Do you know how to plan a management system in a partnership project? I mean, really plan – not just answer the questions in the application form to meet evaluation criteria! Proper management planning early on in the project development process will not just ensure a high evaluation mark but can save you time and stress later on in the project implementation phase.
I was inspired to write this blog because of our M-Powered client group. We provide consultancy on things like building a consortium and project development. Many of our clients come from the education sector and bring with them some fantastic project ideas that have potential for real impact. They have unparalleled expertise in their area and are talented educational professionals. But they are not project managers. For many of them, writing a project is their first time having to design a management system and present it in an application. It can therefore be very challenging for them and it is often this section of the application form that ends up lowering their overall score. We would like to help with this and ensure good projects don’t get marked down due to lack of management planning, and that funded projects have the best chance of running smoothly!
So, let’s look at two question that can be found in the current Erasmus+ KA2 application form:
- Please provide detailed information about the project activities that you will carry out with the support of the grant requested under the item “Project Management and Implementation”
- How will you ensure proper budget control and time management in your project?
Below we will provide some project management activities you could discuss in your application to address these questions. These suggestions are based on our long history of project management at M-Powered. We originally developed them to help streamline our own projects, but soon found that these tips and tools were useful to share with others. Feel free to use these ideas for your application, just remember to adjust the details for your specific context.
1. Development of a Project Management Handbook
A Project Management Handbook is a set of guidelines and rules to be applied in a project. It is prepared by the project coordinator from the applicant organisation during the period between the project being approved and the start date. To ensure a sense of ownership over the project’s management system, other partners are encouraged to be involved in developing the Project Management Handbook.
The Handbook helps to establish a practical management system and a set of robust processes to ensure project success. It covers the following sections:
- Project overview (a short description of a project, its objective, budget, duration, planned outcomes, etc.),
- Description of consortium structure,
- Project timeline,
- Project work plan and breakdown of activities,
- Reporting requirement.
- RACI matrix (responsibilities of each partner and structure of project team),
- Communication plan,
- Risk management strategy,
- Conflict resolution,
- Change management strategy.
Part One is based on information from the application. Part Two is developed together with the whole consortium.
2. Establishing the consortium structure
The project coordination team consists of the project coordinator, financial manager, and administrative staff of the applicant organisation. Each partner should appoint a project coordinator for their organisation who will be responsible for project implementation and reporting. They should have the authority to make decisions on behalf of their organisation. Together, the project coordinator from the applicant organisation and the project coordinators from each partner organisation make up the Steering Committee, which will be responsible for making key project decisions and approving project results. The steering committee should make decisions democratically based on majority voting. The applicant organisation should have an agreement with each partner that specifies, among other things, the decision making process for the project, reporting rules, and the division of responsibilities.
3. Kick off meeting
The kick off meeting is organised during the first month of project implementation. The agenda covers the following topics:
- Initiation of project team,
- Presentation of main projects activities,
- An introduction to the Project Management Handbook,
- Risk management strategy,
- Conflict resolution strategy.
The last two topics are explored during workshops in which all partners are involved in brainstorming risks and ways to manage them, as well as how they want to deal with conflicts in the project.
Other topics to discuss during this meeting include an update of the communication plan, a detailed timeline for the first project phase together with the most important project deadlines, and a project glossary to ensure the same understating of project outputs.
4. Implementing the system of monitoring budget and timeline
The applicant is responsible for the ongoing monitoring of the project, budget control and timeline. For this purpose, a project folder should be created on a shared virtual drive. Forms and templates should be provided for progress reporting and documentation, reporting, agendas and minutes, etc. Each partner should have access to this virtual space.
The Steering Committee should meet at least every three months. During these meetings, the progress of the project should be discussed in terms of achieved results, as well as budget and timeline management.
The reporting system should be adapted to the requirements of the funding programme (e.g. Erasmus+). Every quarter, partners should submit progress and financial reports. The scope of these reports is formulated by the applicant organisation.
We encourage you to adapt these suggestions for your project and your organisation. You can scale your management system up or down depending on how long or demanding your project is.
And if you are building an Erasmus+ Partnership, don’t forget the programme priorities! Be eco-friendly (choose greener forms of travel where possible) and be inclusive (plan ways to help those with fewer opportunities to participate).
Good luck with your partnership projects! If you are interested in implementing a professional but also “user friendly” management system, visit our online shop, where you can find our Introduction to project management workbook and Empowered Team Management Workbook.