quarter, or year. Keeping a record of ad-hoc tasks also promotes better transparency and accountability for everyone.
You may not necessarily remember everything a few months down the line. Accounting for such requests will thus help you understand the contribution of different team members. You can also identify a few star performers who do well with meeting ad-hoc requests. Training them for advancement in their role will help you in the long run.
Select Your Best Resources
Not everyone needs to be a part of your ad-hoc projects. These requests require special skills that only a few possess. Choose the team members who are good at communication and collaboration. However, ensure that you are not overburdening someone who already has a lot on their plate.
You may also think of removing current work from employees and having them focus on the ad-hoc project. You may need people who can get the job done while keeping everyone informed about the progress and addressing hiccups.
Keep Yourself Open to Ad-hoc Requests
Businesses often avoid addressing ad-hoc requests because they don’t believe they are a priority. However, critical ad-hoc issues do arise from time to time. By not meeting these requests, you may disappoint the client and end up losing business in upcoming quarters. Therefore, always consider every request, and determine whether dismissing each is worth it.
You can better address ad-hoc requests if you plan for them in advance. Planning will also make them less disruptive for your business.
How to Prepare in Advance for Ad-hoc Requests?
Here are some tips to help you address ad-hoc requests without hitting the panic button.
Create Project Request and Approval Mechanisms
You should execute ad-hoc requests just like regular projects. There’s no way you can ditch your standard process unless you prefer chaos. When you receive such requests, move them to your project management tool. This will help you organize and prioritize the workload for your teams.
Keeping a record of the task will allow you to track essential details like progress and deadlines, and will give you an overview of the request. As a result, you will have much more clarity, and everyone will be on the same page.
Set Aside Time for Such Requests
Creating packed schedules will not leave you with any room for ad-hoc tasks. Set aside some free hours for your team that can help you during emergencies. If you leave some slack in schedules, you’ll find it much easier to address last-minute requests without burning out your employees.
Use Resources Wisely
We’ve already discussed why you do not need everyone for an ad-hoc request. However, ensure that you do not fall short of resources. It will only lead to delays as existing team members may not be able to finish their work on time. Having the right balance is critical, which you can achieve with project management tools.
Improve Team Collaboration
You will not achieve anything unless you have a collaborative team that works toward the common goals. Your team culture will have a large impact on how you execute projects. Top-notch communication across the department is another critical aspect you need to consider. Using collaboration tools will help your team.
Tracking Ad-hoc Projects
You may think ad-hoc requests are small, one-time activities that you can ignore monitoring and tracking. However, think again, as they could reveal hidden insights and patterns that help you plan better in the future. Here are some advantages of tracking ad-hoc projects.
The same of problems often repeat themselves. Tracking ad-hoc projects will help you identify patterns and connect the dots to reveal the exact issues. For example, your software development team may frequently be involved with ad-hoc projects. Tracking their time and activities will help you understand areas for improved efficiency.
Improve Resource Utilization
It should concern you if ad-hoc changes are requested at a high frequency, such as if your software development team is getting more than a few such requests each month. If that’s the case, it’s probably time to revisit your processes and understand where the team is lacking.
Ad-hoc requests present an excellent opportunity for you to reflect on and improve your processes. Identifying potential risks will also help you limit ad-hoc requests in the future.
Charging for Ad-hoc Projects
You should already have formal contracts when you work on bigger client projects. However, related ad-hoc tasks will require you to charge based on work done. Some clients may want you to work for free on such tasks, but you may need to approach billing based on complexities and scope of work. Here are some best practices to keep in mind when charging for ad-hoc projects.
Specify Your Charges Clearly
Ensure that you communicate the charges for ad-hoc projects clearly to the client. Charges should not come as a surprise to them when you share their invoice. Decide the pricing based on the scope of work and resources you will need on the project. If you have revised your rates since a previous project, communicate that to the client. Whatever your rates are, get them approved before commencing work.
List the Terms of Engagement
Specify the working terms and conditions, including deadlines, and get them approved. Follow this process, no matter how small the work is. It will help you set clear expectations with the client.
Specify Invoicing Duration
Communicate to the client how and when you will invoice for the ad-hoc projects. Charges may be part of your overall invoice or a separate invoice, based on your needs. You may follow a monthly or quarterly invoicing system.
Record and calculate the time your resources spend working on ad-hoc projects. This will give you a better picture of resource utilization.
An ad-hoc request might stretch for a few weeks or even get completed in less than an hour. You may think hourly rates will do the job. However, these are not viable for work requiring a shorter duration.
Your software development team may address the issue within 20 minutes. However, the preparatory time and your overhead costs will also need to be considered in the final pricing.
An ad-hoc request may look small to you at the beginning. However, it can slowly become time-consuming if issues arise during its execution. If you do not inform the client about the extra time required, it may hurt your reputation. You may not be able to justify the invoice amount if it seems too high.
It is best to keep the client updated to avoid such issues. This will help the client understand the task’s complexities and they’ll be less likely to question their final bill.
Track and Bill Your Ad-hoc Projects Seamlessly With Replicon
Replicon offers a configurable time tracking system that helps you carry out hassle-free client billing. You can capture projects, apply rates, and invoice accurately on the same platform. Replicon’s time tracking system has an intuitive user interface with advanced options like GPS tracking and geofencing capabilities.
Replicon timesheets are mobile-friendly and help you record project data anywhere, anytime, in just a few clicks. You can review and approve the activities of your team on the go. Backed by the power of AI, Replicon’s time tracking system will help you manage projects with complete ease.