Finance and Budgeting

5 New Ways to Track Project Budgets Accurately

by David Arnold, September 9, 2015

As a Project Manager (PM), you already know that ensuring the success of your projects is a primary concern. But this can be a tough task. Even if the project is creatively brilliant and delivered on time, a project that goes over-budget can cause a catastrophe.

To help control your project budget—and prevent costly mistakes—refer to the following five tips:

1. Create a Baseline

After you’ve created your project’s schedule, it’s important to implement a baseline that can be used to track your tasks and project performance. Baselines provide PMs with a set of stored values for your project, including:

  • Original Scheduled Start and Finish Dates
  • Planned Efforts
  • Estimated Costs
  • Budgeted Revenue

Having an outlined plan helps provide accurate comparisons between your initial schedule and the actual progress of your work and your project’s earned value calculation.

2. Forecast the Budget

Accurate budget management, including consistent reforecasting, helps keep projects on track. Project costs and project budgets are two different entities. With this in mind, it’s important to identify your project costs and outline potential risks.

Revisiting your budget prevents things from getting too far out of hand. Revenue forecasting software can help monitor financial budgets, as well as streamline the process by automatically creating and updating budget forecasts.

3. Outline Resource Usage

Much like your budget, it’s important to constantly monitor your resource usage—after all, the people working on your team contribute to the overall cost. It’s crucial to review the number of people working on your project on a weekly basis to ensure that you are utilizing your resources. Consistently revisiting your resource usage helps give you an accurate status of your schedule and budget.

4. Monitor Your Schedule

Monitoring the project’s schedule performance provides PMs with indications of activity-coordination problems, resource conflicts and cost overruns. Consider implementing a work breakdown structure (WBS) to organize your team’s work into manageable sections. The WBS deliverable is designed to break down a project into manageable chunks that can be estimated and supervised, making it simpler for PMs to assign and manage individual responsibilities.

5. Manage Scope

Scope creep—uncontrolled changes or growth in the scope of a project—is one of the leading causes of project overruns. This typically occurs when the scope of a project is not accurately defined, documented or monitored.

Here are some tips on controlling scope creep:

  • Make sure you understand the project’s vision—and that all project drivers and stakeholders are on the same page.
  • Understand your priorities and outline your budget, deadlines, delivery, client satisfaction and employee satisfaction.
  • Define your deliverables.
  • Assign resources and determine a critical path using project evaluation and review techniques (such as the aforementioned WBS).
  • Plan for scope creep—but implement methods to respond to potential risks.

By monitoring scope, PMs can ensure that they are controlling their projects, instead of the projects controlling them.

Do you have any tips or tricks for tracking your project budgets accurately?

About The Author

David studied at the Northern AZ University & spent years working with agencies like J. Walter Thompson and McCann-Erickson and Fortune 100 companies in Tokyo.

Subscribe to the Workamajig blog