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Without a doubt, how services/product organizations plan and execute their projects is a major factor in how well they grow. Though it sounds simple, making project plans, prioritizing specific projects, ensuring you have adequate resources, and managing a portfolio in real-time requires a lot of oversight across the organization. We spoke with some of our customers, analysts and our product team on how they plan and prioritize projects, and found a few standout best practices for different phases of a project:
- Almost everyone we spoke with mentioned that they looked at historical metrics around hours, cost, and resources for all the bidding, planning, and prioritization of projects and programs. This helped organizations come up with accurate first estimates based on all the work they had done previously.
- Another interesting tidbit was the fact that many of our customers looked at their project capabilities and employee capabilities in determining which projects would make the most sense to go after. This process of prioritization involved metrics like on-time project delivery, budgets and schedule overruns, and employee skills among other things.
- Even more compelling was how most of these organizations prioritized clients. All of us have heard of Pareto analysis or the 80/20 principle. Project teams use this or similar prioritization techniques to manage their customers and determine which of these relationships will be longer term and meaningful. The idea is to work with clients who show great potential, are really happy with the service, or are critical to the business.
- When the project is mid-flight, project managers mentioned that they needed real-time visibility into status and actual performance against estimates. This helped them make judgment calls on which projects were running great and which of them needed intervention immediately. The real-time understanding of this data was necessary to make proactive decisions.
- A major consideration here for managers was getting the most out of their valuable project resources and having them spend most of their time on projects or other productive tasks. Global resource utilization or billable utilization was the metric that was used to determine how efficiently the resources were being deployed and utilized. You would want your most skilled resources mapped to more critical projects to ensure desired quality is delivered on these. A best practice is to establish a benchmark and a precise definition around utilization and use that to manage project allocations.
- Finally, businesses wanted to be able to have a feedback loop from the ongoing projects into the planning phase as that would determine the requirements to meet pipeline needs including planning for resources, schedules, and budgets.