Contract projects differ fundamentally from internal projects. For instance, the latter can result from the company’s product or IT roadmap. The company is self-determined and flexible in their implementation.
By contrast, contract projects have two essential characteristics. For one thing, they can arise from the sales pipeline at very short notice, and the customer determines the project start. At the same time, monthly and accurate billing of the services provided is central.
Additionally, with this type of project the service provider faces the following challenges:
Microsoft PPM (Project Server / Project Online) and Planisware are excellent, central platforms for service projects. Service delivery models can be implemented and supported by workflows. Schedules can be created in early acquisition phases and associated with costs in order to be used in contract proposals.
The integration of the proposal stage is very important with almost all clients in the service business. Customers of service organizations will receive a complete project plan, including high-level schedule, efforts, costs etc. This plan will be converted into an operational plan after the customer’s order.
Resource management is crucial in professional services! The success of the entire business relies on the availability of the proper skills to provide the requested quality of service at the right time. Microsoft PPM (Project Server / Project Online) or Planisware can help with resource management: generic resources can be used to plan skills instead of people on a mid-term or long-term basis and analyze the capacity requests and resource availability over time. They will be replaced by personal resources further down the line. The cross-project usage and availability of resources can be checked at any time and be considered for resource assignments.
Collaboration is another very important area, both for the project teams and the interaction with the customer. Microsoft SharePoint is a powerful platform for communication but also for issue management and document management.
Planning and controlling project budgets is a key requirement in professional services. Integrating the PPM solution with the ERP system enables a role-based approach: project managers calculate forecasts for costs and revenues in the PPM tool, which will be transferred to the ERP system. This information can be used as an input for quotations during the proposal stage as well as for budget control and change requests along with budget amendments during the execution of the project.
Time tracking along with invoicing is another vital requirement in this business. The most common approach is to record time in the PPM tool and post the costs of internal work to the ERP system. These internal cost postings will be used for customer invoicing. In case of time and material projects, the detailed work-sheets can be provided to customers alongside.
For project managers it is important to manage and control the internal budget as well as the invoice status of their projects. Thus, actual costs and invoice-related information must be imported from the ERP system to their PPM tool and invoicing must be triggered by the PPM tool.
Middleware products can help to integrate Microsoft Project Server / Project Online, SharePoint, Planisware and others with ERP systems seamlessly and at reasonable cost.
More about TPG PSLink®.
Resource availability must be checked at a very early stage of a project: when the decision is made to propose a project and to commit delivery dates in a customer proposal. This resource-oriented portfolio management during the project selection and proposal stage is extremely important in the services business. Commitments to deadlines must rely on available resource capacities and project priorities.
Planisware and Microsoft Project Server / Project Online (in combination with add-ons) can help with resource-based portfolio simulations and decisions in a very transparent and convenient way.
More about TPG PortfolioManager.
Professional service organizations rely heavily on their knowledge, experience and competence as their competitive advantage in the market. For this reason, teams are usually structured in the form of knowledge or competence centers. Team leaders have the responsibility to ensure the knowledge, expertise and training of their team members.
Matrix organizations between project management and teams are very common in this type of organization. Project managers will request skills from the competence teams, which in turn will plan their team members across general tasks and projects. Team leaders will commit people to project managers for certain time periods.
Microsoft Project Server / Project Online along with proven add-ons can help with requesting team members and committing them to projects.
More about TPG TeamManager.