“What’s your number?” the new VP asked. “What does he mean, what’s my number?” I thought to myself. “Are we playing a Game Show here or did someone just win the lottery?
I have no idea what he’s talking about!” I thought to myself as I looked at him with what I was sure to be an extremely blank look on my face. He pressed further, “C, mon, you’ve got to know your number. Are you telling me you don’t know your number?”
Clearly, I didn’t know my number. What’s worse, I didn’t even know what he was talking about! Before I go much further I’ll provide a bit more background of what led up to this conversation.
I was working for a technology company at the time. Like all other technology companies, this one had been through its ups and downs.
There were times when everything and everyone was riding high on the wave and then there were other times when the wave had crashed and the company had reached all time lows. This was one of those times.
The company was having a rough time getting work out the door. The delivery arm of the company was struggling and my extension billings were impacted. This was creating a vortex of concern as dates and deliverables continued to be missed, revenue realization continued to be pushed further out, and morale began to deteriorate. The best project plan development methodology and teams were having trouble figuring out what was going wrong… and what could be done to fix things?
This guy was hired to put an end to the madness. He joined the company and didn’t say anything to anyone for a week. He sat back in his corner office segregated from everyone else. He would trek up and down the hallways from his office and meet with the CEO and CFO a couple of times a day.
You might get a perfunctory head nod if you passed him in the hall. Nothing more, nothing less. “What was this guy doing? What was he all about?” we all wondered.
It wasn’t too long before we got our answer. The entire services organization rolled up to this new guy effective immediately. This meant the program managers, project managers, support groups, and anyone and everyone that interfaced with a customer or client was in his organization. This was when he started asking everyone about their number.
What was he talking about? Did he want to know our age? Our weight? What was it that he wanted to know? It was driving everyone mad.
He finally came out with it. Our “number” was the dollar figure being contributed to the bottom line of the projects we were managing. It was actually two numbers. First, he wanted to make sure everyone knew the companies billing goal. Second, he wanted to make sure everyone knew how their projects, and their project plan development numbers, were contributing to the bottom line.
Project Plan Development Reaction
What the reaction from those project and program managers who were tasked with project plan development? Some hated it. “That’s not my job,” they would say. “It’s not my job to know how my numbers fit into the bottom line. I focus on project plan development and pretty much do what I’m told,” they would continue.
Others didn’t know where to start. They didn’t hate the idea. They just had never been asked that question before. They would discreetly meet over lunch and commiserate over the fact that they had no clue on where they would even begin to get these numbers that were being requested.
The final group started figuring it out. They put aside their project plan development activity for the time being and started to focus on “the numbers”. They asked the VP questions about what he was looking for, what format he needed, and how soon. They then dug into their projects to start uncovering the numbers.
Over time, the ones that hated the idea left the company, the ones that were unsure became convinced, and the ones who embraced it from the beginning led the way. Knowing these two numbers became part of the corporate culture and helped get the company pointed in the right direction again.
What are Your Project Plan Development Numbers?
Every project that is managed within a company is undertaken for one of two reasons. The first is to bring in revenue to the company. Companies that sell client work on a Fixed Fee or Time and Material basis know the intimate details of how that works and the importance of keeping this cash flow. Or, it may be that a new product or service offering needed to be developed to increase company revenue. This is the lifeblood of the company that keeps everything else moving forward.
The second reason projects are undertaken is to cut costs or reduce expense. This could be accomplished by optimizing an outdated process or upgrading antiquated equipment.
Each one of these types of projects have a number associated with it…how much will be billed to the client, generated as additional revenue, or realized in the form of cost savings. Find those numbers and hold them near and dear to your project management heart.
How Can You Influence These Numbers?
“Big deal,” you may say. “I know the numbers. What difference is that going to make when it comes to my project plan development process?” Good question. There are a number of things you can be mindful of when you are working on your project plan development activities that can influence your number. For example:
- Can Something Get Done Faster? Are there tasks you can run in parallel instead of serially in order to get the project done faster? This is especially important as the end of your fiscal year approaches. You may be able to meet your financial target by accelerating billing on a project that has been delivered early.
- Can Something Be Done Better? In conjunction with your project plan development schedule being done faster, is there something that can be done better? Look for opportunities to make something easier, less complicated, or smoother. Find out those areas where something is stuck in limbo between departments without the other department knowing it’s ready to work on.
- Can Something be Done Different? It may not be that something needs to be done better with your project plan development, it could be that it just needs to be done differently. Perhaps you could change the order of where something was done or get approvals earlier on in the process.
The above are all ways you can influence the end of the year billing goal by not only knowing what the company’s target is but how you contribute to the bottom line yourself.
Tell Everyone Your Numbers
Now that you know your numbers make sure to incorporate them in your conversations throughout the company. Include them in project meetings, highlight them in status reports, and talk about them frequently. This will let others (especially upper management) know that you are concerned about the business as a whole and what part you have to play in making it a success.
What’s your number? Take a break from your routine project plan development activities and go find out. You’ll be glad you did when the new VP comes to town.