Time is money, especially for consulting firms.
This means that project management isn’t just a way to track what is or is not completed; it is also the best way to make sure resources are being used strategically, that output is maximized, and that progress is in line with projections and commitments.
In a consulting company, project management can help improve profitability and productivity by improving timeline and budget management, maximizing resources, optimizing processes, and ensuring consistent and timely deliverables.
Here are some of the best project management tips for achieving best-in-class consulting services:
Scope Thoroughly And Specifically
If there’s one thing that every consultant dreads, it’s a mid-project change in scope. One of the biggest threats to a project’s profitability is when the scope changes partway through a project and timelines and budgets get thrown out of whack.
Taking the time to truly understand a project and include a detailed scope of work in the contract can help to prevent the scope of work expanding without compensation. It gives you the opportunity to create change orders—including an updated budget—if a client comes back with additional changes not included in the initial scope of work.
But scoping a project should be equally as important in terms of your project management. Being specific about what is included in each stage of a project will enable your employees to do exactly what is required—no more, no less—for a more controlled output. Being specific about project scope within your team means you’re ensuring additional resources aren’t being used where they won’t result in actual productive business impact.
Don’t Start From Scratch When It Isn’t Necessary
Efficiency is key to productivity and profitability. Most consulting companies have aspects of their deliverables that are repeats in whole or in part of products already completed for other clients. Whether this is templates of documents, programming code, presentations, or other projects, it can be highly productive to prevent redundancy in your consulting company. This allows you to produce similar output with decreased input.
A helpful tip is to make it part of your project management process to identify what aspects of completed tasks may be reusable, and to have these items readily accessible to your team. It can also be helpful to tag tasks in your project management software or Professional Services Automation (PSA) solution that can be completed using one of these reusable documents.
Regularly Update The Client And Check-In On Their Satisfaction
Don’t initiate a project and then fail to check in until the deadline is approaching. Healthy project management requires regular check-ins to make sure the project is developing on time, on budget and most importantly, to the customer’s satisfaction.
A good tip is to identify which points of the project have the highest risk of throwing the project off course and the earliest points you’d be able to detect these threats, and to set—at minimum—check-ins at these points. It can also be helpful for consultants to choose a PSA solution that allows you to see at a glance the health of your current projects. A tool with surveying capability to routinely request client feedback and gauge their satisfaction level is an added bonus as well.
Keep Everything In One Central Location
Our next project management tip for consultants is to keep everything in a central location. Many consultants have fallen into the trap of using multiple file management systems including multiple messaging platforms (such as email, chat, or Slack) as well as CRMs to track conversations, DropBox and/or Google Drive to store documents, different file versions unintentionally saved on multiple devices, and so on. This can lead to confusion, inconsistency, and lost productivity.
Instead, part of your project management process should include managing documents, revisions, client feedback, customer information, and communication in a central location. A robust PSA solution like Klient Software can manage your entire services business on one platform. And by integrating with your existing CRM, ERP, and other applications, you can ensure that all of your processes are in sync.
Learn From Past Successes And Failures
The final, and perhaps most important part of your project management strategy should be a project debrief at the completion of every project. This debrief will help you and the rest of your company to understand what went well, what went wrong, and what processes can be improved in the future.
If you managed your project effectively, you should have analytics that show the progress of task completion, information about when budget was used and whether it was in line with projections, resource use compared to projections, and reports from any risks or changes that may have manipulated output. A PSA solution can be especially helpful in making sure you have this data available at the completion of a project.
The information from each debrief should then be compared to previous reports. Is there a part of your projects that your company predictably underbids? Resources that aren’t being used efficiently or that aren’t being given enough time to complete tasks? Steps of the process that tend to go slower or faster than expected? Analyze your data, adjust processes accordingly, and repeat what is working well.