“What is the biggest obstacle to you performing your job on time and on budget?”
Ensuring that a project is completed on time and on budget is paramount for many reasons. The most important reasons are to be profitable and to maintain a reputation of excellence in the eyes of the client. Each project will no doubt have challenges, and no two projects will be the same, but there are a few constants that can be predicted and avoided if approached correctly. I believe the largest obstacle for completing a job on time and on budget is managing the customer’s responsibilities and expectations. Every project, regardless of size, is a team effort, and that team always revolves around the customer. From start to finish, the client has a tremendous influence on how smooth everything goes, and they have very important responsibilities, from gathering information to providing feedback and approving plans.
The discovery phase of any new project demands a wealth of information be documented so an accurate scope can be drafted. It does not matter what kind of project it is. The goal is to understand every facet of the request so a plan can be put together. It is not uncommon for the first discovery session to exclude team members and departments on the client side that are pivotal to parts of the conversation. Rather than miss an opportunity to have a complete conversation, make sure that you have an outline for the information you seek, and ensure the proper parties are available to provide it. This will save numerous hours of back-and-forth communications at the start of the project.
Once a project is underway, there are always checkpoints scheduled with the client to review progress and often receive approvals of the work completed to date. These approvals are essential for ensuring the work is being done correctly and to the client’s expectations. During the lifecycle of a project, especially one where interactive or dynamic content is being created, the review and approval process must be done swiftly while not being rushed. It’s important to get feedback from the client within a determined timeframe since delays can push back further development. Likewise, any revisions should also be made swiftly to keep the project on schedule and moving forward. The main obstacle to avoid is having too many revisions. The process must clearly define the revision/approval process and timeframe. Any major changes brought about through this phase often result in a change order, which also delays deliverables and affects the budget. Managing the client’s expectations during this process and keeping them to task will greatly improve the end results.
There are always going to be challenges throughout a project that appear to be uncontrollable, but understanding how to mitigate those challenges to keep the project moving forward is indefensible. Avoid wasted time by gathering information from the responsible parties, and keep everyone on task. If this can be done, then the project has a much better chance of being successful and profitable.