How to Optimize Projects and Manage Costs

As discussed in a previous post titled “Higher Hourly Rates Result in Lower Costs,” an hourly rate is not indicative of the true cost of a service provider.  Rather, the time it takes to complete tasks or deliver outcomes is the determining factor.  Since time is a limited asset for everyone, its value should be protected and used wisely.  Given the choice, paying a higher rate and using less time should always trump paying a reduced rate and taking longer.

Here are some ways to optimize time and manage costs on typical projects.

Be prepared and ready for onsite service – 

A prepared programmer gets their homework done before it is time for onsite service.  This means that code is written in advance per defined and agreed up on requirements.  Additionally, preliminary testing is done in advance of onsite service to maximize focus and productivity when code is tested onsite.  Changes to scope, inaccuracies of information, and deficiencies in onsite system readiness all result in the need for additional time and costs.

Confirming that the all equipment is installed, wired, setup, and verified for basic signal flow is a critical factor in determining readiness for onsite testing.  While a programmer can support and assist in the setup and troubleshooting of installation, their time is costly and likely not best used for this purpose.  Additionally, an experienced field engineer or technician would be more efficient in addressing these needs leaving the programmer to focus on testing of control and perfecting functionality.

Identify and discuss the impact of changes as they occur – 

While it is expected and understood that all projects will have a degree of changes in information or requirements due to unpredictable circumstances, it is how those changes are handled that can make all the difference.  The quicker that changes are identified and shared, the lesser that their impact will be on everyone involved in the project.  Although it is unreasonable to expect that changes will be eliminated, their affect can be controlled through being forthright and prompt in sharing important information.

Examples of changes that can result in significant time requirements the later they are identified are:

        • Differences in make/model of equipment
        • Fluctuation of input, output, and control port assignments
        • Changes in network or device setup
        • Variation in system functionality requirements

The sooner these items are realized and communicated, the lesser the overall impact.

Schedule effectively and communicate with transparency – 

Working together in a seamless manner with fluid, frequent communication of information and scheduling details is a great way to neutralize project speed bumps.  As we are all busy and want to make best use of precious time, resources are carefully planned in advance and allocated based on agreed upon milestones and deadlines.  As a result, last minute cancellations can be as challenging to accommodate as last minute requests for service.

While emergencies can not be avoided, they can be minimized.  Communicating anticipated needs or or shifts in schedule as early as possible are key in allowing service providers to be more agile and accommodating with their time.  Despite cancellations being a more responsible and preferred option than the alternative of lost time, the challenge of reallocating resources becomes more and more difficult the later it is requested.  Not only does this apply to repurposing the time that was abandoned, but also for shuffling around schedules to claim time for the future need.

Time is the precious resource that everyone has and nobody wants to waste.  Some are more generous with their time, while some are more productive using it.  By taking a greater interest in respecting everyone’s time, we will likely find that we will all work more efficiently when focusing on the value that can be created rather than dwelling on the cost.

When cost is a factor (and there aren’t many times that it not), optimizing time is as critical as receiving a favorable hourly rate.  Since hourly rates are typically fixed and are out of clients’ control, managing time and scope can be an attainable way for clients to impact and regulate their costs.