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Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


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January 4, 2024 | Louis Bagdonas

From Estimation to Execution: Moovila Exec on Mastering Timelines in MSP Projects

Fostering a supportive work environment and proactively improving audit processes will reveal recurring challenges for IT services providers, leading to more accurate timelines and better results.

In the dynamic and fast-paced world of MSPs, achieving project success – including on-time and on-budget delivery – is no easy task by any measure. The journey from project estimation to delivery and execution is riddled with challenges, and success is dependent on proficiency and accuracy in the project timeline.

Effective project managers understand the customer’s vision, work to cultivate trust with customers and team members, and emphasize transparency at every phase. Fostering a supportive work environment and proactively improving audit processes will reveal recurring challenges, leading to more accurate timelines and better results.

The Initial Hurdle: Unrealistic Timelines

For MSPs, the lifecycle from project estimation to execution often starts with a timeline dictated by the customer.

The project outline and scope of work often is mapped out and agreed upon before ever consulting with a project team. This leads to an unrealistic timeline, setting the stage for the first major challenge MSPs face. Beyond that, each scope change has unintended consequences that the customer rarely considers.

Tackling this issue requires proactive measures. The sales and project teams need to review and sign off on outlines, scopes, and timelines before they are sent to the customer. In addition to creating realistic timelines, this strategy aligns the sales and operations teams around a common goal to create a collaborative team environment.

Project Planning Tools

No matter how well teams work together, mastering timelines in MSP projects can often come down to the tools and strategies used to plan and manage.

Louis Bagdonas of Moovila

Louis Bagdonas

Building a robust project plan involves understanding the project’s complexity. For simpler projects with fewer tasks and team members involved, Excel might get the job done. However, more complex projects with hundreds of tasks and dependencies, multiple teams, and intersecting timelines require more sophisticated project management tools that can be integrated with existing business applications.

Identifying this tipping point where MSPs need larger-scale project management tools can be tricky and often comes down to consistent failures. Missed deadlines and a growing backlog of projects are signs that something needs to change.

The immediate fix can be utilizing additional resources to save a slipping project. But this may lead to a cascade of problems. Adding contract workers to the project sabotages the margin, and pulling people from other teams leads to missed deadlines on other projects and often the added burden of team members working overtime.

The key is identifying these issues well before missed deadlines. Early identification of timeline issues, along with an adaptable team, allows for proactive planning and greater success.

Maintaining Efficiency and Accuracy

Clear and frequent communication is paramount to avoiding conflict among various moving parts.

To maintain efficiency and accuracy in project timelines, use regular checkpoints with both internal teams and clients. While more meetings might seem daunting, establishing quick 15-minute weekly check-ins can be highly impactful.

Audits during a project play a crucial role in identifying and rectifying issues. By comparing initial scope estimates to actual hours worked and planned deadlines to completion dates, MSPs can get ahead of problems. The project team can then address issues during weekly check-ins and take steps to mitigate any problems.

Similarly, reviewing projects at their conclusion is essential, comparing estimated to actual time and complete dates and discussing with the team what went wrong and how to improve estimates for future projects.

Communication Challenges

In project management, communication breakdowns can be a significant hurdle. Circling back to the importance of weekly check-ins to address these challenges, meetings with the project team and clients serve as forums for extracting updates and troubleshooting issues.

Dealing with any arising communication problems requires a proactive approach. Ask specific questions about the various project phases and encourage feedback. Team members must feel comfortable critiquing the process for continuous improvement. The initial reaction to mistakes or bad news sets the tone for future communication. As a project manager, setting a positive tone and providing constructive feedback is key to fostering open communication.

Beyond Technology: The Role of Leadership

Project managers are leaders who manage both the technical aspects and the team members needed to complete projects on-time and on-budget.

While technology is crucial in project management, real-time communication and an effective feedback loop are equally important. Mastering timelines in MSP projects is a multifaceted challenge beyond technical aspects.

By addressing unrealistic timelines early, implementing appropriate project planning tools, and fostering open communication and leadership, MSPs can not only meet deadlines but also enhance client relationships and achieve sustained success in a competitive landscape.

Louis Bagdonas is senior program manager, MSPs of Moovila.

Image: DALL-E

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