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Straight Talk on Project Management

Three tips to help you budget

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Use it or lose it. Three tips to help you spend IT project budget before year end!

If you work in the public sector, this time of year can feel like the movie Brewster Millions.

If you’re not familiar with the film, the lead character has thirty days to spend $30m to be eligible for a $300m inheritance. Right now, many in the public sector are recreating this plot, but they must spend their 2022 budget to be eligible for a similar settlement for the year ahead – a real “use it or lose it” scenario.

It’s a storyline that’s been played out at this time of year forever, but it doesn’t get any easier, in fact, most are telling me that, with increased scrutiny on the public purse it’s getting harder!

One public sector director of IT project resources I spoke with has been encouraged to “not do the supermarket sweep” this year, or at least ensure that every penny “not already allocated”, and not to be “handed back”, is thoroughly justifiably spent. The tightening of those purse strings means his organisation are intently scrutinising last-minute expenditure in the run up to year end, whereas previously there would have been no scrutiny at all, his department would have simply been seen to have spent its budget.

This particular department is undertaking project prioritisation exercises to figure out what to spend remaining budget on. Across the land, decision makers will be making similar calls. Stoneseed can help YOU.

THREE TIPS TO HELP YOU SPEND IT PROJECT BUDGET BEFORE YEAR END!

1 – PMaaS – PM resourcing as a Service, at your Service.

The first way we can help is … actually help. Stoneseed’s flexible Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) and our advisory experience can combine to help you prioritise projects, identify resource gaps that may hinder executing on your priorities, and deliver exactly the resources you need, for as long as you need them – delivering maximum return from your “last minute” spend!

Stoneseed’s PMaaS was brilliantly compared to a Swiss Army Knife by our Head of Marketing, Helen, recently! Genius comparison! You need a knife – you got it, a screwdriver for a second – no problem, a stone in a horse’s hoof – there’s a tool for that! When you’ve finished using a tool, you pop it away until you need it again!

Same with PMaaS resources … you can access project professionals, resources, and tools at a flexible and predictable cost. Our services portfolio offers a true end to end service, from IT Technical Advisory, Business Analysis Services and PMO Services through to Programme & Project Delivery – and with our “turn it on, turn it off, turn it up or turn it down” approach – you are simply billed for the resources consumed at the end of each month.

For Stoneseed, it’s all about getting maximum return out of your budget. Maximised speed of engagement and speed of access to resources are PMaaS pillars and, for increased convenience for public sector resourcing, so is ease of access through procurement portals – like G-Cloud!

Stoneseed regularly engages in Public Sector projects with councils, charities, and universities. Often, this involves working with procurement teams and HR departments directly, via Private procurement frameworks or through Government procurement frameworks such as those offered by the Crown Commercial Service.

We are currently listed as an approved supplier on the G-Cloud 12 & the new 13 framework under Specialist Cloud Services and on the Digital Outcomes & Specialists (DOS) framework.

Through frameworks and the digital marketplace, we supply a full Project Management service catalogue, delivering tools and people to improve your delivery capability and performance and that flexible, on-demand approach gives you more control over your costs. Stoneseed doesn’t insist on a minimum contractual commitment, giving you the ability to dial up and down IT Project resources in sync with your needs.

Stoneseed will work with any organisations that have an Approved Supplier List or Preferred Supplier List to ensure that those organisations that need our services, can procure them via their chosen procurement route.

2 – Have a project prioritisation system.

There are many quantitative and qualitative techniques for prioritising projects, you probably are adept at using one or more of them when considering which projects to green light … and then there’s good old fashioned “gut feeling”.

The thing is, at this point in the calendar, with money burning a hole in their wallet, with a portfolio of live, active projects and a hundred other things to consider, many decisions are based less on quantitative and qualitative techniques, and more on what feels right. Teams are making decisions on how to spend remaining budget by effectively licking a finger and sticking it in the air.

Now, if you’ve been working on an IT Project for months, your gut feeling for what’s needed is going to be pretty spot-on, so sometimes it works, but it can also lead to cases of confirmation bias. A gut feeling approach can lead to the wrong projects getting prioritised, you look for (and find) reasons why your instincts are right, even though the data suggests an alternative approach.

You wouldn’t green light and initiate projects in this way! Thinking about the process with which you do initiate projects can be helpful when measuring where best to allocate your year-end “slush fund” (which is what one CIO I know jokingly calls theirs!).

The project team I mentioned at the start are doing this very thing. When prioritising what projects to start, they adopt the Net Present Value (NPV) approach. NPV is popular in the public sector and with PRINCE2 Practitioners, and actually the PRINCE2 website offers this neat summary of the benefits, explaining how it is used to “compare the discounted value of a stream of future costs or benefits” which “defines the difference between the present value of a stream of costs (NPC) and a stream of benefits. A positive NPV would indicate that a project should be profitable and pursued whilst a negative value would indicate that the project should be abandoned.”

The team facing go/no go decisions on their annual “supermarket sweep” of resources are using a modified NPV approach and their decision making is more focused and justifiable as a result. You’ll remember, every penny allocated has to be “thoroughly justifiably spent” – this approach helps.

3 – Commit to your decision

One final piece of advice: once you’ve decided to how to spend whatever funding you have available, commit to your decision.

Over the years, I’ve often seen ‘spare budget’ allocated where it will yield the greatest return only for the decision to be rowed back upon and funds spread more thinly – it rarely ends well.

At a time when public sector budgets are under increasing scrutiny, I fear the days of simply “use it or lose it” may be coming to an end. You can’t guarantee to get the same budget next year because that’s what you spent this year – it feels like we are entering an era of “use it effectively or lose it”.

In other words, once you’ve committed to spending what’s needed to bring home Project A in a headline grabbing, celebration of fanfares and glory … you have to dismiss the arguments to prioritise Project B, C and D. 

I don’t need to tell you this, you’re a professional, you have an experienced head on your shoulders and a methodical, calm approach to project management – but so did those others! 

Listen, above all, enjoy spending this money. Be present in the moment, as the project you’ve put your heart and soul into this financial year – reaches the best possible outcome thanks to the decisions you are taking right now.  But spend it wisely!

I’m reminded, as a I write this, of my friend who just got a tax refund (“finally an IR35 perk!”). I’m so impressed by how carefully he is allocating the money – much-needed car maintenance and a much-needed weekend romantic break! This pot of money that your projects are blessed with is like getting a tax rebate and it needs the same careful, but urgent planning, to get the best return.     

I can’t believe how close we are to the new financial year!! Stoneseed’s PMaaS is ready to help. Call 01623 723910 and let’s chat or click to find out more!