A busy professional has this question regarding time management:

When is the best time to add projects to our tracker, when a client pays or when we receive a RFP (Request for Proposal)?

We are finalizing our project management and service provision policies and although we track work from the moment we have to submit a proposal, we want to make sure we aren’t wasting valuable time tracking projects that don’t follow through. But we still want to be prepared with assignments and tasks when the bottom line is signed.

Clarify your goals for project management

The simple answer is to follow your GOAL.

Is your goal really to not waste valuable time tracking projects that don’t follow through?  Or is your goal to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, that everything runs smoothly and efficiently;  and make sure your quality connectivity is maintained?

If your goal is to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, everything runs smoothly and quality connectivity is maintained – then you really do need someone to track every step from conception through delivery and deployment (and even afterward regarding maintenance and up-sale opportunities).

Every project created equal

Does everyone have to be involved in every step? No.

Does every project have to be handled the same way? No.
Should someone be steering the ship throughout every journey? Yes.
Should someone be collecting metrics throughout every project? Yes.
Do you have to use the same tracker or project plan for every phase? No.
Not every project is created equal.  You don’t have to treat every project the same.  Having said that, you should have every project tracked from start to end.

The benefit for tracking everything is that you will be learning how long things actually take, how much things actually cost, etc. Even if the project doesn’t go to the end – you have collected valuable information to reuse and improve your cost and time estimates for future projects. You will have collected valuable data for process improvement.

Problem with tacking after payment

You also have the possibility of the contract being signed, without up-front payment. They may pay on a payment plan OR upon delivery. In those cases, it doesn’t help you to start tracking only when the client pays.

Tracking before the RFP

You should actually be tracking your time and effort regarding lead-to-sales effort as well (i.e. how long it takes from receiving the lead to actually being able to submit a proposal). Tracking the steps, time and effort in this sales process also provides invaluable data regarding process improvement, need for additional sales tools or training. The overall goal is to reduce that lead-to-RFP time; as well as improve the Lead-to-Sale conversion numbers.
Does this type of sales project management tracking need to be the same as the development project management tracking tool? No. Sales could use their CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool to track and analyze their effectiveness.

Bottom line – you aren’t wasting valuable time tracking projects, although you can waste your time collecting/tracking the wrong data. You can always, always, always use proper tracking information to good use. You just need decide the right metrics to collect and make the data useful to you.

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