Whatever field of engineering you work in, your company’s reputation rests largely on your ability to get things done – on time, and to spec. Keeping projects to schedule, particularly with inevitable changes, additions and delays, becomes a project manager’s biggest challenge.
Whether you’re an experienced manager looking for some tips for delivering a successful engineering project, or you’re an engineer transitioning into a management or leadership role, we’ve scoured advice from industry leaders and put together these engineering project management tips for engineers to help you set, manage and exceed expectations.
Establish clear project specifications from the beginning
While it may seem obvious, the biggest reason that projects fail to meet deadlines is because of lack of attention to pre-project planning. Even minor changes along the way of project engineering can build up and cause scope creep. Before getting started, it’s a great idea to establish an accurate outline of project parameters, including:
- Personnel and external participants
Project engineering expectations can be established between a client and senior management or a sales team, without fully considering the specifics of what’s involved to deliver the project. Therefore, it helps for project engineering managers to be involved early in the process to ensure both parties have a realistic understanding of objectives and deliverables.
Build a strong project team
Creating a team with the right skills and the right attitude will be the difference between a seamless or troubled project. As project engineering manager, your job is to align skills and talents with appropriate project elements, and be sure team members have a clear understanding of what their roles and responsibilities are. Help them understand the end goal, and how their specific role contributes to the overall success of the project.
Establish client sign-offs at various stages of the project, as opposed to one final sign off. This strategy helps keep stakeholders engaged and accountable throughout the project delivery and will keep the scope on track.
- Set up calendar reminders for milestones to create transparency around deadlines.
- Schedule regular status meetings or phone calls.
- Establish a proactive rather than reactive process by encouraging any issues to be dealt with earlier rather than later.
- Celebrate these milestones regularly to keep your team members motivated and engaged.
Break it down
An important skill for project engineering managers to develop is the ability to simplify complex problems and break them down to more manageable and measurable projects. While making the wider plan seem less daunting, it also allows for a more effective means of tracking progress and measuring success.
Expect the unexpected
Remember that projects rarely go exactly to plan, so establish contingency strategies.
Work out some likely risk factors at various stages and how you could reduce their impact should they crop up. This is not to say you should plan for failure, simply that you need to develop the ability to recognise potential variables so you’re prepared to manage them.
Be open to new ideas and ways of doing things – there’s often more than one way to reach a goal.
Use job management tools to manage your workflow
Project management software like WorkflowMax helps you track and manage your workflow and milestones without piles of paperwork and confusing spreadsheets. You enter enter information in one place and benefit from all this functionality:
- Client management
- Job costing
- Time tracking
- Milestone tracking
- Document management
- Purchase orders
Because it’s in the cloud, you can access the information from wherever you need it, whether you’re on site or in the office.
Nick Stilwell is the managing director of UK-based engineering firm Stilwell and lauds what WorkflowMax does. “Everything is in the one system. Your timesheets, costs, notes, calls, emails…it’s very user friendly and we’ve never looked back.” See more from Nick and other customers in WorkflowMax customer stories.
Having a thorough understanding of how to manage a seamless and successful project is critical to your company’s success. Invariably, there will be bumps along the way but, with a bit of confidence and the right tools to avert a crisis before it escalates, you’ll be able to keep your engineering project management as stress-free as possible!
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