We all have heard a famous adage, “Time is money,” at one point or another in our lives. While it applies to almost every sphere of life in some way or another, it befits a typical business scenario even more.
Especially for a professional service-based company, completing every project on time is vital for winning the client’s trust and maintaining its reputation. Inefficient time management causes a myriad of consequences like billable losses, quality compromise, unprecedented delays, and others.
Research also shows that:
26% of projects fail due to inaccuracy in estimating task completion time, which forms a crucial aspect of time management.
It is, therefore, essential for project managers to be the “champions” of time management. However, even most seasoned project managers may find it tricky to manage time effectively throughout the project lifecycle. Nevertheless, some good strategies combined with the right technology solutions can help overcome time management challenges during a project.
This article explores the importance of time management and its best practices. But first, let’s start by answering,
1. What is Time Management?
Time management is the process of managing the time spent on a project to ensure it adheres to its predefined deadline. It comprises planning, scheduling, tracking, and managing all the project’s activities from start to end. It also encompasses taking corrective actions to eliminate any bottlenecks in real-time to avoid future issues or delays.
The end goal of time management is to finish the project on time and in the best way possible. Thus, project managers aim to develop a foolproof plan that dedicates a set timeframe to individual tasks and keeps resources informed of their deadlines. It allows managers to manage tasks better and complete projects on time within the set budget.
2. Importance of Managing Time in Projects
Projects are mostly bound by a fixed time limit and budget. So, it is of utmost importance for project managers to aim for zero waste of time, ideally. Typically, the company and client sign an agreement with all the terms and conditions laid down for the project. These terms and conditions are rigid, and you can’t change them after you sign the agreement and start off.
These contractual obligations make it mandatory for project managers to streamline time management. Failing to manage a project’s timeline well can lead to missed deadlines, increased costs, and severe repercussions like project cancellations or legal penalties. Hence, time management is indispensable for time-boxed and budget-bound projects.
3. Effective Time Management Strategies for Project Managers
1. Allow Sufficient Time to Prepare a Project Plan
A project plan forms the foundation of your entire project. Hence, don’t be in a hurry while devising it. Instead, put your best foot forward in deciding the flow of the project. It’s because giving very little time to your project plan can pose unprecedented challenges like a shortage of resources, last-minute hiring, and more. They can deteriorate the quality of tasks, delay them, or even stall the entire project.
Also, refrain from giving too much time to preparing your plan to end up leaving little time for actual project execution. It can lead to myriad consequences like accidental missing out on critical aspects, negative impact on the project’s schedule, and missed deadlines.
“Dedicate neither too much time nor too little time to creating your project plan. Always aim for a fine balance between the two.”
2. Track Tasks Regularly and Ensure Timely Completion
Once you have your project’s plan in place, the execution begins. However, project managers sometimes fail to keep a tab on the progress of tasks in real-time and foresee possible issues. As a result, it leads to an overall delay in meeting the deliverables.
Real-time task tracking helps ensure the project progresses per the plan and gives insights into the potential issues that can cause significant disruptions in the entire project flow at a later stage. Accordingly, you can take proactive and corrective measures to mitigate these risks before they become issues.
One needs to give special attention to the tasks which are there in the critical path as they have a direct implication on the overall timeline. However, the project managers can go a little easy on slacked tasks depending on the allowable buffer.
3. Provide Enough Lead Time for Resource Onboarding
According to a recent survey by PwC, 30% of projects fail due to a lack of resources.
Often project managers send resource requisitions at the eleventh hour to the resource manager, which results in last-minute hiring/firing. To avoid this situation, give your resource manager sufficient lead time to help you get the best-fit resource with the right skills for the task. It prevents overshooting the budget caused by hiring an overqualified resource or scheduling overruns with an underqualified alternative. Resource forecasting and capacity planning allow managers to analyze the demand vs. capacity gap to identify the resource excesses and shortages ahead of time. Accordingly, appropriate resourcing treatments help avoid last-minute firefighting of competent resources and give sufficient lead time to resource managers in case of a shortfall.
4. Delegate and Outsource Work when Required to Avoid Delays
Despite leaving no stone unturned in following a project plan religiously, often things don’t go as planned. Unprecedented events like unplanned attrition, change in client requirements, and a critical project member’s sudden absence can hamper project delivery. As a result, project managers need to walk a tightrope between requesting resources and keeping a check on the overall project cost sometimes.
It is where you can tap into the value of delegation and outsourcing. Outsourcing relieves your experienced resources of the burden of non-critical tasks and gives them more time to focus on high-priority and complex tasks. Moreover, it also saves you over-expenditure in hiring resources and doesn’t let your project’s execution derail.
5. Avoid Distractions and Interruptions to Meet Project Deadlines
Every project management strategy aims to meet the deadlines. So, it’s essential to keep unnecessary interruptions or distractions at bay and not let them impact your project plan. There are some excellent ways to minimize your resources’ time that goes into non-priority work. For instance, unless genuinely required, don’t indulge all your project team’s resources in meetings or participating in mundane activities.
Instead, the domain or team leads can attend project status meetings, and the action items can be communicated to their respective teams. Thus, it will ensure that all project team members are productively utilized and, at the same time, are aware of the project updates. Besides, keep a check on the number of meetings conducted and ensure that it doesn’t consume a big chunk of resources’ working hours.
6. Facilitate Effective and Timely Communication at Every Level
According to FinancesOnline, a leading business software research and discovery platform, 29% of projects fail due to improper communication.
This figure necessitates effective communication with the right person at the right time for a project’s success. Therefore, the onus is on you as the project manager to sustain effective communication at every level. Make yourself approachable for seniors in charge and junior team members alike.
Encourage them not to bottle up and effectively communicate their concerns before they get stressed or burnt out. Clearly communicate every project member’s responsibility and constant motivation of how their performance will influence the project’s progress enhances task ownership and employee engagement. This continuous communication helps build a sense of duty and drive resources to work responsibly to achieve on-time project completion.
7. Implement a Time Management Culture within the Project Team
Your time is important, and so is every member’s. That is why there is a need to inculcate a proper time management culture within your project team. Ensure that they value each other’s time, be punctual in meetings, give updates, finish priority tasks, etc.
Follow the deadlines, start and end meetings on time, complete your tasks, and assign them to your team members at the right time. Be the “role model” and inspire your team members to understand the value of time. Possessing a sense of duty to meet deadlines yourself and nurturing it in your team can help you make your time management seamless.
4. Use Tools to Create an Effective Time Management Strategy
Combining your strategies with the right technology can take your time management strategy up a notch. Various resource management tools can help you with that. With the 360-degree visibility that a resource management tool provides, you can find out the enterprise-wide resource allocation and availability. Accordingly, you can identify the resources with matching skill sets for each task. This way, you can prevent allocating over/under-skilled resources to save delays and project cost escalation.
It also enables you to identify resources’ excess or shortfall and take appropriate timely actions. Moreover, it provides business intelligence reports and dashboards which help stakeholders make quick and informed decisions. Forecast vs. actuals report helps you identify the actual time taken against the estimates and align future forecasting to reality. It also gives an overview of the utilization levels of your project team members so that you can take appropriate measures to optimize their billable and effective utilization for on-time project completion within the stipulated budget.
Time management is one of the cornerstones of a successful project. It involves complete control over the time you spend on every task throughout a project. Following a solid time management strategy helps optimize the scheduling, allocation, and execution of a project’s tasks in a time-efficient manner.
Time management, thus, contributes to meeting all your project deadlines without exceeding your estimated budget. Some good practices combined with the right technology solutions can set the stage for perfect time management for a project.
What would your time management strategy be?
6. Saviom Solution
SAVIOM has over 20 years of experience helping multinational clients manage their resources efficiently and effectively. With over 20 years of experience, this Australian-based MNC has a global presence across 50 countries and has helped 100+ clients meet their specific business goals. Saviom also provides tools for project portfolio management, professional service automation, and workforce planning software. So, SAVIOM can help your business to establish an efficient system geared towards your specific business challenges.