For many, Christmas is the very best time of the year, and some would (do!) happily put their tree up in September if they could. However, baubles and Bublé are not everyone’s cup of tea, and over a quarter of Brits say that they feel stressed about the festive season.
With festive extravagance comes planning, purchasing, presents, parties and panic; and with fewer than 25 days now until Christmas Day, I can guarantee that many people are already starting to feel the strain. So, what is the answer? Is there an effective approach which could streamline and take the stress out of Christmas?
At eg, we have a team of expert project managers, who know a thing or two about running a time-sensitive, budget-dependent, collaborative programme…
So what can we learn from them, and what would the run-up to December 25th look like if eg did Christmas?
First and foremost, we would look at creating a project plan. This may sound like a slightly joyless approach to Christmas, but by organising and planning every eventuality, you will find that you are able to sit back and relax more than when dealing with roadblocks along the way! When we begin a new project, we are meticulous in our planning and due diligence. The idea is to lay out every eventuality and therefore follow a rigorous development process, tailored to each client, designed to manage risk, cost and time effectively. Each element is fully-managed, incorporating systematic testing, verification, quality control, detailed documentation, and clear, direct communication.
Integrating all of the key capabilities into one dynamic, end-to-end process maximises the likelihood of a successful route to market. This is obviously a step too far for Christmas preparation, but there are some nice parallels – stick with me! To create optimum results if you have never cooked a turkey before, we suggest a practice run so that you can test and verify your methods and practices. As for quality control, CE-marking a paediatric in-vivo diagnostic device is probably easier than getting culinary approval on the turkey from my Mother-in-Law; but factoring in the testing element will certainly help! As for detailed documentation and clear communication, they go without saying. The key to a good Christmas plan is a good spreadsheet or timeline. Multiple post-it notes are a start, but one concise list, planning all things festive from the advent calendar and elf deployment to Christmas parties, shopping and the running order on the day, will reduce risk and put Mrs Christmas herself to shame!
While we are talking about risk, Christmas is filled with potentially hazardous scenarios – we’ve all seen the Eastenders Christmas Day special to know how much can go wrong. In fact, the period between Christmas and the 29th December has been sighted as the busiest time of the year in many A&E departments.
Managing risk is a vital part of product design and development. We focus on technical risk –reducing the chance of the product not working properly, to avoid harming the user or patient. However, it’s also important to manage project risk – things that could go wrong and cost money or create delays in your product getting to market. You wouldn’t see one of our project managers in A&E on boxing day…
Within your initial Christmas plan, you should look at outlining any potential risks that you may encounter and how they could be mitigated as early into your planning as possible. This should address the process, as well as the big day itself – it could be the great turkey shortage of 2022 affecting your Christmas dinner, black Friday causing your daughter’s much-desired Barbie dreamhouse to go out of stock, over-indulging in eggnog at the Christmas party (obviously not us – we’re very responsible) or even shocking yourself on the Christmas lights, burning yourself when cooking chestnuts, or giving Great Aunt June a coronary by giving her the ‘wrong’ present. These risks should be considered, and plans made by which they can be mitigated and avoided! Are board games going to cause disruption? Mitigate the risk of fallouts by burning all known copies of monopoly, hiding the sherry from Great Aunt June (if she’s made it through the gift exchange), and seating her purposefully away from your mother-in-law – who requires a separate risk management plan entirely.
As I write this, we are in the grips of Black Friday madness, and over the past week I must have received two hundred emails trying to persuade me to part with my hard-earned cash. However, the worldly philosopher Martin Lewis recently said “Before you spend, ask yourself, do I need it? Can I afford it?”. Christmas can easily get out of hand, and it is therefore important to set a clear budget and track all spend.
When we outline projects, we create detailed budgets, factoring in the risk of additional costs or operational delays and create mitigation strategies so that each eventuality is considered. Our clients range from start-ups to multinational organisations. Their budgets vary accordingly, but our approach to budget management doesn’t. Our offering will be tailored to each set of project requirements, but we plan spend meticulously and work with our clients to ensure that projects are delivered on time and on budget. We also factor in any grant funding requirements and can even support you with the grant funding process, with our extensive experience and clear understanding of what investors and grant bodies are looking for.
Take it from the aforementioned ‘money-saving expert’ “Once you know where you’re spending, you can start to alter and prioritise what you do with your money to enable you to stick within your means”.
Following on from budget management is family (and friends) management! Ensuring children know that Father Christmas is on a budget and cannot necessarily deliver the new limited edition Astolat Dollhouse Castle ($8.5million if you’re interested!) in his sleigh is useful.
At eg, we have a kick-off meeting at the start of all projects to ensure that everyone is on the same page; that client and user requirements/specifications are refined; and that the teams are thoroughly aligned. This kick-off meeting will reflect the nature and requirements of the upcoming development programme. Although user research and risk analysis are front loaded, both are consistently revisited and reviewed throughout the full programme.
This approach could be borrowed for your Christmas plans. A family kick-off meeting where budgets are shared, calendars are synchronised and the running order of the day itself is discussed provides an opportunity to get valuable information for those involved so that Christmas can be tailored to your ‘clients’. If your Christmas guests are entirely vegan, you can probably cancel your turkey order pronto (also solving the turkey shortage dilemma)!
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Christmas should be a time for collaboration. Doing everything on your own can lead to near nervous breakdown – even Father Christmas has a team of elves…
At eg, we believe in collaboration so much that it actually forms part of our values. We think teamwork is the key to our success and that we do our best work when collaboration, contribution and communication are heroed. We tailor how we work depending on the teams we are working with, and provide select engineers in turn. Our project managers then adapt each project to the client and their wider development, helping to maximise profitability and development outcomes. This may involve more ingrained support and acting as a fully outsourced resource for start-ups, but perhaps less granular support and operating as an integrated resource within an existing team for more established businesses. Certain companies also benefit from leveraging our supplier or partner network, whilst others wish to realise volume production themselves, with us openly collaborating with their preferred partners.
Bringing this back to Christmas, the eg project management team would put collaboration at the centre of festive planning. Present purchasing would be a distributed across teams, decorating would be intricately planned and allocated suitably. Cooking, present wrapping, card writing and every other little detail would be monitored and tweaked if bottlenecks were identified. They would ensure nobody involved was overwhelmed with tasks at any time, and move the plan along at its scheduled pace, whilst keeping the main requirements front and centre.
Obviously, we cannot project manage your Christmas for you, but if we could, we would use our proven track record of excellent project management and strong programme structures that have been developed and refined to ensure the viability and success of our projects. Your Christmas, however, is down to you… So get ordering that turkey, reserve the Barbie dreamhouse, sort out your table plan and steer clear of the eggnog at the Christmas party. Oh and don’t forget to use our Christmas planning template!