Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Project Managing Smaller Projects

If we look at the financial value and resources invested in 'Smaller projects' across the globe , we may find it tremendous.

How ever, since the individual value of each project and the number of dedicated persons involved are relatively small, they are often not given the importance which they deserve.

Companies bagging large contracts often split the work and subcontract to smaller contractors, who may even split their work pack again & re-distribute.
So effectively many companies are surviving by doing several smaller contracts.

In this article I want to throw some light on the flaws observed such smaller contracts/projects.
I dont say all the small size projects are failure , but they are often not planned & controlled properly.
(We have enough research work and write up on bigger projects ! so lets take care of the small ones as well .. :) ]
Characteristics of typical 'Small scale projects' are:
  1. Limited staff (Small team size)
  2. Limited resources
  3. Limited attention (From stake holders)
  4. Short duration
Typical 'trends' observed in such projects are :
  1. Skip some steps in the essential '5 Processes'
  2. Poor reporting or no reporting
  3. Extensive delay (mostly due to limited attention)
 One good thing about these kind of projects is, the Project manager will be having complete control and knowledge of the project. Senior people seldom interfere or ask for reports since their attention will be focussed on 'Star Projects' executed by the company.Another feature will be, multi skilling. Single person may be handling multiple responsibilities.How ever this often result in skipping of some of the essential steps in the  project management process(5-Process : Initiation, Planning, Execution, Control & closure)
The most common victim will be planning and closure. Project managers may start the project in hurry, thinking that spending time on planning will be waste. Also , once the project is delivered they assume that the responsibility is over. Even senior management seldom ask for a proper close out report for such projects. Flaws observed in each of the 5 process are:
  1. Initiation
    1. Lack of proper scope study ,often scope statements are not prepared
    2. Project parameters are not fully studied
    3. Project organisation & responsibility assignment (RAM) is not done
  2.  Planning
    1. Schedule is not prepared or schedule with out proper study (Schedule for name-sake or contractual obligation!)
    2. Progress measurement methodology not finalised ("Do we really need to measure progress for this job? It will be finished in 2 weeks time!)
  3.  Execution
    1.  Confusions regarding scope since proper scope study is not done
    2.  Uncertain regarding expected completion
  4.  Monitoring & controlling
    1. Progress figures by mere guess work since no progress measurement system in place
    2. Poor logging (Time sheets, resource utilisation and progress)
    3. We are controlled by project (or rather by destiny!)
  5.  Closure
    1.  No close out reports -> Some how delivered the project , don't want to do the postmortem of my failures("Who asked for the close out report? we cant do that for such smaller projects")
    2. Lessons learned are not recorded -> "Lessons learned ? ya such projects should be given more time to complete. Even the resources were not sufficient !"
Okay, enough ! Now lets do something so that we dont repeat such failures in the future.
Yeah, here we go !

  1. You may be the only guy managing it - but write down your responsibilities. The responsibilities should cater all the '5-Processes'. Make a project organisation chart
  2. Study the scope and write down a brief scope statement (Covering essential things)
  3. Prepare a project plan no matter how small the project is. Lets have a plan , because it is observed that those with a plan are found to be performing better that those without a plan ,even if they seldom stick to the plan ! ;)
  4. Setup a progress measurement mechanism (Eg: Tonnes erected / Total tonnes , Meters erected / Total length ..etc)
  5. Track your resources. Maintain time sheets, record consumption of non-labour resources(This may help you in claims , and future estimations) - Make simple formats for these , or utilise standard company formats.
  6. Prepare weekly progress report & conduct meetings(Updated schedule, an s-curve or atlest a planned% - Actual % comparison, Indicate issues , risks, reason for delays..etc to client or stake holders)  -If you are handling more than 1 such small scale projects , you can club them and conduct a single meeting -  if possible.
  7. Conduct a close out meeting and prepare a brief close out report. Attach as-performed shedule and resource consumption details to the report - The company may be doing more and more such projects. This information will be handy for tendering / cost estimation.
In short , smaller projects also require the '5-Process' for its success, with lesser complexity and size !
Again these are my personal views and things may vary from industry to industry and your postion (Contractor side / Client side) !
I would like to hear what you think about my views.Post comments below.

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