Managing Project Deviation

In the AE industry, project management is undoubtably important yet extremely difficult to do well. To help bridge the gap, Deltek is kicking off a free, two-part webinar series (June 14 and June 21) with two PM experts: Bob Stalilonis (who has implemented hundreds of project management programs for Deltek clients globally) and Bob Gillcrist (HOK’s former global head of project management).

In advance of the webinars (register here), we asked Bob Gillcrist to put the webinars into context: In an industry where projects are the lifeblood, why is effective project management so hard and how can firms improve? Bob’s response follows.


No project goes exactly the way it’s planned. We’ve all had experiences like this: You’re struggling to meet financial targets at the end of a quarter, and look back in time for projects you have serviced which have required additional scope.  So you call the client and discuss invoicing for additional project scope for an event from a year ago.  The client says: “I remember that and I actually agree with you that the work you did was in fact outside your scope, but not having been informed at the time it happened, I have since allocated funds I had for other needs and don’t have funds to cover it.  Sorry.”

This client is completely in their rights and may sincerely feel bad, but the design professional has created this problem by not recognizing the deviation as it happened, and notifying the client in a timely manner.

Changes will always occur. That said, projects that have thorough, detailed workplans defining the project’s scope and schedule are better positioned to know when the project is deviating from the original plan. I believe that when there is a deviation, only one of two possible parties are the cause of that deviation: the Design Team or the Client Team (Us or Them so to speak). Therefore, as soon as a project team becomes aware of a deviation they should immediately determine which of the two parties is the cause, develop the necessary approach to address the deviation, and then, if a “Them” condition, begin the appropriate communications with the Client. In summary, a project being managed with an accurate and appropriately detailed workplan will allow a team to:

  • Be aware of a deviation as it occurs
  • Determine the cause of the deviation
  • Develop appropriate actions to address the deviation
  • Have ‘TIMELY’ conversations with the client about the deviation

The workplan is then modified based on the outcomes of this process and the project moves forward back on track.


About Bob Stalilonis

Bob is the Senior Solution Architect at Deltek with 34 years of AE industry experience. He has both his CPA and MBA. Additionally, Bob is a speaker on AE best practices.
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