Why You Should Involve the Team in Planning Cost Management

IT project team assisting the Project Manager to plan cost managementIt was Bill Gates who noted, “The people who resist change will be confronted by the growing number of people who see that better ways are available, thanks to technology.”

In my earlier article, “Why You Should Consider People Aspects when Planning Cost Management”, I discussed several ideas about why our industry has such a poor track record of delivering projects successfully. These included such thoughts as overly demanding client organizations that don’t understand what it takes to deliver a project to meet their requirements, competitors willing to “low-ball” their cost estimates to get the win, or project team members that have a hero complex and are ready to sacrifice all for the sake of delivering according to the estimated schedule.

However, I’m wondering if there might also be another culprit – fear. Project Managers who have planned and executed projects over the years in a certain way, being afraid that if they change anything they may fail. Or, Project Managers who fear change itself, even if it might promise better results. They may be skilled at convincing their client organizations that their Cost Management Plan was correct, and therefore any deviations must be the client’s problem and subject to Change Requests. Or they may be experienced in persuading project team members to give it their all to complete the project, even at great personal sacrifice.

Sooner or later that power of persuasion will fail, and with it the project. Client organizations are becoming savvier regarding IT providers’ project management tactics. Younger delivery staff are less willing to put their lives on hold to execute the proverbial “death march” to complete the project. Every Project Manager who has ever tried to rescue a failing project, and even those who have not been in this situation, need to step back and survey the damage that could be done by resorting to older paradigms.

The time to do so may be in the project cost management knowledge area of project planning. This is the point where the Cost Management Plan is developed, costs are estimated, and the project budget set.

As a reminder, here are some statistics that demonstrate our industry’s track record in delivering projects:

  • more than 40% of IT projects go over budget,
  • half of the projects are not delivered on time,
  • 30% do not fully meet the clients’ objectives, and
  • one in seven are not actually completed.

At one time, such a dismal track record could be partially excused because the idea of professional project management was a new concept. But not anymore.

We have tools and technology.

We have process.

We have certifications.

But we also have resistance to change. And we have fear.

We have Project Managers who fear that if they change anything, they will incur more work and cost. They fear that if they reveal or relinquish any of their “secret sauce” of estimating projects to their team members, they will incur more risk and more chance of project costs and timelines being over-estimated.

As Bill Gates implied in the above quote, these old curmudgeon Project Managers must be aware of the growing number of delivery experts who are exploring better ways of planning projects, with the promise of better overall results.

Tool and technology are good and getting better. Process and certifications in process are providing for tighter methods of deliver. But those who plan project cost management with the people aspects in mind will have the greatest success.

So, again referencing my previous article (“Why You Should Consider People Aspects when Planning Cost Management”):

  • What of the client organizations who do not understand project delivery and demand impossible timelines?

    Educate them! Some of the greatest successes I witnessed in my career occurred when our team was able to meet with the client prior to their letting the bid, to explain to them what should be expected from their IT provider.

  • What of the rogue bidder who “low-balls” their estimates to get the win?

    Let them! After one or two failures because of their low bids, they won’t be competing much anymore.

  • What of the project team that has a hero complex and is willing to sacrifice all for the sake of the project delivery?

    Stop them! The road to delivery completion (both success and failure) is littered with the hero-bodies of burned out delivery staff. This is becoming somewhat less an issue as Millennials and Gen-Z team members put more value on balancing work and life than did prior generations.

Planning cost management is not all about crunching the numbers. The Project Manager’s job to lead the team to success, to inspire team members to work together, and to solicit ideas for improving delivery process brings a collaborative element to the project that helps ensure greater chance for success. Project staff are closest to the day-to-day challenges of project delivery and have much to offer to the development of the Cost Management Plan. Those who have just come off another project have the freshest view of successful delivery methods.

Paying attention to the people aspects of project management, even while planning the cost management of the project, is essential to the eventual success of the project.

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