How We Manage Projects at Punch Through
Project management is an essential part of every successful project. After all, you can’t start the execution without a proper plan. Project managers oversee the planning and execution of projects to ensure the desired outcome is achieved, money is saved, and communication and accountability are present throughout the project.
At Punch Through, we keep our values at the forefront of how we manage projects. We’re transparent, driven to deliver, empathetic, detail-oriented, always learning, and intentional about how we manage projects. The openness and drive to deliver not only embodies these values but has proven to lead to successful projects and great relationships with our clients.
I started at Punch Through this year. Being new to Punch Through, I noticed immediately how open and transparent our project management team was and how positive this was for our customers and their projects. When issues arise or limitations are discovered, they’re discussed early and openly, which allows the team to pivot sooner and get to the desired outcome from a different path. We encourage projects to take the path that leads to success, and pivoting is a positive part of that process. In fact, deviation from a plan is perfectly fine and even encouraged. Our approach to project management enables teams to not only see the right time to pivot but have the agility to do so.
The Value of Project Management at Punch Through
Our project management approach at Punch Through provides clarity throughout the entire project lifecycle. From proposals to kickoff to development and closeout, our team is there. We carefully manage our projects with the goal of finishing on time, within budget, and within scope.
If we’re not able to meet those requirements, you know immediately so we can address the reason and clear a path forward. Whether scope additions or timeline changes, we’re ready to help you every step of the way. The clarity and management we provide works for us and our customers because we communicate openly and work together towards a common goal. Our success is dependent on the success of our customers–the point is, we can’t succeed if our customers don’t.
How We Manage Projects
One of our core values is our belief that when we work together, everything is better. This is plainly visible in our management style. Every project is assigned a management team. You get a Project Manager, Project Lead, and Project Sponsor. This team works together closely, and each person plays a crucial role in project success.
Project Managers have many responsibilities throughout the project, however, they’re guided by continually having the ability to answer these questions:
- When is the next milestone(s) & deliverable(s)?
- Are project efforts on time?
- Are project efforts within scope?
- Are project efforts trending within budget?
- Does the Client and Project Lead know the current answer to the above questions?
While answering those questions may seem fairly straightforward, there are many responsibilities/tasks involved in having those answers. One way we ensure everybody on the project team has up-to-date information is routine meetings and weekly status reports. These updates focus on progress since the last update, plans for the following week, discussion topics, issues/blockers/risks, action items, milestone review, and a budget update.
While preparing this information takes some time, it’s valuable for all involved. This aids in the completion of action items, fuels productive and focused conversations, and holds team members accountable for the completion of action items. It also allows our customers to have the clear and accurate information they need to report back to relevant stakeholders.
One unique thing about Project Managers at Punch Through is their involvement in the sales process. Our Project Managers are brought in early on to contribute to and facilitate proposal creation, estimates, and get to know our potential customers. This helps immensely with smooth transitions from sales to project work, as they already have project context and a relationship with the customer. As the project progresses and issues are identified, the Project Manager communicates any issues/risks and can facilitate pivoting, change orders, or new SOWs much more effectively.
Project Leads are not only developers on the project, but carry additional responsibilities for managing engineering tasks. Their management tasks are guided by the following questions:
- Are engineering tasks for the next deliverable(s) defined and assigned?
- Do engineers performing tasks understand the scope of the tasks? (i.e. what is “complete”?)
- Are engineers performing tasks properly equipped to complete the tasks? (ie HW, test equipment, background knowledge, documentation, technical expertise?)
- What are the current technical or project risks that may block success?
- If project risks or scope changes begin to affect the project schedule or budget, is the impact enough to alert the client immediately or wait until the next status meeting?
The ultimate goal of the project lead is to ensure the team and the project are set up to succeed. Having clearly defined tasks, proper equipment, and necessary background knowledge and skills to complete tasks facilitates the team to efficiently deliver good work. In addition to managing the technical tasks and facilitating team success, the Project Lead is on the lookout for project risks that could affect the schedule or budget.
While the first three questions guide an essential function, I would like to point out the last two and how important they are. We strive to have smooth projects, but bumps in the road are expected. We believe our customers should be informed about risks, scope changes, or technical issues facing the project team as we encounter them so we can address them or pivot early. It’s not a matter of if we inform our customers, but WHEN we inform them. Changing the plan is not considered a failure, but an opportunity to make a better decision leading to project success. This only works when an environment of open communication and trust is established.
Project Sponsors do not typically have day-to-day tasks for a project, however, they have weekly actions that we feel are essential for the success of our projects. Similar to the Project Manager and Project Lead roles, our Project Sponsors are guided by the following questions:
- Does our project execution and interactions with the client align with Punch Through’s values?
- What is the expected project end date based on the burn rate and scope from the SOW?
- When a scope change or new SOW is required, do you have a plan for who will execute, when it will be completed, and a strategy for communication with the client?
- Does the project leadership team have the direction/strategy needed to communicate and execute any changes in the project plan or direction? (i.e. project goals, resources, priority, etc.)
- How does our client’s project sponsor(s) feel about our relationship and work product?
One of the most important responsibilities for Project Sponsors is ensuring the project and relationship with the customer align with Punch Through’s values. Our values were carefully crafted to guide the kind of company we are, and ensuring the work we do falls within those values is vital. When our work is true to who we are as a company, our relationships are positive, collaborative, and lead to successful projects.
There’s no single plan or playbook to manage projects. Across industries, project management is a common area that’s crucial to successful project execution. We approach project management for each project with the same mindset and guiding questions — tailored to the needs for each project, as no two projects are alike. Every time we estimate a project’s effort, we consider those variations and plan accordingly.
Oftentimes, tasks associated with managing projects are grouped or nested within other tasks and are not visible to customers. We prefer to clarify any cost associated with projects and choose to list them openly. We feel this approach benefits customers for two reasons: first, it ensures enough time is dedicated to project management. Second, it makes it clear to our customers that we planned for project management tasks and are prepared to lead the project successfully.
Transparency, teamwork, planning, and organization are the keys to our successful projects. For those who know us, this may not be a surprise at all. With Punch Through, what you see is what you get. We don’t want a veil of mystery between us and our customers. You can work with us knowing exactly what’s happening every step of the way. This openness and collaboration will lead to a successful project.