We recently introduced three new features helping you to not only better manage project scope and prevent project overspend, but also helping you to get paid faster.
Posts Tagged ‘work breakdown structure’
In the previous article we discussed the basics of managing scope using deliverables and looked at the simple project scenario. In that scenario a project manager used Exact PSA to create a set of deliverables to define the scope of his project to implement Synergy Enterprise at a customer site.
This allowed the project manager to see what needs to be delivered on the project; however, he is also interested in how much time and money it will take to deliver it. In Exact PSA he can define tasks (or, in other words, activities) that need to be carried out in order to build a certain deliverable.
Let’s take another look at our example. The project manager wants to add more implementation details to the deliverable Requirements analysis. He conjures the following list of activities, and enters them one by one:
- that he has estimated that 36 hours (32 hours of consultancy and 4 hours of project management) are needed to complete Requirements analysis;
- that the cost and the sales price per hour for each activity are calculated according to the rate rules in Exact PSA;
- the total cost and the total sales price of the whole deliverable are clear to him.
After having done exactly the same for every deliverable in the project, he will arrive at a complete work breakdown structure (or simply WBS) for the project, that will:
- give him confidence that every single activity that needs to be done on the project is captured in the system and is linked to a correct deliverable (based on the scope that he has defined);
- provide him with the project schedule, where each deliverable and each activity is plotted against a time range;
- let him see the total cost and total sales price of the whole project (based on the applicable rates, but not including any personal rates);
- allow him to share this calculation with the sales in order to create a final calculation for the customer, or to validate the original quotation.
In essence, that means a firm grasp of all estimated work on the project and its financials — something that a project manager is responsible for.
There are two additional features of Exact PSA that make work breakdown structures particularly convenient:
- It is possible to list not only activities for each deliverable, but also material, in case goods are procured and shipped to the customer. In our example (as shown in the previous article), a deliverable Hardware installation might include some equipment that will be billed to the customer together with installation hours.
- It is possible to plan hours directly from a WBS line, and, starting from release 249/404 it is possible to allocate material in the same way.
And last, in the release 249/404 the project manager will be able to see directly from a WBS line what hour planning or material & expenses requests are linked to it, that will give him insight into progress of the project. We will review these grand possibilities in the next article of the series.
Within the field of project management a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is used to structure deliverables and project work. The WBS is fundamental in budgeting, planning and progress reporting. It provides clarity and control to all involved. Exact Online Project Management facilitates project scoping using a WBS*. This blog post covers key enhancements made in Exact Online Project Management when using a WBS to budget work.
New: enhanced budget-to-planning process
Now you can seamlessly plan budgeted activities using a default hour type**. Until now you had to decide on the relevant hour type when allocating an activity to an employee using the drag & drop capacity planning board. This was cumbersome as the planner was not always aware what the applicable bill rate was. Now when scoping a project a project manager may define the applicable hour type and this hour type is defaulted when allocating a planning entry. Once planned, an employee can copy planned activities in his or her timesheet. Saving time and reducing errors. For more information, have a look at the video below.
Coming soon: tree structure view of activities
To ensure that employees track time against the right project activities we re-designed the WBS browser. Activities will be visually shown in a tree structure view. (see screenshot below). Making it easier for an employee to select the correct project activity.
Coming soon: specify budget method per project
Exact Online Project Management provides two ways to budget your projects. The first method uses a WBS. Using the WBS you can scope labor and cost (e.g. purchases or expenses) components. This method is suited for more complex projects or projects with a need to budget both labor and cost components. The second method, a budget per hour type, provides a more basic method and is designed to support less complex projects or projects with a budget consisting of only labor components. You simply indicate a budget per hour type, e.g. 20 hours of ‘senior consulting’. To increase clarity on which method is used we will add a new project field (see screenshot below). At the outset the project manager can specify the applicable method per project.
* Within a WBS, activities are used to budget the time components that a project is broken down into. Activities are defined specifically for a given project. For example, ‘preparing a report’ or ‘designing a prototype’ or ‘taking interviews’. Activities are used to budget, plan and track labor against – but do not determine rates. Rates are determined by hour types.
**What are hour types? To determine the applicable invoice rate for a given time entry Exact Online uses ‘hour types’. These hour types are used to define the standard charges within a company for time components and are linked to revenue ledgers. They are generic (‘master data’) and can be used across projects. For example, a consultancy firm may charge ‘senior consulting’ for 125 euro per hour and ‘junior consulting’ for 80 euro per hour. Of course, rates may deviate from the standard hour types and can vary per client, per employee or per project.
Managing project scope remains one of the most important responsibilities of any project manager who works on a project of larger than trivial size. A successful project is a project that is completed on time and within budget; and completed means that the scope of the project is delivered to its stakeholders as expected.
To be sure that this goal is indeed achievable, a project manager needs to have absolute clarity on what is in the scope of the project, and especially, what is not. Failing to see the difference often results in projects falling prey to scope creep, that is, when requirements get added to the scope without modifications to schedule or budget.
There are multiple tools and techniques to define and manage scope; almost all of them are based on the divide and conquer principle. That is, the scope should be broken into individual, smaller deliverables. PRINCE2, for example, calls them products and specifies a dedicated product breakdown structure tool that is a part of overall project planning.
We have reviewed such scope management tools with our existing customers, and after adding a few modifications to make them easier to use, we introduced this project management best practice to Exact PSA.
In an nutshell, the sequence of steps that a project manager will take looks like this:
1) Once a project is created in Synergy Enterprise, the project manager will define the scope by entering one by one deliverables that will be built. Sometimes they are very easy to spot, like reports, or installations of equipment and software, or agreed milestones.
2) Sometimes deliverables are less tangible, like testing or integration, and need to be broken down further — into smaller deliverables. The rule of the thumb is that a project manager should stop when he can comfortably estimate the amount of work and material it will take to deliver the deliverable.
A resulting parent-child structure in Exact PSA will similar to this:
In this example, in a project to implement Synergy Enterprise, there is a main project deliverable — the overall outcome of the project. It is called Complete implementation and it’s lifespan is the same as the lifespan of the project.
This main deliverable is broken down into three other deliverables: Requirements analysis, Onsite implementation and Final testing & acceptance. Each of these deliverables has its own start time and start date, that will define the schedule of the project.
The project manager considered Onsite implementation to be still quite large, and split it into two more deliverables: Hardware installation and Software installation. He also decided to that work on this large deliverable should be managed via a child project, since different team members will be writing hours on it.
All this information is displayed in a single screen, so that the project manager to see the complete scope of the project in one glance. (Special columns like Item, WBS cost and revenue, and Margin we shall discuss in the next articles).
In release 248, to allow project managers to using deliverables to scope the project, the administrator should enable a central switch in the settings of Exact PSA. However, based on customer feedback, in release 249 we delegated this choice to project managers, since they know best when to use deliverables to manage scope and when not to.
Often, in small projects centered around realizing, approving and invoicing a few billable activities, there is little incentive for a project manager to actively manage scope. However, interviews with customers showed that many disciplined project managers use deliverables on all their projects, regardless of size, so that they have the scope very clearly defined and managed.
In the next article we will discuss how the project manager can define individual activities and tasks that are needed to build an actual deliverable., and how he can track their progress. Stay tuned!