Autumn often brings the image of people getting back into the swing of things and activities ramping up after the long days of summer. Every season brings its own challenges, though, and fall is no exception. Project Teams need to understand where potential pitfalls may lurk while the leaves are turning, so they can be ready to avoid interruptions and keep their projects moving forward.

Changing Market

Know the vacation schedule for all team members. Summer is usually seen as vacation season, but some people prefer to enjoy their time off after the kids have gone back to school. Be sure the entire team is aware of any scheduled vacations or other absences. Look at key milestone dates to see if there are potential conflicts and work with the group now to determine how best to address them. Discuss the coverage plans for ongoing tasks so everyone is aware of how workloads are likely to be affected.

Remember to coordinate with consultants, key vendors, and stakeholders, too, as their absences also typically have the potential to impact resource management and other activities. While you’re planning for out-of-office coverage, be sure to discuss communication plans with those who will be gone. If they won’t be available by phone or e-mail, it’s best to know that ahead of time. This allows team members the leeway to proceed without waiting to hear back from vacationers, or to know they can pursue approvals through other channels if no response is received within a set amount of time.

Evaluate how the weather might impact your projects. In some areas of the country, fall means inclement weather. For projects happening in those regions, that could translate into schedule impacts. Even if your project is occurring in an area not normally affected by declining weather conditions, it may still play havoc with resources or vendors. This could mean a shortage of supplies coming from regions experiencing bad weather (manufacturing operations are often at the mercy of raw material availability) or simply higher prices for those items. Bad weather also frequently affects shipping schedules, since delivery trucks and rail cars are also at the mercy of Mother Nature. Everything from catering a large meeting to obtaining construction materials could be affected, and planning for potential impacts is prudent.

Travel, too, could be affected in terms of delayed or canceled flights and blocked roads. If members of the project management team plan to attend meetings or other events out of town, be sure there are contingency plans in place should their return schedule be affected. For vendors visiting from outside the area, have an alternate plan ready if a delay in their arrival might trigger problems downstream.

Ensure funding availability. For many organizations, fall is dangerously close to the end of the year, when funding levels are reset and the current approved budgets everyone is working with cease to exist. Before your Project Team gets caught up in a money crunch, talk with the accounting team about what your needs are and how you can work together to establish a stream of funding that will continue from one calendar year to the next. It may also be wise to discuss your options with the purchasing group, who may suggest accelerating buying schedules to ensure expenditures are spent and captured within the current budget cycle.

Because it’s also common for the budget process to consume a significant amount of effort, this is the time to start working on the Project Team’s needs for next year. Approvals and other activities may take a while, so get going now to be sure the team is ahead of the game.

Project management training tips provided by PMAlliance Inc.