Most tasks we do at work are either process or project-based. Processes are made of repetitive tasks that we do repeatedly, with little to no variation. Project work can vary significantly from one project to another and can change based on internal or customer requirements.
It's essential to differentiate process tasks and project-based tasks because:
Productivity in project management is influenced by many factors—this is not the case for repetitive work. We all depend on others to do our job well, but these dependencies are more complex in project management.
Costs and profitability are tracked and analyzed differently. The cost of repetitive work is calculated by multiplying the time worked and the number of units produced. In project management, the time and resources needed to complete a task can vary for the same type of work.
Compliance and governance are more challenging to monitor for project work. When many people are involved in various tasks, establishing responsibilities and tracking accountability becomes very complicated.
For example, to keep a home functional and comfortable, we perform repetitive tasks like cleaning, occasional painting, and sometimes projects, such as major renovations. We usually don't track the costs of cleaning, but we're cautious with improvements, which are often more expensive and difficult to manage.
Here's a summary of various types of costs needed for house maintenance and repairs:
The example above is a simple project, but business projects are usually much more complicated. To fully understand how companies use project management, let's take a look at the main project-based industry sectors:
Professional services includes consultants, advisors, or contractors focusing on liberal professions (accountants, lawyers, doctors) and relatively new types of work such as marketing and public relations (PR).
Architecture, construction, and engineering (AEC) companies manage the lifecycle of built structures, from buildings to infrastructure. AEC companies design, build and maintain physical structures, but very few of them cover all these stages.
Engineering to order (ETO) manufacturing refers to complex products that are designed and manufactured based on customer-specific requirements. A few examples of ETO manufacturing are heavy equipment for mining or oil and gas or radar systems for aerospace and defense.
Companies from other industries, such as software development, also rely on project management. Due to the nature of their work, software development companies are more likely to adopt an agile methodology for project management, which is used to divide large projects into small tasks that are managed in short iterations. This allows companies to quickly and efficiently modify their software. The traditional methodology, waterfall methodology, takes more time and uses strict schedules, which can be useful for large projects but not for software development.
Finally, companies from industries like manufacturing are diversifying their activities by offering services. For instance, a company that sells industrial light bulbs and fixtures might decide to provide installation and maintenance services. While these services may not be useful for small customers, they can be very beneficial for large companies with multiple locations such as warehouses and retail stores.
Best software options for project-based companies
As shown above, there is a high demand for project management software, which explains why there are so many tools to manage tasks, resources, projects, portfolios, or all operations of professional services companies. The image below describes the different types of features and software products used by project-based companies. Some of them, like resource management or task management, can be delivered as standalone products or as part of a more extensive solution.
The market for project-based software is even more complicated than the graph above. There are hundreds of vendors offering thousands of products for any combination of features described in the diagram. Most of them are small and medium companies that focus on project management and its components such as time tracking, resource management, task management, workflow management, and project cost management. According to G2 reviewers, some of the most popular project management software products include Asana, Basecamp, Microsoft Project, monday.com, Smartsheet, Trello, and Wrike.
To give you a better idea of the complexity of the project-based software market, the slide deck below shows G2 Grids for four of the most popular categories: PPM, PSA, project management, and project-based ERP.
There are very few software vendors that provide the functionality to cover all stages of project management, regardless of their complexity. One of them is Deltek, whose portfolio of solutions includes software for all types of projects and government contractors. Government contracting isn't a focus for most software vendors because it requires complex features, and it's a highly regulated sector.
Deltek offers multiple software products for government contractors:
Govwin IQ helps find and participate in opportunities to work with the government, track competitors, and collaborate with partners
Costpoint is helpful for financials and project accounting, as well as project-based manufacturing, analytics, and compliance
Cobra and Acumen help manage project risk, earned value, and compliance with government regulations
The vendor also recently announced that they will release a new cloud offering designed specifically for government contractors. The new offering will be available in 2020 and is compliant with International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards.
ITAR is particularly important for defense companies with a global presence who need to manage sensitive data about military technology. Noncompliance with ITAR can be very costly for companies, resulting in criminal fines up to $1 million and 10 years imprisonment per violation.
At the Deltek Insight conference, the vendor also made other important announcements, including:
New AI capabilities that can be combined with existing products such as Costpoint Business Intelligence (BI) to provide better insights and streamline processes.
The release of a new product, Acumen Touchstone, defined by Deltek as a project intelligence cloud (PIC). The new product can help companies improve workflows, scheduling, mitigate risks, and improve cost management.
All these new products, features, and intelligent technologies are meant to supplement Deltek's extensive portfolio of software for project-based companies.
My main takeaway from the Deltek Insight conference is that the vendor is preparing for the future while focusing on the present. Project-based companies must adapt to the future workforce and changes in their markets, but at the same time manage pressing challenges such as compliance, project risk, productivity, and profitability.
Gabriel’s background includes more than 15 years of experience in all aspects of business software selection and implementation. His research work has involved detailed functional analyses of software vendors from various areas such as ERP, CRM, and HCM.
Gheorghiu holds a Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest (Romania), and a master's degree in territorial project management from Université Paris XII Val de Marne (France).