Most of us are familiar with the term project management and know the benefits it can bring to the company. Predictability, stability, and a higher percentage of successful projects are usually the main attraction points that lead to taking the project management practices on. However, when it comes to engineering projects, we often see little to no project management application. This is mostly because engineering teams and projects are often led by former engineers who rose to the management positions but did not get any project management training. While this is not necessarily an issue at first, as the projects continue to grow, there are certain benefits project management knowledge can bring to the table.
Here is how applying project management techniques can help improve your engineering projects.
Before diving into the benefits, lets first define what engineering project management really is – project management practices applied to engineering projects.
No more, no less, just a simple application of the universally used practices to the engineering field. So why do we call it engineering project management? This is done because such an application requires managing both – regular project management tasks and engineering tasks. For example, if your project is building a new museum, managing it will require traditional project management skills – managing the workload, budget, timeline, and engineering project management skills – approving plans, understanding engineering processes, etc.
Thus, we have a separate project management branch called the engineering project management.
Now that we know what engineering project management is, let’s talk about the difference between a project engineer and a project manager. As mentioned above, most engineering projects are lead by former engineers. This is a natural progression as they know the field, how the team operates, and can lead from their own experience. However, as the role changes from a project engineer to the project manager, so do the personal responsibilities.
Project engineer is a part of the engineering team and responsible for delivering engineering tasks that were assigned to them.
Engineering project manager is responsible for managing the whole project and ensuring the team can deliver the set result on time and on budget.
As such, the two roles are quite different and require similar, but diversified qualities. The project engineer has to deliver the engineering tasks and as such must be good at the actual engineering field. The project manager, on the other hand, focuses on delivering the whole project. This means, managing cost, scope, workload, communicating with the stakeholders, and more. While engineering knowledge may help them make the right decisions, it is not a requirement for this role. Instead, the third position of a lead engineer can be created to supplement the lack of engineering knowledge in the manager and secure effective communication between the engineering team and the project manager.
Engineering project management uses the same project management approaches as any other field. Most chose between Waterfall, Integrated project management, and various Agile approaches. While Waterfall is still the most popular amongst engineering project managers, more and more are adopting mixed methods. Meaning they practice the approach that makes the most sense in each project phase. This allows for more flexibility and gaining an advantage of using several approaches.
Applying project management practices to engineering projects brings several benefits to the table:
1 – Ability to deal with irrational situations
Most engineering project managers rise to the position from being project engineers. They have great technical skill and no issues when making rational, calculated decisions. However, coming to the project management position, they are now facing a lot more. Project team members, suppliers, stakeholders are the people they now have to communicate with and rational decisions are not always the best answer here. By getting engineering project management training, such leaders can make better decisions that lead to a better project outcome.
2 – Less mistakes
By taking the time to learn and master engineering project management, project managers can ensure their projects are more successful. Instead of learning through the job and having to reset the project with each mistake, project managers can save time and money by train in the project management field. Project management is not easy even for the most experienced, thus such an opportunity should be seen as necessary and advantageous.
3 – Repeatable success
By understanding what exactly goes into project management and how it should run ideally. Engineering project managers can also understand what affected their previous project success. As such, they can review what was done, eliminate the waste and replicate the processes that worked. This way, having a successful project is not just luck, but a calculated and thoughtful process.
4 – Communication and leadership skills
Going through the project management training, ex-engineers gain specific soft skills that are required for their new role. Communication and leadership are rarely taught to those that seek an engineering career, but are crucial for managing a project. And such skills will take time and effort to learn on the job. So, instead of making mistakes, take some time to develop the new skills and enjoy leading the project instead of dreading it.
5 – A bigger body of knowledge
Engineering project management training will give the project manager new skills and will provide them with quite a bit of new information. They will learn project management procedures, terms, possibly hear about various new practices and approaches. Having all of this information will allow the manager to feel like they know what has to be done and like they have options on how to do it. Instead of relying solely on their own experience from being on an engineering team, they will now be able to apply various project management tools to deliver the project.
To make project management more effective most managers use engineering project management software. Companies choose these solutions based on their needs and preferences. In some cases, specialized engineering project management tools are preferred, but the majority of teams prioritize the right features and ease of use instead of classification.
When it comes to engineering projects, most look for tools that allow you to visualize the whole process down to the smallest details, plan out the project phases, track various project management metrics and enable cross-team collaboration. Having all of these features allows to carry out long-term projects with a clear vision and a good understanding of how soon can the goal be reached.
Teamhood is a visual project management tool for high-performing teams. It delivers a dedicated solution for engineering project management – feature rich and focused on delivering ultimate visibility on complex projects as well as daily plans.
Visualize the process – use fully modifiable Kanban boards to replicate and track your processes down to the smallest details. See all of the project tasks, subtasks, and their processes to ensure the team always knows what has to be done next and which work items are the most important. You set up a structure of task boards to separate planning, design, execution, and testing phases. This way, each functional team can use a clear task board fit to their processes and there is more clarity for everyone involved.
Create and track long-term plans – use timeline and portfolio views to create and track your overall progress. Mark project task and phase dependencies and ensure everything is done according to plan. The Timeline view will let you set and track work item and sub-task dependencies. Define in what order they have to be completed and follow this sequence to ensure nothing is missing.
For planning out several projects or project phases, use the Portfolio view. here you will be able to define the total duration of the project, its phases and track how much work is completed compared to how much time there is left to do. Track as many projects as needed and divide project phases into multiple layers or work items. Thus, creating a structure for what has to be done and tracking it easily.
Track project metrics – Teamhood gathers and analyzes your project to provide you with metrics reports and insights on how to improve your project. Quickly check the overall status in the Dashboard or navigate to the actionable Agile metrics for insights and suggestions. You will be able to see how has your team performed over time and identify the longest times it takes for them to complete tasks. This will lead to easier timeline estimations and easier problem identification. Lastly, Teamhood will give you suggestions on which tasks should be completed first according to the time they have already spent in progress and their due dates.
Curious to learn more? Download Teamhood for a free 14 day trial and try out the possibilities for yourself.