Implementing Technologies on an Accelerated Schedule
CPAs are trained to be methodical. They know how to break down assignments into smaller tasks to complete projects on time and within the established budget. That’s why they are perfect to work on complex projects that involve implementing technologies, especially on an accelerated schedule.
The longer it takes to complete a project, the higher the cost of capital investments and human resources. CPAs working on an internal IT project are often pulled from billable assignments. Since CPAs often bill on an hourly basis, every minute they are in a meeting, reviewing project specs or working on another task costs the company money.
Project Management Frameworks
CPAs can borrow best practices from engineers, IT consultants, project managers and other professionals. One such practice is working within a project management framework, which refers to a set of methods, procedures and rules that relate to and cover the entire lifecycle of the project. It defines a project’s charter, scope and purpose by specifying and delineating the processes, steps and actions needed to execute the job from initiation to delivery.
There are many phases in a project management framework. These include initiation, planning, execution, performance control and closure.
The benefits of using a project management framework are:
- Consistency in project planning and execution
- Clarity in the scope of the project
- Collaboration between stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the project
- Continuity and planning integration throughout the project
- Communication among the team when defining the scope and purpose
Project Management Methodologies
There are many good project management methodologies that can be used to control the flow of work when implementing new technologies. These include but are not limited to the following:
- Waterfall is a simple project management method used for short, uncomplicated projects. It involves listing the tasks that need to be done in sequential order and checking them off as they are done. For the Waterfall methodology to be successful, tasks must include every step that needs be accomplished arranged in a logical, chronological order. CPAs must invest time in the beginning of the project to identify everything that needs to be done.
- Agile is ideal for complex projects with high uncertainty and likelihood of change, including new designs, problems and exploratory work. Agile gives project teams the ability to create and respond to change in real time. Agile methods can help CPAs to be more proactive and solutions focused. Challenges can be identified before they become problems which will save money.
- Lean is a form of Agile project management that targets doing more with less. Lean project management methods, such as Six Sigma, provide the tools and techniques to make businesses more effective and efficient. CPAs will benefit from implementing lean practices. Time and money will be saved because of efficient workflow and enhanced processes.
Six Sigma is a methodology that allows organizations to make operations more efficient by reducing variation and eliminating defects. CPAs can benefit from working more effectively and efficiently on internal and external projects. The company will save money by having fewer resources (people) invested in the project.
The opportunity costs could be substantial. Operations will improve by having more efficient systems in place, more billable work can be completed because professionals will have additional time available and realization rates should improve because the actual hours worked on the engagement should decrease.
Six Sigma focuses on producing measurable results during a defined time frame of typically 12 to 16 weeks. Projects are completed in a reasonable timeframe so that management and the project team remains focused and there is momentum for continual improvement. It also ensures that the team and resources are available for the duration of the project.
Two methodologies are used in Six Sigma:
Define, measure, analyze, design and verify (DMADV) is for new projects or processes. It involves:
- Defining design goals for the new process
- Measuring the required quality characteristics, product or production process capabilities and associated risks
- Analyzing the findings to develop an appropriate solution
- Designing the new product or process
- Verifying that the new process works as intended
Define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC) is a methodology applied to existing systems that need improvement. It involves:
- Defining the problems and project goals
- Measuring data related to current processes
- Analyzing the findings to identify the root cause of the problem through cause- and-effect relationships
- Improving existing processes based on data analysis
- Controlling the process to avoid variations in the process going forward
By following the principles of Six Sigma, a team can create a solutions-based implementation plan. This will give the project team a roadmap for making the change happen within the desired timeframe.
Members of the project team must be given adequate time away from their normal activities to devote to the project. Accelerated project work requires members of the team to attend every meeting, come prepared to each meeting and be ready to discuss in detail the task(s) that were assigned to them. Whether meetings are held virtually or in-person, the tools should be available to foster collaboration and sharing.
A project management framework will define a project’s scope and purpose. Processes, steps and actions will then be defined and implemented throughout the project’s lifecycle — helping to run the project more efficiently, saving CPAs, their companies and their clients time and money.
This article appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.