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Project Management

5 Ways to Keep Projects Within Budget

Want to keep your projects profitable? These 5 tips will ensure they never run over budget.

Updated 8/2/2023

"Over budget". Those are two words you never want to hear. But no matter what professional services field you're in, it seems almost inevitable that this will occur at some point. So what can you do to establish a solid project cost and prevent budget overruns from happening?

Keep reading to learn 5 ways to keep every project within budget.

1. Set Yourself Up for Success by Planning and Setting Realistic Goals

The key to successfully managing any project lies in proper budget planning and goal setting. In an age where businesses are under pressure to deliver high-quality results rapidly, it can be tempting to agree to hectic timelines and skimpy budgets. However, this often leads to a chaotic process, overburdened project team members, and, in many cases, an overextended budget.

Here's why choosing realistic goals and careful planning can keep your project on track.

Establishing Realistic Goals

Realistic goals are achievable without causing undue stress to the team. Setting targets that are too ambitious can result in missed deadlines, project schedule issues, budget overflows, and a diminished quality of work.

Conversely, by selecting goals that align with the team’s capabilities and the project's actual requirements, you create a pathway to success that is both challenging and attainable. This minimizes the risk of failure and keeps the project within the budget constraints.

Learning from Past Projects

Previous projects and their project tasks are goldmines of information. By reviewing the data, project requirements, and performance notes from past endeavors, you can gain valuable insights into what worked and what didn't. This historical perspective allows you to recognize patterns in various aspects of project management, such as:

  • Timeframes: Understanding how long tasks and project phases have taken in the past helps in setting more accurate timelines.

  • Team Performance: Evaluating the performance of your team in previous projects helps in better assigning roles and responsibilities, ensuring that everyone is working within their strengths and capabilities.

  • Budget Allocation: Knowing where funds were previously allocated and where overspending occurred helps in creating a more precise and realistic budget.

how to keep projects within budget (1)

The Value of Flexibility

While planning is essential, it's also vital to remain flexible. Projects often evolve, and unforeseen challenges and scope creep can arise. That’s why forecasting is important. Having a plan that allows for some adaptability ensures that the project doesn't derail when unexpected issues occur. It also means you're more likely to stay within budget, as you've already accounted for potential variations and challenges.

Building Confidence and Trust with Stakeholders

By demonstrating that you can efficiently manage timelines and budgets, you build confidence with stakeholders. Your stakeholders will appreciate the transparency and the effort to mitigate risks, knowing that the project is less likely to encounter significant roadblocks or financial overruns.

2. KPIs Matter, So Set and Track Them

The term "KPI" (key performance indicator) isn't just another business buzzword; it's a fundamental concept that plays a vital role in the success of any business, objectives, or projects. These metrics quantify and measure the progress and project success, helping to ensure that everything stays on track and aligned with the overall goals.

Let's delve deeper into why KPIs are crucial for project budget management, and how to properly set and track them.

The Importance of KPIs:

KPIs serve as tangible, measurable checkpoints that guide a project towards its goals. They enable the project manager and team to gauge performance, build a better project plan, identify areas of improvement, and take corrective actions if needed. The more precisely KPIs are defined, the more insightful they will be.

Defining and Understanding KPIs

Defining the right KPIs is not a one-size-fits-all process. They should be thoroughly defined and tailored to the specific project. This might include factors like:

  • Project Efficiency: Calculating the ratio of actual costs against the budgeted costs.

  • Team Performance: Evaluating the team’s output and overall performance.

  • Timeline Tracking: Monitoring progress against predefined milestones.

It's essential that the entire team reaches a consensus on which KPIs will be tracked, how they will be calculated, and what constitutes success. This ensures everyone is on the same page, working towards the same objectives.

Regular Tracking and Monitoring

Tracking KPIs should be an ongoing, regular process, not just a one-off activity. You'll need to log data like time and expenses daily, and frequently review billing and accounting information. This continuous monitoring helps in early detection of any deviations from the plan, allowing for prompt corrective actions.

Utilizing Technology for KPI Management

With the complexity of tracking various KPIs, using dedicated software like project management tool, BQE CORE, can be a game-changer. Such tools combine all the required data and provide intuitive analytics, making the analysis straightforward. By integrating different aspects of the project like time tracking, expenses, billing, and accounting into one platform, these tools provide a real-time, holistic view of the project's health.

Aligning KPIs with Stakeholders' Expectations

Stakeholders need to know that their investment is being managed wisely. By aligning KPIs with stakeholders' expectations and providing regular updates, you build trust and transparency. This also ensures that the project is aligned with the broader organizational goals and strategies.

3. Change is Inevitable - Be Prepared

Projects are dynamic by nature, and changes are often an unavoidable part of the process. Whether it's a shift in the market, modifications to the client's requirements, scope changes, or unexpected internal challenges, change is almost guaranteed. While it's impractical and unwise to over accommodate every single alteration (especially if they're unnecessary), having a robust system for managing change is crucial.

Here's a closer look at how to be prepared for change and the essential strategies for handling it effectively.

Recognizing the Nature of Change

Not all changes are created equal. Some are minor tweaks that have minimal impact on the project's overall timeline or budget. Others might be significant overhauls that can fundamentally alter the project's direction. Recognizing the nature of the change allows you to respond appropriately, avoiding overreactions to minor adjustments or underestimating the impact of substantial revisions so you can ensure your project’s profitability.

Establishing Standard Processes and Procedures

Having clear resource management processes and procedures for handling change is vital. This should include:

  • Assessment Guidelines: Detailed criteria for evaluating the necessity and impact of the proposed change.

  • Approval Workflow: A clear chain of command for approving or rejecting changes, ensuring that decisions align with the project's overall goals and available resources.

  • Documentation Protocols: A method for recording changes, including the reasons, the decisions made, and the effects on the project.

Establishing these methods before embarking on your next project provides a framework for managing change efficiently, minimizing disruptions, and keeping everyone informed.

Communication and Collaboration

Open and effective communication is essential when changes occur. All team members, stakeholders, and potentially even clients should be kept in the loop. This ensures that everyone understands the reason for the change, the implications, and their roles in implementing it.

Impact Analysis

Before implementing any change, conducting an impact analysis is essential. This involves examining how the change will affect various aspects and deliverables of the project, such as the timeline, budget, quality, and risk factors. Understanding these impacts helps in making informed decisions and planning accordingly.

Flexibility and Agility

A rigid approach to project management can lead to difficulties in adapting to change. Encouraging flexibility and agility within the team ensures that changes can be integrated more smoothly. This doesn't mean losing control; instead, it's about having the ability to pivot as needed without derailing the entire project.

Utilizing Change Management Tools

Modern project management software often includes features specifically designed to handle change and integrations. These tools can streamline the assessment, approval, and documentation processes, making it easier to keep the project on track even as changes occur.

4. Communicate Frequently and Clearly

Effective communication is the lifeblood of any successful project, and its importance cannot be overstated. Not only does it ensure that everyone is on the same page, but it also plays a pivotal role in keeping the project within budget.

Let's explore the various facets of communication that contribute to budget control.

Effective communication keeping the project within budget.

Establishing Clear Protocols for Requests

Whether it's an internal team request or a client requirement, having a well-defined method for dealing with these inquiries is essential for current and future similar projects. Such protocols should:

  • Document Every Request: Ensure that all communication, especially those that affect the project's scope, timeline, or budget, is documented. This can help in tracking changes and assessing their impact.

  • Use Technology Platforms: Utilize technology platforms to centralize communication, making it easy to access, track, and manage all project-related interactions.

  • Follow a Chain of Command: Ensure that every request goes through the proper channels. This reduces the risk of misunderstandings and ensures that the right people are making the decisions.

Understanding Needs and Expectations

Understanding the needs of both your team and clients is vital. This involves:

  • Regular Check-ins: Regular meetings with team members and clients to assess progress, clarify expectations, and address any concerns before they escalate.

  • Active Listening: Encouraging feedback and genuinely considering the input from all stakeholders. This promotes collaboration and helps in anticipating potential issues that might affect the budget.

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Poor Communication

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, mistakes, and rework—all of which can escalate costs. Here's how to avoid these common pitfalls:

  • Be Transparent: Share information openly with all relevant stakeholders. This includes not only successes but also challenges and risks, so everyone has a realistic understanding of the project status.

  • Use Clear Language: Avoid jargon and ensure that your communication is clear and comprehensible to everyone involved, regardless of their familiarity with the project or industry.

  • Ensure Timely Communication: Timely sharing of information helps in making swift decisions and taking corrective actions if needed, reducing the risk of delays and cost overruns.

5. The Right Project Management Software Makes a Difference

Tracking projects and their budgets is far more efficient and accurate with the right software. Being able to log all data collaboratively on a daily basis such as the project management tasks themselves, as well as time and expenses and billing and accounting information can allow for seamless management.

If you're using a project management software like BQE CORE, not only can you track all of this, but you can also compile all of this information into specified reports and share data that's critical to the success and budget tracking of your current and future projects.

BQE CORE also helps with job costing and budgeting for future projects by providing you historical data of past project performance.

If you would like to try BQE CORE free for 15 days (no credit card required), click the banner below to get started.

Try a free demo of BQE CORE to start staying within your project budget. 




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