You’ve won a bid to start a new installation project. You have the resources you need to complete the project, and you understand your deadlines and the desired outcome. The project is guaranteed to be a success. Or is it? Even if a field service business has everything needed to make a project succeed, if there aren’t processes for proper project management, the chances of something going wrong can drastically increase.
The project manager must have full visibility into every aspect of the upcoming project including the original quote and timeline and the estimate for materials, design, equipment, labor and subcontractors. When the project manager has all of this information, he or she can fine tune how to manage the project.
While project management doesn’t necessarily guarantee a problem-free project, good project management practices greatly increase the chance that your projects will remain on track and end with a happy customer.
What does accurate project management look like in the field service industry?
There are several different factors involved in managing a project successfully. One of the most important aspects of project management is keeping your projects on time and on budget. This involves detailed planning and careful monitoring throughout every phase of a project.
Tracking Your Projects
In the planning stages, you will need to create key performance indicators (KPIs) and specific objectives that are attainable and in line with your ultimate goal for the project. Once these KPIs and objectives are in place, you need to track their progress in every stage of the project.
Tracking does not mean checking in randomly or only reviewing progress when the customer is asking for an update. Good tracking practices involve establishing clear tasks and milestones, assigning responsible team members, monitoring how every team member is performing and completing regular check-ins.
Regular tracking provides a more clear understanding of when milestones are met or not met so you can manage against the progress of set tasks. Additionally, you can run Gantt charts to visualize tasks and their progress, determine where bottlenecks are occurring and see where task dependencies may not have been met.
Good tracking also involves keeping detailed reports so that you can share necessary information with your customer, and so you can refer back to the information when completing similar projects in the future. If you have important regulations to adhere to in your industry, tracking also helps ensure that you are remaining compliant where needed.
Reports provide a clear understanding of the cost to complete for each stage of your project and where overruns are occurring so you can keep the project on budget. Cash is king, and this is especially true when managing large projects.
Report on work in progress to gain more visibility over what has been completed and should be invoiced to make sure the right amount is being billed at the right time. This will also help ensure that cashflow is well maintained over the life of your project. This can include project deposits, progress claims, retention claims and the final claim with the project is complete.
Understanding Your Workflow
Another key aspect in controlled project management is having a clear understanding of your workflow. You should be clear on project dependencies — tasks that can’t be started until other tasks are complete. Understanding your workflow also involves being aware of the best people for the project so you can properly allocate your labor resources.
Running production control on your project will show where the project workflow is tracking down to a per point level, and what the cost-to-billing ratio looks like. A clear view of the workflow and timeline provides the tools for project managers to continuously improve efficient project delivery.
The more you understand your workflow, the easier it is to communicate exactly what needs to be done and when.
This brings us to another important factor in project management: communication. Clear communication is vital in every phase of a project. You should have processes in place to clearly communicate with your team members, and with the customer.
Communication should not just happen at the beginning of the project when you are assigning roles and explaining goals. Communication throughout every stage will help avoid mistakes, manage progress, and handle change orders or other shifts in the project.
For example, clearly sharing information can help in the case of procuring the right materials at the right time to make sure the project is kept on time and on budget according to the bill of materials. It can also help in the process of working out which field crews will be scheduled to the project so that deadlines are met on time.
Keep in mind that you should also communicate when things are going well to keep morale high and keep your team headed in a positive direction. Clear communication is also helpful when things aren’t going well so that adjustments can be made. As changes arise, methods for communicating new updates to the project will make sure you are able to accurately capture, quote and invoice without numbers entering the red.
How can software help streamline project management for your field service business?
A good software solution will make project management easier and more efficient at every stage. There are four key project management features which field service businesses should look for in a business management solution:
- Automated tasks and notifications — With software for project management, you can increase the efficiency of your processes to get projects moving faster by assigning tasks to team members within the system. Along with these tasks, you can have automated notifications that alert team members when a task is ready to be tackled or when something is overdue. You can also configure automation rules to fit unique workflows and the way you want to manage your projects. For example you could, automatically assign field staff to a job with a project, alert customers when something is complete, and more.
- Reporting tools — Reporting can help verify where you are in your project timeline, and help you stay on track of job costs. For example, you can use reports for budgeting to compare actual cash flow with what was budgeted. And, rather than spending unnecessary time tracking down details for your customers, you can automatically pull a report in the system and easily send it over to teams or customers. Reports housed in your software platform are also a useful reference for future projects.
- Estimating features — Has your project been properly budgeted? With software features for estimating, you can create accurate estimates to help keep your project on budget. Estimating and job costing are a key part of project management. With the right software, it is easy to create a professional digital estimate and then convert it into a job once it has been accepted.
- Invoicing capability — When your project management tool is linked to invoicing features, you can send out the invoice faster and with more clarity. For example, you can set automated tasks for internal approval before an invoice is sent to the customer, request a claim from a customer before pushing the invoice to your accounting package, and better manage customer retentions.
These are just a few of the features that help make project management successful. Other features include project planning dashboards, tools for inventory tracking, automated billing, and other solutions that connect the different parts of your project workflow.
In fact, when searching for a project management solution, it’s important to seek out a tool that will work with your unique workflow. Just because a software platform can handle project management doesn’t mean it will fit into your business. It’s important to make sure you have a clear understanding of your project management needs, as well as your overall business needs and goals, before purchasing software.
If you are seeking out a project management solution, but you also handle service work or maintenance jobs, look for software that can handle all areas of your operations.
Discover project management solutions in simPRO
With simPRO, managing projects is efficient, streamlined, and simple:
- Connect features for project management to other parts of your workflow
- Receive project updates from the field through the mobile app — simPRO Mobile
- Use Gantt charts for a visual timeline of project status
- View helpful project management reports such as Cost to Complete reports, Work in Progress reports, and others
- Use invoicing and payments features powered by Square to easily receive payment for your projects
In addition to providing features for simplified project management, simPRO provides solutions for all areas of the field service workflow. Visit the simPRO Project Management page for more information.