How to Keep Your Projects Financially Fit

I received a Fitbit as a gift. “Fitbit tracks every part of your day — including activity, exercise, food, weight, and sleep — to help you find your fit, stay motivated, and see how small steps make a big impact.”

Keep Your Projects Financially Fit

Keep Your Projects Financially Fit

After using the Fitbit for about three weeks, I’ve discovered it works. How?

First, I see my performance — the number of steps, activity levels, and sleep — throughout the day. Fitbit even offers notifications for when I’m not active for long periods of time. This alone keeps me motivated.

Second, the Fitbit syncs to my iPhone Fitbit app where I can monitor trends. I can see if I’m going to bed and getting up at a consistent time, how many calories I’m burning, and how many days in a row that I’ve exercised.

Third, I can track my progress against my personal goals (e.g., run three days per week and walk three days per week).

Fourth, you can (I haven’t yet) even add friends into your circle to track progress, receive encouragement, and have a friendly competition.

Let’s look for ways to monitor and control our cost more intentionally.

4 Ways to Control Cost and Keep Your Projects Financially Fit

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), the Control Cost process “is the process of monitoring the status of the project to update the project costs and managing changes to the cost baseline.” It goes on to say, “the key benefit…is that it provides the means to recognize variance from the plan in order to take corrective action and minimize risk.”

1. Make Your Cost Visible

The project manager and the project team need to be able to SEE their cost performance on an ongoing basis. If the information is hidden, bad things are likely to happen. Day by day, step by step, the team will likely drift from the project’s planned value.

As a part of your risk management, you can set different cost thresholds (e.g., yellow light, red light). If you hit the warning/yellow light threshold (e.g., between 5 and 10% cost variance), notify your sponsor and team and determine the corrective actions. When you have a red light variance (e.g., greater than 10%), it’s time for more significant actions.

2. Watch Your Trends

Whether you use Earned Value Management (EVM) or not, monitor your trends. Develop a method of collecting and presenting the cost trends over time.

3. Compare Expenses to Your Cost Baseline

When we determine the budget, we create a cost baseline that supports the financial goals of the project. On a regular basis, we compare our actual expenses to the cost baseline to determine the amount of variance. It’s much easier to make minor adjustments along the way than to make huge changes all at once.

4. Ask Someone to Help You

Remember with the Fitbit; you can add a friend to track and hold you accountable. Guess what? That principle works here too! Find someone — a peer, an accountant, a boss, or someone from the PMO — who can help you, particularly for high-profile projects.

Take Action

I have a word of warning about these tips. Some people do not like transparency. Their fear is that someone may see their lack of performance and that there will be personal consequences. Furthermore, the thought is that if we can keep things hidden long enough, we’ll have time to recover. Rarely ever happens, does it? We delay the consequences, and they are typically bigger.

If this is your culture’s mindset, be sensitive and wise about how you approach these steps for being financially fit. Look for ways to create an environment of trust.

Do you have a project is that is overweight and needs a diet and exercise plan? What is one simple step that you will take to better control costs?

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