An all-too-common trend is for budgets to tighten while a project is already in progress. If you think such a fate may befall your latest assignment, be a proactive project manager and take advantage of the key resources of time, hidden money, peers’ skills, and other elements to keep the project on track.

Extra time
All development projects have demanding timelines. That’s why it’s important to make the most of any lag between the announcement of the project and Day 0 of the plan (i.e., before you start to charge your time to the project).

Even if this affords you with only a day’s gap, you can rehearse the work in your mind. You’ll also be able to talk to senior managers about the project in a way that may not be possible once it becomes your baby.

“Hidden” money
Smart project managers generally fight to include emergency “contingency money” in the budget. But instead of starting with your contingency funds, tap into unused finances from previous projects. It’s not uncommon to accumulate these small financial surpluses from previous expenses and materials budgets. (Of course, this strategy is permissible only with the client’s agreement.)

Make a mental note of any items that your team may need but the current project’s budget doesn’t cover. The trick is to not depend on these financial surpluses every time your project has a budget crisis.

Coworkers’ skills
When possible, utilize the skills of peers who aren’t attached to the project. For instance, consider authorizing account managers to handle routine client calls. Talk to line managers and ask whether they have any short-term resource surpluses that might fit your task. Keep in mind that if you get students or interns to do legwork, the time you might spend explaining your requirements and monitoring their work can be prohibitive.

You might even consider asking your client if you could use a comparatively low-cost client staff member to undertake routine support work (e.g., conducting background research, typing up meeting notes, and making travel arrangements). This often directly benefits the client because its staff becomes more aware of the project work, making the staff more capable to take over the reins when your work is complete.

Other resources to tap
Attempt to intelligently reuse any preexisting code elements that are available. Don’t regard these elements as completely “free,” however, as these often require a certain amount of familiarization and tweaking before they can offer your project a real edge.

Also strive to make use of centralized resources that may support your development team’s work, such as libraries, training facilities, and mainframe computing time.

Project plans will never explicitly list all the edges, angles, shortcuts, wrinkles, and smarts that experienced project managers know how to exploit. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when searching for extra resources that can benefit your project.