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Megan Miller
Megan Miller
Megan Miller is a senior product marketing specialist for Herndon-based Deltek, the leading global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms and government contractors, and can be found at

Six Steps To Move Project Management From Good To Great

March 31st, 2016 by Megan Miller

Why be good when you can be great?

Many of you have probably read or heard of the book “Good to Great” by James C. Collins. In it, Collins says, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.”

That discipline is what separates good firms from great firms – and why it is absolutely critical that you not only set strategic goals, but establish a plan to stay on track and reach your target.

The AEC industry’s project focus makes it a natural environment for implementing strategic changes to boost what your firm is capable of delivering. Given that, here are six steps to move your AEC firm’s project management from good enough to great.

Step One: Determine How You Measure Up

Benchmark your firm against peers with a trusted resource like the Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study to help you drill down on key performance indicators that matter most to your firm. Are you tracking the right metrics? Where do you measure up compared to high-performing firms or similarly sized firms? Key KPIs for project management include utilization, percentage of projects on or under budget, and project visibility across the firm.

Step Two: Set Clear, Realistic Goals

Many firms fail to reach their goals because they set themselves up for failure. They set goals that are unrealistic and unachievable or they strive for something so vague that teams don’t know where to start. By looking at your numbers compared to industry benchmarks, you can identify where you need to focus – but don’t expect to jump from 50% utilization to 75% utilization overnight. You’ll need a plan to get to your desired state with realistic milestones along the way. For example, perhaps it is more realistic to increase utilization by 3% or improve on-time, on-budget project delivery by 5%.

Step Three: Identify Your Biggest Challenges

Project management is not easy. It is difficult for project managers to effectively and proactively manage projects, keep clients happy and at the same time try to reach profitability goals. There always are things that get in the way. According to the 36th Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Study, some of the top challenges faced by project managers include accurate project cost forecasting, collaboration and communication, and inexperienced project managers. What are the biggest barriers to your project managers’ success? What is getting in the way of them being great project managers?

Step Four: Replicate Top Performers

Chances are, there are exceptional project managers in your AEC firm. How can you leverage their expertise to help reach your goals and encourage other project managers to move from good to great? Do you have a way to share best practices or a formal project manager mentorship program? Some of your best training resources might be right in front of you, given the time and resources to use them effectively.

Step Five: Monitor Progress To Goal

Many goals fail because there is no plan or accountability to see them through. You may start off the year strong and then fade away as projects and other commitments get in the way. Therefore, monitoring progress to goal frequently is critical to success. Once you have established your goals for the year, be sure to identify key milestones, a reporting mechanism and a frequency to monitor progress. Be sure you have the right tools in place to proactively monitor progress to goal.

Step Six: Course Correct Early & Often

As with every project and goal, you’ll identify obstacles along the way. Have a plan for how to not only monitor and identify challenges, but how to adjust your course if needed. That way, even if you experience challenges, you can keep moving toward your goals and positively impact your bottom line.

Make sure you have the right project management tools to help you see where you fall short and where you excel. With that information in hand, set clear, realistic goals and start your firm on the path to achieving them – moving from good to great. This is your year.

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