Is your company’s core business the execution of short repetitive projects (SRPs)? Do you find that you are wasting too much time between projects, that your resources are not being fully utilized, and that your company is falling short of its profit potential?
SRPs vs One-Off Projects
SRPs are short technical projects between several hours and a few weeks in duration, which are executed by project-based organizations offering a specific service/services. SRPs occur in most industries—product installations (e.g., telephone or HVAC systems), services (e.g., industrial instrument calibrations), specialized construction jobs (e.g., roofing or waterproofing projects), etc. These differ from larger, ongoing projects which are more complex and involve numerous project-dedicated resources. SRPs share resources across the company and require a project management system customized to the company’s operating procedures. There are three key capabilities not typically found in large project management systems, but that are critical to successful SRP companies.
Key Capabilities of an SRP Project Management System
1. Company-Wide Program Management
SRP companies need program management systems that coordinate projects and resources across the company so that they can manage their resources efficiently and avoid lengthy idle time between assignments.
Large-project companies must manage thousands of diverse activities, often involving many contractors and resources. They typically manage each project independently, making use of customized project management software or commercial applications like Primavera or Microsoft Project to schedule and control their myriad of activities.
An SRP company, on the other hand, usually has multiple projects in multiple locations going on at any given time, each with a different client. Since the scope of its projects is confined to the narrow band of expertise and services the company offers, SRPs do not have to contend with large numbers of activities within the same project and generally do not need the same project scheduling and control capabilities that large-project contractors require.
One of the biggest challenges for SRP companies is allocating resources across projects, and transitioning personnel and equipment smoothly from projects that are ending to those that are starting up. The company’s ability to minimize resource idle time, avoid resource bottlenecks, and optimize daily travel time and costs to site determines how profitable they will be.
2. Integrated Resource Planning & Scheduling
Selling a project does not necessarily mean that Project Delivery will be profitable and meet the customer’s expectations. It is important that Sales and Project Delivery work together, focus on the same objectives and have easy access to the same information when making decisions.
A Master Project Schedule and a process-specific Project Scheduling mechanism are two tools that help align the goals of Sales and Project Delivery and enable continuous inflow and delivery of profitable SRPs.
The Master Project Schedule supplies up-to-date information about the company’s project commitments and timelines. This knowledge is a necessary input into real-time resource planning.
The Project Scheduling mechanism is a tool for setting timelines for project activities. A scheduling mechanism that is process-specific provides reliable resource planning input quickly, accurately and sets up the project for on-time delivery.
Figure 1: Project Schedule for Residential Water-Proofing Project
3. Repeatable Proposal Generation
For many SRP companies, the biggest challenge is not their ability to execute their work successfully, but the lack of a continuous inflow of new work.
Therefore, the sales approach for SRPs is different to that of large projects—in general the frequency of the company’s project proposals is inversely proportional to the size of the projects it delivers. Large project companies try to replenish their backlog of work as existing projects near completion. Since one-off projects vary in scope and duration, bid and proposal submissions are intermittent. Project deliverables and bid requirements are stipulated by the client, making it difficult for large project companies to fully automate the proposal processes.
Because SRPs are standardized, the proposal-generating process for them can be duplicated and is conducive to automation. Unlike large project bids, SRP clients do not usually set proposal deadlines—it is usually a case of the sooner the proposal is submitted, the greater the likelihood of a project go-ahead. This means that speed, accuracy and consistency is of the essence.
An automated system will enable fast, accurate and consistent proposals, giving the company an advantage over those with slower manual systems. Check out our white paper for Proposal-Generating Systems for Short Projects.
Customized Project Management Systems
No two project companies are the same—each has its own sales and project delivery processes, products, customers and resources—and each needs a project management system that matches its unique way of doing business.
Many companies purchase off-the-shelf management software applications. These generic systems are designed for commercial viability and target a range of different companies and industries. They rarely suit a company’s processes exactly and tend to weaken its operational strengths and neutralize its competitive advantage. Unfortunately, software systems custom-built by IT or software companies are too expensive for most companies. However, there is a third solution—Excel.
Most companies underestimate the capabilities and advantages of Excel as a management operating tool. The advantages of using Excel as a project management tool are:
An SRP company aiming to realize its full profit potential can only do so by maximizing project revenue through a continuous inflow of new projects and minimizing project costs through the optimal utilisation of resources. Installing a project management system customised to its unique project delivery process is a necessary step to achieving that objective.
Two Global Eyes has extensive experience successfully developing and installing management operating systems for companies without incurring additional capital expenditure. They have served companies ranging in size from small regional companies to large global corporations covering a broad spectrum of industries.
Brentt Bugler is the founder of Two Global Eyes. He has successfully developed and installed cost-effective customized corporate solutions on four continents covering a broad spectrum of industries for the past 25 years. He is a process improvement specialist with extensive experience in the manufacturing, construction, and project management industries.