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Mastering Project Finance: The Art of Cash Burn Tracking and Expense Scheduling

Project Finance Cash Burn Tracking & Project Expense Scheduling

Project finance will traditionally be associated with the concepts of present value, future value, internal rate of return, and feasibility studies. Of course, this is project finance from the point of view of the project owner. This helps determine when the investment will be recovered and by how much business operations start after the completion of a project.

From the perspective of a projects company or finance officer, setting aside the lump sum cost of a 5-year project in an ordinary savings account would be inefficient. Executive project managers reporting to corporate boards, CEOs, financiers, or venture capitalists are more likely to get approval with new project ideas when they present a cash burn graph throughout the entire project supported by a detailed cost structure of projected expenses.

Project Tracking and Scheduling Expenses to Maximize the Use of Money

Expense scheduling and tracking are very important in projects that require:

  • hundreds or thousands of temporary employees
  • weekly supplies of materials in huge volumes and bulk
  • a great number of equipment, say, 1,000 servers
  • sub-contractors
  • key staff that need to travel from one location to another due to a project’s geographic dispersion.

An expense plan detailed enough to show costs on a weekly or monthly basis helps the finance officer foresee when huge cash requirements will occur during the project. This way, the finance officer will know how much he/she has to place in 30-, 60-, or 90-day treasury bills or in any other business activities or financial instruments that earn income.

Likewise, the procurement officer will know when to place orders for supplies and equipment to maximize the negotiated payment terms with partners as well as factor in shipping schedules for imports or other international commerce activities that are essential in project logistics.

An operations manager’s nightmare is a warehouse filled to the brim with supplies and equipment that will be used one year later. It is also essential that project managers have operations management skills to keep inventory down, minimize wastage and maximize the use of cash.

Of course, business continuity and disaster recovery equipment or supplies are altogether different things when it comes to cash burn tracking and scheduling. Insurance premiums and sound project risk management techniques can categorise these essential costs or expenses.

Cash Flow Management and Cash Burn Management

In project bids, a bidder will offer a manner of payment that will be advantageous to both the project owner and the project’s company. Aside from the overall project cost, part of the financial bid is the manner of payment. The payment structure will generally consist of the following:

  • down payment or mobilization – 10 to 30%
  • progress billing based on deliverables – 60 to 80%
  • retention fund collectable after the warranty period – 10%

A skilled project manager can time his/her expenses or cash burn in a manner that before the down payment or mobilization fund is depleted, the payment for deliverable 1 has already been collected. Consequently, before the payment for deliverable 1 has already been consumed, the payment for deliverable 2 has already been collected, and so on.

In addition, the skilful project manager will factor in the company’s operating profit margin as part of the cost structure to offset overhead expenses like business development expenses, marketing expenses, administrative costs, and corporate taxes. This means the project manager will only allow 70% or less of the payment collections to project expenses.

Project Risk Management and Collection Delays

In Requests for Proposals, the project owner usually requires that the bidders show a line of credit from a reputable bank. As opposed to the letter of credit common to international trade, the bank line of credit is usually an equity loan from which the company can draw funds as these are needed. The loan security can be any of the following:

  • real estate, machinery, or equipment
  • shares of stocks or any cash derivatives
  • project contract/s

The purpose of this requirement is that should there be delays in the project which affect the collection of payments for project deliverables, the projects company can finance the remaining activities on its own. This is project risk management from the perspective of the project owner.

On the other hand, from the perspective of the projects company, delays in collections cost money via interest on the amount drawn from the bank line of credit until payment for a completed project deliverable is received.

Higher Level Project Managers

With the concepts described above, it can be discerned that higher-level project managers should be skilful in the following project management techniques or skill sets:

  • negotiations with project stakeholders like venture capitalists and bankers
  • cash flow management
  • cash burn management
  • project expense tracking and scheduling
  • operations management
  • project finance

Author Bio

Bianca Ward is a professional writer on, marketing manager, and content developer. She has worked in a variety of industries, including technology, healthcare, and finance.

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