Tag: planning

Do You Work Effectively with Your Procurement Department?

As a project management specialist, getting what you need when you need it is imperative for a successful outcome. This means you have to work closely with your company’s Procurement Department (Purchasing). If you are constantly at odds with the purchasing agents, this can hamper your ability to work effectively. Things don’t have to be this way since your departments share some of the same goals (to stay on track and under budget). Here are 4 possible areas for improvement in communication and collaboration:

Give Early Notice

If you are commencing a large project, the Purchasing Director may need to assign a buyer full time to fulfilling your requisitions. That impacts the manpower available to devote to other tasks. As a professional courtesy, you should keep the Director apprised of the scope of upcoming projects. Don’t simply send over a huge list of required items and services that will take Purchasing by surprise. When buyers have to scramble to get things done, costly mistakes are much more likely.

Plus, you might think an item is available off the shelf when it actually has a 6 week lead time. When you make assumptions, your project may experience unexpected delays. The more information the Procurement Department has up front, the more accurate your overall project management planning will become.

Don’t Make Agreements

Unless you have the authority to spend your employer’s money, never agree to buy anything from a vendor. This applies to verbal statements and written contracts. The number one way to make your Procurement Department angry is by usurping their authority. When they have to go back and renegotiate a deal and break promises you made to a vendor, this makes their job much harder than it should be.

If you do speak with vendors directly, it may be OK to ask for initial price quotes. However, make it clear that you are only doing a preliminary investigation into costs and that a purchasing agent will be in charge of any further discussion. Don’t try to haggle about pricing – you may inadvertently disclose information that should be kept confidential. Experienced buyers know how to finesse vendors and maintain control of the conversation. It is in your best interest to leave negotiations to trained purchasing agents.

Double Check Your Specs

You and your staff members are the experts on what you need to complete your project. This means you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the specifications for the components, equipment, or services you requisitioned are correct.

A good purchasing agent will do his or her best to become conversant in the technical terminology required to discuss your project requirements. However, buyers often handle the procurement of dozens (or hundreds) of different items in an average week. This means there is a limit to how much new knowledge they can absorb. When they buy exactly what you tell them to and it turns out to be the wrong item, you will take the blame for the mistake.

On the other hand, you need to be on the lookout for buyers who substitute a cheaper product in order to get a better price. They may be under pressure to do this to stay within budget – or simply to enhance their next performance evaluation. For critical components, always ask to see the final specs prior to order placement. Make this type of request politely in writing (email is fine) so it will be taken seriously and you will have a copy of the correspondence for your project management records.

Prepare to Defend Your Preferences

The Purchasing Director typically has the final say over which vendor will be awarded a contract or purchase order. If you have a preference for using one vendor over another, you must be able to clearly show how this choice benefits your company. Buyers are expected to be impartial in their decision making process and they expect the same attitude from you.

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Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Planning

In project management, top-down planning gives senior management control of the decision making process. Top-level managers are often reluctant to accept advice or guidance from lower level employees. Therefore, upper management should be specific with their expectations if they want those who aren’t part of the planning process to follow the plan. Often this type of planning, which can invoke fear or rely on incentives, creates problems with motivation and moral.

Some critics might hold that using top down planning in project management is not taking full advantage of talented employees who could have much to offer the project. On the other hand, top down planning allows for the division of a project into steps which can be studied and tasks properly assigned.

With bottom-up planning, a greater number of employees are involved, each with a specialized area of expertise. Team members work together and and take their plans to the next higher level until reaching the senior management level for approval.

Advantages to bottom-up planning is that lower-level employees take a personal interest in the plan which can improve motivation and moral. Though lower-level team members help to develop and implement the plan, it is primarily the project manager’s responsibility to see that the project is completed within budget and on time.

A blend of the two approaches is probably best in most cases. Needs can be determined at the top with accountability falling at lower levels. By combining the vision of senior management with the skills of lower-level team members efficiency and project success are more likely.

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Murphy’s Law and Project Management

Almost everyone knows Murphy’s Law, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” In project management it is no different, but as manager you must decide who is in control, you or Murphy. The tips below could help you stop blaming Murphy and actually, with a little patience and planning, make Murphy your friend.

A good project manager knows that some events are not within your control. It is the way you respond to those events that can make all the difference. When unexpected events occur, it’s natural to feel stressed and the stress is magnified when something happens at an inopportune time. The only way to reduce this stress is to take action and maintain control of the situation. Deal with the problem and laugh in the face of Murphy. Letting problems continue will only cause them to snowball which could mean your project is doomed.

Anticipate the likelihood that things will go wrong during the life of the project and they will probably go wrong at the worst possible time. The best thing you can do as project manager is to plan thoroughly, control internal processes and proactively manage the project.

So the next time you hear yourself blaming Murphy for things that are going wrong think about whether it’s really Murphy at work or just a result of poor planning. It it’s the latter, maybe it’s time to step up your game and if Murphy is the culprit, take action immediately, solve the problem and move on with the project.

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Resource Leveling

One of the most difficult things in project management is making sure that work is allocated equally. The last thing a project manager wants to do is to overload one or more team members while leaving others with too little work to do. The question then is how to make sure each resource has work equivalent to the amount of time available.

First of all, make sure the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is thorough and accurate, listing all resources and activities. Next, identify the most critical tasks and allocate your best resources for that work. By starting with the most important tasks first, the chance for successful project management is more likely. Now it’s time to begin resource leveling.

Check to see how many hours is available per team member for work then determine how many hours have been allocated to each person. If the number of hours allocated is above what is available they are over-allocated. If the opposite is true then there is under-allocation.

Tasks should then be adjusted so that the number of required work hours are equivalent to the number of hours available. Once this has been accomplished the critical project resources have been leveled. Next, do the same with the non-critical tasks.

During project management it is important to closely monitor resource utilization as tasks are completed. It might be necessary to make adjustments in allocations so that the project continues to run efficiently. However, if leveling has been carefully administered, these changes should be minimal.

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