Good tips to keep projects on track and on budget.
Is your project a disaster? Budget blown? Everybody lost motivation? Yep, that can happen! Actually, it happens more than one might imagine. About 70% of all software projects are over budget and beyond schedule. Actually, that's probably true of most engineering projects. That's because these types of projects contain a high percentages of unknowns. I.e. new territory that the engineers are unsure of, or don't know exactly how to proceed.
Sometimes in these types of projects, the project manager interviews engineers briefly and then throws out a ship date without any consideration for unknown territory. That's an oversimplification, but one that occurs a lot. Combine this with the fact that engineers don't like to interrogated over task schedules. For them, the task is done when it's done, and not until. Just don't bother me! So it becomes difficult to predict a ship date, which leads to out of control projects. Engineers have to understand and accommodate this scheduling process. Only then can you keep your project on track and under budget.
There is another type of project that is performed over and over again for different clients. In this type of projects, the same basic tasks are repeated for each client. Since the company has a lot of history with the same type of project, they can learn from older ones. By studying past projects, the tasks can become refined, in terms of estimates, sequence, and number of discrete tasks. Using Standard Time® you can duplicate an older project and start with that as a template. After completing several of each project type, your estimates should match your actuals by a small percentage gap. That history keeps your project on track.
This video describes both types of projects. It shows how timesheet hours are collected into the Actual Work field which you can compare with your original estimates. That simple comparison is enormously valuable. You learn a lot about how tasks are executed and how employees work. It doesn't take long to improve your estimation skills based on human input from the timesheet. But without timesheet input, you are flying blind. You are unsure how long tasks actually take, and when different types of tasks will be completed. Employee timesheet are key.
Milestones, which are highlighted in this video, help to evaluate projects as you go along. They are a time for reflection and reevaluation. If you are blowing through half your milestones, then you need to sit down with your team and figure that out. More than likely you are forgetting about half the work involved in the project. That goes back to engineers who don't like to be integrated, and an unwillingness to submit to the tedious process of documenting and scheduling a project.
This is a discipline that take time and patience. You have to analyze your history and learn from past projects. If you don't, you'll keep blowing schedules and burning investor dollars.