How to Scope and Manage a Project Budget — Tips from a Master PM

Lesley Lang
Posted: April 25, 2019

“Operations keeps the lights on, strategy provides a light at the end of the tunnel, but project management is the train engine that moves the organization forward.” — Joy Gumz

So how do you get the train moving and keep it going down the right track?

As someone with an extensive background in project management specific to the learning space since 2003, I’d consider myself a bit of a pro project manager. Today, I’ll walk you through four project management tips I’ve learned from my 16 years of experience keeping Fortune 500 companies on budget and on track to success! Here are my suggestions to manage your project budget efficiently and effectively.

Related: Meet ttc: Lesley Lang

1. Take Your Time to Determine the Project Requirements and Scope

The desires and expectations of the project stakeholders define the project. Sometimes what stakeholders say they need or want in a project is not as simple as it seems, so be sure to put in as much time as is required to get a deeper understanding of what they expect. If you take the time to do it right the first time, you won’t have to do it over! A solid grasp on true expectations will mean a firmer budget scope, less chance of scope creep, and costs that are based on accurate requirements.

Some basic questions to ask when determining project scope should be:

  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How will you measure success?
  • What are the constraints?

2. Manage Client Expectations

As we identified in tip #1, everything is defined by the stakeholders’ expectations. Mismatched expectations can still lead to a successful project that is on time and on budget, but ultimately — an unhappy client. So how do you avoid this? Be sure everyone involved has the same view and understanding of the project! Ensure project requirements are not only understood, but also documented and communicated.

Related: 8 Things You Can Do to Create Better Documentation

One way to ensure understanding of the project and its requirements is a detailed calendar view of all meetings, reviews, and approval milestones for each deliverable. Whatever the format — be sure the documentation is easily accessible for all team members.

3. Keep Everyone Informed and Accountable

One of the first steps at the project start should be deciding on the best way to communicate and how often. Every project team has different needs — and whatever decisions are made about how to communicate, there should be an opportunity to keep the team up to date about the scope and progress on a frequent basis. Regular meetings and status updates will ensure that the team is informed, and an informed team is a team that can make course corrections faster when needed.

4. Revisit, Review, and Reforecast the Project Budget

Budget oversight is a fundamental task that is essential to keep the project train moving forward. A weekly review of progress will ensure you and your team stay on top of deliverables that may need to be reviewed and rescoped. It will also answer other questions….do you need to add more resources or revise the project timeline? All projects come with surprises, and they are much easier to manage when they come up if you stay on top of the data. If you implement this into your weekly routine, it won’t take long to do!

It takes some masterful maneuvering to keep the train going full steam ahead and on the right track with project scope and budget. Even if you go off the tracks, you can course correct and not completely derail if you have followed these four steps.

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