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Career Story: Project Planning Specialist

Project Planning Specialist

Job Title: Project Planning And Control Analyst

Type of Company: My company is a leading provider of mission-critical technology management services and solutions for government programs.

Education: BS, Management, University of Phoenix •• AS, Purchasing, Northeastern University •• Certified Professional Property Administrator (CPPA), NPMA •• Certified Professional Property Manager (CPPM), NPMA

Previous Experience: I worked as a purchasing clerk and then moved into the field of government property, purchasing and maintaining inventory for government contracts. I then moved on to work on the financial maintenance of government contracts.

Job Tasks: My primary responsibility is to track the financial funding of government contracts. Contracts are awarded to the department and duties are performed by the workforce. I am responsible for all funding issues on a contract. I work directly with the project manager and keep him informed of how much funding he has, how much he is allowed to spend on labor, travel, and material. I monitor the lifecycle of the project and generate monthly financial reports for the government customer. I approve all invoices before they are sent to the customer to ensure proper charging is occurring. I track the labor hours that will be charged to a contract to ensure that the work can be performed within the scope of funding and forecast future planning for budgetary purposes, as well as working directly with the group controller on departmental budgetary issues.

As new contracts are awarded, tracking plans are created, hours are forecasted for the entire period of performance, funding is allocated to ensure there is a proper amount of funding for each segment of the project: that the proper amount of travel dollars are segregated from the labor dollars, for example. I then issue work authorizations to the employees who will work on that particular contract so that proper time charging can be completed. I then set those people up in the company's electronic business system so they have access to charge the contract.

As the contract begins, I ensure each employee is correctly charging his or her time to the contract project on each contract. If a mischarge occurs, I initiate labor or travel adjustments to be processed through the system. Each month I do a financial report to be sent to the government customer of each contract. I currently work on 25 contracts. I then ensure the invoices that billing sends out are timely and accurate. If there is an error, I work with billing and have the invoice corrected. There is constant monitoring of the finances through labor and travel queries. Other miscellaneous reports are run to make sure profitability and costs are reported correctly.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is working with the many different program managers. That can also contribute to the bad part, as everyone has their own styles and preferences. There are many program managers who are off-site which can make communicating a bit difficult but also provides satisfaction at the thought of helping those who are at a disadvantage because they are off-site.

Job Tips:
1.) Understand the contract. Some projects have one lump-sum payment but others break out payments for labor, travel, material and other direct costs. It is important to know this up front so that you do not use funding meant for travel in your labor forecasting.

2.) Understand your project managers. Those who are off-site need more assistance than those on-site but each has different styles of reporting. Some will want graphs for their financial reporting, others will want tables. Knowing what is expected from you will go a long way.

3.) Question the contract. Do not assume anything. If you see something that looks strange ask about it. It is bad for everyone if work cannot be billed because of a misunderstanding. The company is in business to make a profit, and my job is to ensure that the finances for each contract run smoothly so that a profit can be made. The program managers must be made aware of how the funding on their projects is moving to make sure that there are no over-run or under-run of funding. It is important to be right on the money, you don't want to under spend and you don't want to overspend

Additional Thoughts: Knowledge in finance is a must. It will only help the employee understand the dimensions of the profit and loss reports and cost reports that are required. It is also important to be a people-person. Working with the different program managers requires self-discipline in distinguishing the different qualities of each one.

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