Project management and the start-of-year challenge

It’s a brand new year! The Christmas tree is down and the ornaments packed away. The relatives have left and the New Year’s champagne is gone to the last drop. Now, you can return to work rested and ready to jump into the new year and get those projects back underway!

Not so fast.

For most project managers, there is a big checklist of start-of-year activities which are impossible to avoid. These challenges can be mini projects on their own and they are mostly due to fiscal year end activities that affect project managers. Let’s take a look at a few of these activities and how you can tackle them.

Fiscal budgets

Most organizations work against fiscal budgets. That includes, of course, projects. So, even though there is a budget that runs the length of the project and that project spans over the fiscal year end, there is also reporting and analysis that has to be used by finance to close out the year. There are a few ways to tackle this. One of the most common when using a desktop project management system such as Primavera P6 Pro or Microsoft Project is to just copy the whole project with a new project name and turn over the copy to Finance for use as of the end of the year. There won’t be any more input into that file, it will be a moment frozen in time at the end of the year. Then in the ongoing project file, baselines can be created so a comparison against wherever you were at the end of the year can be accomplished later.

When you’re using an enterprise system such as Primavera EPPM or Microsoft Project Server, this isn’t the ideal plan. Copying projects in that case tends to make the enterprise system think you have more work when you really don’t and integration of actuals from inside those products or from outside sources can make a mess of where the actuals need to be managed. For enterprise environments a more structured approach to the end of year makes more sense. Using a baseline to capture the end-of-year status is the first step. Then, making sure that rates or other budget-based elements are updated is the next.  Setting reports for the year and freezing those is often the next important step before getting the progress in for the early new year’s first progress periods.

Project Timesheets

Most enterprise timesheets have end-of-year processes that are a must to accommodate the needs of the Finance department. Make sure that your project timesheet completes the end of year tasks in a timely fashion. If you’re using our own TimeControl, we have recommendations on what you should be considering doing at the end of the year on the TimeControl Blog at blog.timecontrol.com.

Tax Credits

Numerous organizations apply for Research and Development Tax Credits and being able to produce auditable reports from project management which match costing reports from Finance is essential to a successful Tax Credit claim. This is the right time to reach out to Finance to see what they will need from Project Management in the next few weeks.

Rate Reviews

The most likely time to institute rate changes on your resources is right this minute so check to see if any rate changes took place on the first of the year. If so, you’ll need to update rates for upcoming progress entry. Did I mention taking a baseline of the project? It’s a good time to do that! While you’re at it, an end of year backup isn’t a bad plan either.

Project Reviews

If you do stage gating or regular project reviews, now is a good time to make sure they’re up to date. With the new fiscal budget starting, projects which no longer hold promise of delivering a good return on investment might be considered to be paused or ended. Start the year off with a clean slate.

Tackling these tasks at the very start of the year can be a challenge, but trying to accomplish them in 4 or 8 weeks may be literally impossible so pushing hard now to find the time can save enormous heartache and more time later.

Either way here’s to a great New Year!