3 Ways to Garner Cost Savings in Project Management Without Hurting Returns

Advice on how to get cost savings in project management is a dime a dozen. Any organization can cut corners to meet budget constraints at the expense of efficacy. But if a project doesn’t deliver the intended benefits, it doesn’t matter whether it stayed on budget. It’s all a sunk cost anyway.

Completing projects efficiently isn’t just about reducing project management expenses. You must keep costs low while still solving the problem or capitalizing on the opportunity the project was set out to achieve in the first place.

Adherents to the Triple Constraint model might be getting nervous right about now. Wouldn’t you have to blow up the schedule to reduce costs while maintaining quality? Not necessarily. True efficiency in project management keeps all three arms of the “iron triangle” in check. Here’s how:

1. Maintain a systematic vetting process.

Often, the most wasted money earmarked toward project management goes into projects that should never have started. This is why you need to practice portfolio management and identify bad investments before they occur.

Don’t overwhelm your project managers and teams with initiatives that aren’t likely to be efficient and beneficial. Instead, create steps to scrutinize and evaluate all project ideas. You’ll quickly improve portfolio-wide ROI.

2. Document all project requirements.

At the outset of any project, gather all your subject matter experts together. Ask them to discuss the project’s solutions, opportunities, and predicted benefits, and then brainstorm the product features and functions necessary to deliver on them.

Never underestimate the value of documenting this type of early conceptualization. It provides you with a record of what happened and controls the discussion moving forward. This will minimize iterations and keep project length down, keeping costs low in the long run.

Be sure to put the emphasis on outlining all the requirements necessary to realize the return on the investment rather than cost-cutting to the point that you aren’t developing a viable product. “Lean” projects are still costly if they don’t achieve the ultimate mission.

3. Score functional requirements with a qualitative scale.

Professionals working on projects frequently get bogged down trying to figure out the nickels and dimes of the cost-benefit for every possible component. They rarely prioritize those components to see which ones are worth pursuing. Qualitative scoring can lower the burden of this process so that people actually do it.

All you need to do is create a simple matrix outlining the most basic qualities of each project requirement: risk, impact/benefit, cost, and time. Then, score each of those requirements as either “high,” “medium,” or “low.” This might not sound rigorous, but three scores across four dimensions allows for a surprising amount of versatility. Plus, it ensures the most powerful or aggressive stakeholders’ suggestions aren’t the only ones used. What better way to make project management planning more egalitarian and less likely to go astray budget-wise?

Read back through the list, and you may notice a theme: being diligent on the front end of the project. The key to improved project completion efficiency is staying ahead of the curve before scopes creep and budgets blow up.

Taking a project from conception to completion can be tricky, especially if you aren’t factoring ROI into the big picture. Sometimes, it’s OK to make a little bigger investment to make smarter choices that bring more impressive, cost-effective benefits.

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