Scope, schedule, budget, and ?

August 25, 2021 |
Scope, schedule, budget, and ?

Scope… schedule… and budget…

(You know, one of these days I really want to write some technical musings, but it doesn’t look like today will be that day)

One of the interesting growing pains we’ve had as a company is trying to improve how we organize, collaborate, and run projects.  Part of this required more of the day to day project management to be managed by others, so that I can focus on project areas where I bring the most value.  The long term ideal is that this will let us help more clients, at lower costs, while also continuing to train future professionals in the field.  So how is this done? 

In the engineering consulting world project management focuses on scope, schedule, and budget.  We try to understand and define the scope we are going to be working on, communicating it clearly with our clients before we start a project.  We know that when construction is involved delays in schedule can cost our client, so schedule can not be ignored (not to mention the impacts on our planning).  And budget: simply we need to be able to afford to help people, and if we run ourselves out of business we won’t be able to help anyone.  As obvious as that sounds, that was sometimes difficult for me to learn.   But at the same time this focus of scope, schedule and budget simply did not feel right to me, I just couldn’t put my finger on why. 

Until finally I could.  We’re in the process now of changing how to do things, where every project is managed on four principles (and I’m open to this growing).  We are going to start measuring all our projects on how we are doing on scope, how we are doing on schedule, are we remaining on budget, and most importantly, are we bringing unique value.

We are specialists in the work we do, bringing a different set of tools, knowledge, and views to projects we work on.  We are not engineering generalists, or even general structural engineers.  Therefore, every project we work on we should be able to provide a unique value to the project.  If there is a project where we can not provide any unique value, why are we doing it?  I don’t think we’re doing ourselves or our clients any favours by doing things that could be done better by someone else, or done to the same quality but at a lower cost by someone else.  That leaves us unfulfilled and frustrated, and our clients disgruntled. 

So we’re going to start working in this question of value into each project in terms that we can track.  This means we must not only ensure the question is asked, but also ensure we think of a way to track how we achieve it.  It also, very importantly to me, means that the project management process must consider it – and raise the issue to the firm’s principals (just me at the moment, but hopefully to grow) if the value we are bringing ever comes into conflict with the scope, schedule, and budget. 

Spoiler alert – I know that adding value to that measurement will mean that it comes into conflict with the other three items.  It occurs more often that I would like to admit.  But if the value we bring is not critical, we would no longer be specialists – and sometimes, even internally – you need to state the obvious. 


Dr. Tom Morrison, P.Eng., Ph.D., CAHP, APT-RP, ISCARSAH

Heritage Standing Inc.

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