Personal reflections by Bea Amaya, Marketing Manager…formerly Project Manager in a whole different type of business.
Anyone with any background or education in Project Management should recognize the Project Life Cycle curve:
I have to say that in my previous life as a database designer, this curve was pretty much right on the money. But now that I’m in a different business, I really have to wonder about 1) whether this curve really fits what we do, and 2) if not, how would I change it.
I’ve been in this business nearly 9 months now, and am still only just beginning to get a good handle on it all. From my observations, however, this is the kind of work cycle I see.
- Someone that one of our Sales Team has already spent time with finally decides to allow us to bid on a project for them and provides us with some basic information.
- Our Sales Team then begins working diligently with our Estimators to prepare a detailed scope of work, a task which often results in a considerable amount of time, effort, and communication in order to collect, then create, the required specifications.
- The Sales Team member returns to the customer with a detailed quote for the work.
- We wait.
- If we lose the bid, all that (unpaid) work gets filed away and we move on.
- If we win the bid, the real work begins.
- Activities really begin to ramp up in all parts of the organization.
- Finance: Is this a new customer? Do we have them in our system? Are they reputable, dependable, and trustworthy?
- Fabrication: What are the requirements of this project in manpower, materials, and equipment? When/how can we slot this work in to our schedule?
- Project Management: Who will take over management of the project? What further questions need to be asked and answered before work can begin? What kind of design/engineering is required? How much will all the parts cost? When do we order them so they arrive just in time for our needs?
- Design/Engineering: Has the customer provided all the information we need? Does the customer approve of this item? And this one? How about this one? Can fabrication meet this design requirement? Can electrical? Can automation/controls?
- Once the project design/engineering is complete, the job passes on to fabrication for execution.
- Now this is where my opinion may be a little “off”, but my initial feeling at this point is that although the work takes significant time and manpower to execute, the fact that all the difficult questions have already been answered means that we have already “peaked” on our curve and that the project impact on our organization is on a downhill slide now.
The two most difficult to manage features of the kind of work we do, then, are these. 1) We spend a lot of time and effort on preparing for a job that we have not yet been hired to do. 2) We are often at the “mercy” of the customer’s schedule, budget, and work environment during the entire design phase. And it is this second feature that really breaks our ability to control the project as we would like, or even as we would need in order to be more efficient and cost-effective.
Have I made a mistake here? Am I “off” in my perspective?
So, I continue to search for that curve that I think represents our kind of work flow. And if I don’t find it, I may be forced to create it because I think it is important. For as those of us with a Project Management background all know, “Planning without action is futile, action without planning is fatal.” — Cornelius Fitchner.