Operational Excellence

Financial Management for Project Management

Written By: Ray Waldron
June 26, 2024
7 min read

SBO Financial and the rule of thirds suggest marketing agencies should target 30% net profit, but achieving this benchmark is difficult. Forecasting, controlling project costs, managing billable hours, and interpreting financial data are among the many tasks involved.

A single spending mistake can quickly derail a project, causing budget overruns, missed deadlines, and project failures. Project managers often question what went wrong. Improving project financial management demands more than simply resolving to spend less money in the future.

We will explore the challenges of project financial management and provide practical tips to enhance budget management in project management.

Key Components of Financial Management

While supervising every detail may seem challenging, breaking it down into key components can make the task more manageable.

The key components of financial management include:

  1. Business goals and objectives: These foundational elements define the company's overarching vision, such as revenue targets, market share, or expansion plans.

  2. Budgeting and financial forecasting: Budgeting involves creating a detailed plan that outlines expected revenues and allocates resources to various expenses. In contrast, financial forecasting predicts future financial outcomes based on historical data and current trends.

  3. Cash flow management: Businesses can cover operational expenses, service debt, and invest strategically in growth-oriented ventures via effective cash flow management.

  4. Profitability analysis: It helps businesses identify areas for improvement and gain insight into revenue sources, cost structures, and overall financial performance.

  5. Risk management and contingency planning: These integral elements address unforeseen challenges and safeguard a company's financial stability by identifying, assessing, and mitigating potential risks and developing strategies to respond if risks materialize.

Importance of Financial Management in Project Management

Financial management software helps control the financial aspects of a project, including cost, revenue, and profit. The process involves planning, estimating, budgeting, funding, managing project expenses, and billing.

Poor financial management can significantly hinder an agency's growth. Research shows poor performance wastes nearly $122 million for every $1 billion spent on projects.

Investing in project financial management can lead to short-term outcomes and introduce new resources and possibilities that benefit the organization for years. Effective project financial management helps businesses grow while avoiding common budgeting pitfalls that disrupt operations.

For example, inaccurately scoping the hours required by the development team to build a new product feature leaves two options: bring in a new team member, or push back the deadline.

Both options come with additional costs in terms of human resources or costly delivery delays. Awareness of these potential expenses and how to address them prevents excessive spending while resolving critical issues.

The Risks of Poor Financial Management in Project Management

Poor management decisions can ripple through your company, affecting every facet of business, from sales to operations to administration. These decisions might impede cash flow, restricting your ability to invest in growth or meet basic operational needs like payroll.

Other risks include:

  • Reduced profit margins from overpaying for supplies or services

  • Increased debt from relying too heavily on loans without a solid repayment plan

  • Damaged credit rating due to excessive debt and late payments

  • Increased employee turnover resulting from financial instability and insecurity

  • Reputation damage that hurts future sales, vendor negotiations, and investor relations

Financial strain can escalate, leading to legal consequences and even bankruptcy. Meanwhile, competitors with healthy cash flow invest in new product development, expand service lines, and capture market share.

Avoiding bad financial decisions requires careful planning, regular performance reviews, and prudent decision-making to ensure long-term stability and growth.

Benefits of Using Financial Management Software

The use of project budget management software bridges the efficiency gap between the quickest accounting month-end closes and those who rely on manual processes.

73% of surveyed finance leaders believe automation improves efficiency and gives staff more time for value-added tasks. Every practice needs budget management software to avoid the inefficiency that accompanies manual processes.

Here are the benefits of using a project budget management software:

1. Maintaining the Budget

Companies of all sizes need to budget to control their expenditures, and project budget management software allows them to keep expenses in check while maintaining a strict record of all incoming revenue.

In an economic environment marred by periods of volatility, income forecasting can be challenging, and operational costs may exceed expectations.

Project budget management software allows for budget adjustments in case of unprecedented changes, as a practice's financial health heavily relies on its ability to evaluate performance using a budget.

Automation enables the comparison of predictions to actual revenue and expenditure, determining whether the company met, exceeded, or failed to meet goals.

Analyzing a practice's performance in this manner helps identify areas for improvement, and a budget management software buying guide can assist in selecting the best tool for the job.

2. Planning Operations

Project budget management software elevates financial planning in project management. Manual methods and spreadsheets provide a limited cash flow view, whereas dedicated budgeting applications offer a comprehensive, real-time perspective on financial performance.

The 360-degree visibility enables project managers to make precise investments, generate accurate forecasts, and allocate resources intelligently.

Leveraging project budget management software streamlines planning processes, enhances decision-making, and optimizes operational efficiency. The software transforms planning from a static exercise into a dynamic, data-driven endeavor that positions projects for success.

3. Fewer Costly Errors

Project budget management software minimizes the risk of costly errors in the budgeting process. Manual calculations and data entry, especially under strict deadlines and overtime pressure, can lead to mistakes that significantly impact profitability.

Even seemingly small errors can result in substantial financial losses over time. Automated features in project budget management software, such as calculation functions and data input reminders, improve the accuracy and integrity of business data used for budgeting. Eliminating human error ensures the budget's reliability, promoting better financial decision-making and project success.

Best Practices for Budget Management in Project Management

Staying in control of your budget can be challenging, especially when tracking team spending and visibility becomes increasingly complex. Without the right tools and processes, staying within budget is nearly impossible. However, budget management doesn't have to be so difficult.

Best practices for budget management in project management include:

  1. Continuously forecast: Frequent budget oversight prevents projects from getting out of hand. Updating and managing a turbulent budget is a necessity. Discuss budgeting in project budget management software at team meetings to understand where the project is heading.

  2. Anticipate scope change: Scope creep can be a horror for agencies. Monitor scope change at all times and expect it to happen. Create change orders for additional work to prevent budget overruns by authorizing additional funding and covering extra work costs.

  3. Automate budget management: Automating budget management saves project managers time. Team members should be able to file expense reports quickly, and you should know the remaining budget in real time without consolidating receipts.

Exercise caution when agreeing to new projects, keep a close eye on the budget, and be prepared to take minimal risks that offer growth opportunities without being costly.

Transforming Project Outcomes through Strategic Budget Management

Budget management in project management is an indispensable element of an agency's success, closely linked to every phase of a project's lifecycle. From initial assessment and estimation to monitoring and adjusting for changes during execution and thorough financial review upon close, each step is critical.

Calculating a project budget manually, such as using an Excel sheet, can be time-consuming. Finding a project budget management software that supports budgeting and overall agency processes is a significant benefit. An all-in-one solution standardizes data and eliminates silos across the agency.

Picture of Associate Content Marketing Manager Ray Waldron set against a lochinvar background
Written By: Ray Waldron

Ray Waldron is an Associate Content Marketing Manager at Quickbase.