Project Execution During A Pandemic

April 3, 2020
Ron Geiwitz

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how we communicate with employees, customers, partners, and suppliers.

It’s changed how we network, conduct business meetings, and where we perform our work.  Despite this uncertainty and new challenges, businesses and employees are adapting.  Work from home has become commonplace for most companies.  Many companies have deferred capital projects, while others launched unplanned COVID-19 related projects in response to rapidly changing circumstances to sustain business operations and serve their markets.

Halting capital projects, even for a short period, is disruptive and costly. Restarting creates budget, scheduling, staffing, and professional services challenges unplanned for previously. For projects underway in this uncertain time, unique project challenges arise that must be planned for. Scope, schedule, resources, and budgets are still important while executing when both internal and external resources are jeopardized should family members or themselves take ill. Project resources, or lack thereof, will likely lead to schedule and cost overruns that need to be planned for.

Successful project execution during the COVID-19 pandemic is feasible with extra diligence and flexible teamwork.

Communication

Top-down conversations reinforcing the criticalness of the project and messaging around the decision to continue with the project versus deferment.  Providing a clear, concise message will strengthen the team's objectives and expectations that will go a long way towards project success.

Project Management

Adjust schedules to realistically respond to myriad unplanned and immediate business challenges affecting business operations and customers. Adjust project and team communications in response to work-at-home employees and contractors. The Project Manager (PM) needs to be flexible, patient, and adapt to frequent resource and schedule changes and other unforeseen disruptions.  The PM must lead the project team through the evolving situation while driving realistic deliverables and timelines.

Tools

Productivity tools are the key to success for project execution. Remote systems access, collaboration, project management, document sharing along with secure networking and identity access tools are critical to achieving high levels of productivity and collaboration in a secure manner.  Cloud-based systems and tools can simplify this tremendously.

Remote and Contract Resources

The project team must adapt to working remotely with other team members, employees, and external contract resources.  Contractors and other Professional Services resources are typically accustomed to working remotely, but this may not be the case for most employees.  Employees must be educated and acclimate themselves to the tools provided, ask questions, be diligent, and limit non-work-related distractions at home.

As we adjust to today's challenges and prepare ourselves for tomorrow, the health and safety of our employees and partners are still the top priority of organizations.  How we work and where we work has changed the employment landscape and will continue to do so in the weeks and months to come.  Businesses are adjusting to market disruptions and operational changes as they navigate COVID-19. Some of these changes will be short-lived; others may become permanent. For companies fortunate enough to continue with capital projects, planning for these new project realities is essential.

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