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Project Management

Scope. Budget. Timeline – But What Does it Mean

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As a Project Manager, there is an art to keeping a project moving forward while maintaining happiness across all parties. The fundamental responsibilities include scope, budget, and timeline. 

Like many project managers, I have had these three drilled into my head as my remit. 

But what does that actually mean? Well, it depends. 

In 12+ years of project management, the biggest thing I have learned is the need to be nimble based on the client and the project, and the PM is at the center of it all. They house all the information, build synergies across the team, and ensure it’s aligned to scope, budget, timeline. 

To digest and track this level of information, documentation is imperative. For me, it all starts with the project plan and ends with simple and insightful reporting. 

Project Plan: 

When starting a project plan, I begin with the SOW, established budget, pitch deck, historical information, and anything I can track down. My project plans typically include budget, estimated hours, team, roles, and helpful links. Even what time zone each team member and client is in. (Who else hates rescheduling a meeting 5 times due to time zones?) Any and everything needed for the project should live in this central location. 

Timeline /Project Management System: 

Then comes my favorite part, the timeline. A little puzzle of information, resulting in a sophisticated plan. Timelines can be as robust or simple as you like. If the client has a target or hard completion date, you can start there and work backward. Alternatively, begin with the kickoff meeting and workshop the completion date based on deliverables. I personally love a robust master timeline and creating views or reports based on team and role. Update in one location, and it is shared across the full team. 

Once the project kicks off and you meet with the stakeholders on the cross-functional teams, you can deep dive into their deliverables and identify the dependencies or any red flags. By utilizing a project management system, you can set your dependencies easily. 

For example, creative needs to be complete before implementation; however, the implementation team needs to be engaged in the creative reviews to confirm the assets can be utilized.

I can not yell this from the rooftop enough; anything should be in the project management system. If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen! Sharing over email and IM causes miscommunication, version control issues, and loss of historical tracking. 


Now it’s time to see all the planning come together in an easily digestible layout. I prefer to make 2 sets of reports & dashboards. One internal and one client-facing. I use these reports to create the weekly agendas, showing milestones, risks, items needed from the client, and open action items. 

I include helpful links, task status rollup, 7-day task view, any risks, and anything impacting the project and timeline for the internal team. 


Overall, being a successful project manager on a cross-functional team is adapting to what the internal team and client need. Some days it’s troubleshooting a resourcing issue, scenario planning the 100th situation to make sure we’ve accounted for anything, or pivoting the scope-based client changes. 

While many don’t see the level of effort into managing scope, budget, timeline, that’s the point. Project managers absorb the chaos across the team to deliver one cohesive, seamless plan. 

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Alexandra Huffman, Senior Project Manager

Alex is the Senior Project Manager based in Portland, Oregon, focused primarily on Marketo implementation. She enjoys finding the organization within the chaos, in both her personal and professional time.

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