Every successful independent professional or small business generates a significant amount of project-related activity: identifying new opportunities, submitting proposals, performing and managing work and administering your practice.
It’s fairly easy to get confused and disorganized. When this happens, opportunities slip, obligations are missed, client relationships suffer and your business doesn’t perform the way you need it to.
One simple way to ensure that you minimize the potential for chaos is to assign unique project numbers to the work that you do. This could be just a number that you assign consecutively, or you can provide more information for ease of use and project identification. For example, at ISG we use a code that includes:
- The year (2014)
- The project number, assigned consecutively (001, 002, 003)
- The country (we use a three letter code)
- The client (abbreviated or with an acronym)
So, a project that we bid on this year for UNDP in Colombia was identified like this: 2014001-COL-UNDP. (Hint: Two ideas for country codes – use the three letter currency code, or the three letter code for the country’s largest international airport)
This code is assigned at the time the we make the decision to bid for a project and never changes. By doing this, we have a simple way to communicate about each project and its many moving parts, identify how resources are assigned, how money is spent and how we can report on success and profitability. As you grow, this coding will become absolutely essential for your bookkeeping and accounting.
Going even further, this also gives us a very simple way to report to donors for certification requirements, such as our Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA) with the U.S. government.
To make sure you have a numbering system that is consistent, you need to make sure you place your master number list where everyone has viewing access. However, you want to limit the ability to add or edit numbers to only a few people.
To get you started, I have created a project number template. Let me know what you think in the comments below!