The PM Podcast


Project Management Interviews for Beginners and Experts

Episode 153: What mismanaging Small Projects Will Cost You

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Curt FinchLet's do the following exercise together: Today or tomorrow when you get to your office I want you to take a look at your organizations portfolio of projects. Obviously, the more project management maturity your company has, the more detailed this will be. However, what you will see in most companies is that the portfolio usually only contains the large, important or strategic projects. But what about the smaller ones? You know... those 30 projects which individually don't look like much but when you look at them as a whole they become a sizable chunk.

Often they are missing in the portfolio. So because they are "not important", would take too much time to keep track of, have too small a budget or a million other reasons they are not on anyone's radar. But small projects, while often overlooked, are still crucial to a company's success and will cost you a lot of money if managed improperly.

This is the premise of our discussion today with Curt Finch, CEO of Journyx (http://www.journyx.com). We discuss how he defines a small project, why we tend to ignore the small ones,  how he recommends that we manage all of these small projects, we look at the 3 key best practices that we must implement on a small project to be successful and what you can do today to improve overall management of small projects in your area of influence.

Below are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. 

Podcast Introduction

Cornelius Fichtner: This is The Project Management Podcast™. We bring project management to beginners and experts. Find us on the web at www.pm‑podcast.com or send your emails to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello and welcome to Episode #153. I am Cornelius Fichtner. This is The Project Management Podcast™, nice to have you with us.

Let's do the following exercise together: Today or maybe tomorrow when you get to your office, I want you to take a look at your organizations’ portfolio of projects. Obviously, the more project management maturity your company has, the more detailed this portfolio will be. However, what you will see in most companies is that the portfolio usually only contains the large, important or strategic projects. But what about the smaller ones? You know those 30, 40 projects which individually don't look like much but when you take them as a whole, they become a sizable chunk.

Often, they are missing in the portfolio because they are "not important", would take too much time to keep track of or have too small a budget or a million other reasons. Because of that, they are not on anyone's radar. But small projects, while often overlooked, are still a crucial part to a company's success and will cost you a lot of money if they are managed improperly.

This is the premise of our discussion today with Curt Finch, CEO of Journyx (http://www.journyx.com). We discuss how he defines a small project, why we tend to ignore the small ones, how he recommends that we manage all of these small projects that fly around, we look at the three key best practices that we must implement on a small project in order to be successful and what you can do today to improve overall management of small projects in your area of influence in your organization.

This episode of The Project Management Podcast™ is sponsored by The PDU Podcast™, which is our sister podcast. It is a convenient way for you to earn unlimited PDUs. Get project management webinars delivered to your portable player like an iPod, Zune, Blackberry and earn at least 1 PDU every month. With The PDU Podcast™ there is no need to go to a classroom. You don't even have to sit at your computer. Instead, enjoy the freedom of earning your PDUs anywhere. Simply download the webinars to your player and play them wherever you are, for instance on your commute to work. Your PDU Podcast™ puts you on autopilot for your re-certification. Visit www.pducast.com. That's p-d-u-c-a-s-t.com.

And now, let's get started with our main interview.

Curt Finch is the CEO of Journyx, the first company to provide web-based time-tracking, project accounting and resource management solutions that guide customers to per-person, per-project profitability.

Curt earned his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Virginia Tech in 1987 and he has been creating software or managing software teams ever since. After stints at McDermott International and IBM, he helped launch TKG, a venture-backed firm that was acquired by Veritas (now Symantec) for over $40 million. Curt created the world's first web-based timesheet application and the foundation for the current Journyx product offerings in 1997, and he has co-authored seven patents on behalf of Journyx. He is a frequent speaker at major events and conferences, has many articles published in numerous business magazines, and his latest book, “All Your Money Won't Another Minute Buy: Valuing Time as a Business Resource” is available in most online bookstores. Curt authors a project management blog at www.project-management-blog.com.

Enjoy the interview.

Podcast Interview

Female voice: The Project Management Podcast’s feature Interview: Today with Curt Finch, CEO of Journyx.

Cornelius Fichtner: Hello Curt and welcome to The Project Management Podcast™!

Curt Finch: Well, thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to be here.

Cornelius Fichtner: You’re welcome! So we want to talk about the topic of what mismanaging a small project will cost your organization? So let’s begin at the beginning here: What is your definition of a small project? What are the factors that you measure to determine project size?

Curt Finch: I interview people. I’m writing a book about project management and resource management and I’m interviewing project managers all over the world for this and when I ask them that question, what I usually hear back is less than 10 people involved, usually less than 5, less than 3 months long, something that can be managed with emails or in Excel spreadsheet that doesn’t really require complicated tools like Microsoft project or worse, Primavera, those kinds of things.

Cornelius Fichtner: Do you agree with those measurements?

Curt Finch: Sure! I think that sounds fine. One of the people I was interviewing works for a company that builds nuclear power plants and repairs nuclear power plants…

Cornelius Fichtner: Do they even have small projects there?

Curt Finch: They do, but they have Primavera software in there which is a great project portfolio management tool for building Hoover dams and for rebuilding the Panama Canal or for building a nuclear power plant. But when they’re trying to go manage a small IT projects, it’s really not the right tool for the job. It’s sort of a sledgehammer-to-kill-a-fly kind of a thing.

So they have small projects and because they keep fitting them in to that tool that they paid for and they’re dedicated to which is working quite well for the building of nuclear power plants, they find that the small projects get sort of managed in haphazard manner and they kind of fall down.

Cornelius Fichtner: You’ve pretty much already answered my next question I was going to ask you because: Are large projects more important than small ones?

Curt Finch: They are sort of. I mean, they’re larger. You don’t want to mess up the building of a nuclear power plant but at the same time, your company can’t run it if the IT projects aren’t getting done well, right? So, it probably comes down to an 80-20 rule: Is 80% of the cost of the labor in your company tied up in doing the giant projects or is 80% of the labor of your company tied up with getting all the small projects done that keep the company running? And furthermore, what’s strategic? So it could be the case that these large projects are strategic for the company and they do deserve a little bit more focus in a way.

But if you got 60, 70, 80% of your people working on projects that are not big enough to even be called a project by some definition of the word, there’s a good chance that if you don’t really understand your cost and things aren’t being managed well and that you’re having real problems in your organization because of it.

Cornelius Fichtner: So why is it then that some organizations somehow just seem to ignore these small projects?

Curt Finch: Well, I think there is a certain focus that develops, maybe a myopia I supposed. People get promoted and recognized in organizations for working on the great big thing that has a lot of attention and has a lot of notoriety, and rolling up the next version of the XYZ software package in your IT shop or working on the next product release of something that’s in release version 10.1.6 might not be getting the same level of attention from leadership, from management. I think that’s one reason. Companies are groups of people and people are naturally political.

Cornelius Fichtner: What’s your general recommendation for our listeners here when it comes to managing small projects? Should they just do it the same way as the large ones, just do less of it?

Above are the first few pages of the transcript. The complete transcript is available to Premium subscribers only. Please subscribe to our Premium Podcast to receive a PDF transcript.

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