Doing Projects and Programs Right… Rare but Possible

Better on-time and on-budget performance means you are nearly 10X as likely to improve net operating profit dramatically too!

Better on-time and on-budget performance means you are nearly 10 times as likely to improve net operating profit dramatically too!

Vision without action to achieve it can be frustrating. If you manage programs or projects in your business, you probably realize that managing them effectively is the key to your operational and financial success. However, it’s also likely that you have not been able to improve your on-time and on-budget performance very dramatically. Its even more likely that you don’t have the information flows in place to support end-to-end program management.

This is one main conclusion of our new research study Profitable Programs: Transforming Project-based Operations. Project-based operations are crazy complex and typically low volume. They also usually have special requirement for materials separation, project tracking, billing, and so much else. Standard approaches and software designed for standard operations does not fit. So most of these companies use homegrown or heavily customized systems, spreadsheets, or paper even for Quality, ERP and critical processes.

Yet some companies are getting it right. They are improving performance and creating end-to-end information flows that automatically track progress and supportĀ processes in every discipline. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being on a webcast with Ed Kestel, Director of Technical Operations East for Orbital Sciences Corporation. He has led not only continuous improvement efforts, but also applications implementation.

The results are stellar. Improvements in operational efficiency have resulted in lower cost of quality, faster cash-to-cash cycle time, and and a better ability to compete. While others are drowning in manual processes, paper work packets, and long buy-off processes to ensure that the paperwork is right, Orbital and a few others are focused on building (or maintaining) complex products, improving operations, and pleasing customers.

Orbital uses software from Deltek, who sponsored the research. Only a few other companies offer software that fits project and program-based operations so well, or that cover the breadth and depth from executive office to operations that add value. This is a specialized area in which software products have gained capability over the past several years. These few applications now can truly support not only end-to-end program management, but the accounting, service, and production aspects effectively.

Managing a project-based operation is challenging. Yet we have some beacons of best practices, shining light on the way.In addition to Ed, the other panelists I got to work with yesterday also have deep knowledge that they share freely: Debbie White of Deltek and Conrad Leiva of iBASEt.

If you run a project-based operation on paper or ancient unsupported software, it may be time to take stock. Could you join the ranks of those leaders? Or will you lose out to them in the next bid?

Graphic from May 14 Deltek Webinar, Profitable Programs: Transforming Project-based Operations, based on data from the research study of the same name.

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