Some notes on (non-exciting) project management tasks

MAY 2019 Highlights

May was a hectic month in the project coordination front.

At the moment I participate in two large European projects and in both cases, we had to report to the corresponding managing authorities in May. Also, both of them were
having the partner meetings at the beginning of June, what required quite some preparation during the previous weeks.

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(Own photo. SHAPE Partner Meeting in Norway, June 2019)

The largest of those projects is the Horizon 2020 Social Innovation in Marginalised Rural Areas – SIMRA. (I have previously talked about it here). As I am a research associate in this project, my involvement in the reporting process was limited. I simply had to review and summarise the work done during the last 18 months in the work-package that the Centre for Mountain Studies leads. Also, for the project meeting and the official review, I prepared a couple of presentations detailing the work done so far, results, and plans for the next months.

The other project is “SHAPE – Sustainable Heritage Areas: Partnerships for Ecotourism“. It is a three years project (2017-2020) co-founded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme (Interreg family) that is led by the Centre for Mountain Studies on behalf of the UHI. I am coordinating the project, which means that my workload multiplies when a reporting period or a partner meeting approaches. Imagine when it happens at the same time!

The reporting process in SHAPE is quite complicated and detailed. It extends over 12 weeks every six months, with the work for the leading partner usually concentrated on the first and the last two weeks. The first phase is called ‘Partner report’. Every project partner has to submit an account of the work developed under each work-package, the new stakeholders reached, and a very detailed financial claim of the costs incurred in the development of the project during the last six months. To help with this task, I prepare and distribute to the SHAPE partners a table indicating the activities and outputs that every partner should list and attach in each section. Each partner is responsible for submitting its own report. As the leading partner, we prepare and send the UHI one and keep an eye on the overall process, solving doubts and nudging if anyone is getting delayed. Once a partner report is submitted, it is available for the auditors (called FLC – First Level Controller in the Interreg jargon) to review the claim and check that the procedures have been followed correctly and the costs claimed match project budget, programme regulations and activities developed. The FLCs have up to two months to review the report and issue their certificates. Each auditor works differently, so the type of input that the partners might have at this stage depends on each situation. In any case, it will be usually concentrated on time (one or several days) and focused on answering queries. The third phase of the process is called ‘Project Report’ and delivering it is the responsibility of the leading partner. We have to reflect on the work done by the project as a whole, listing and describing all the activities developed by bringing together the details included in all the partner reports. On the financial part, we have to confirm the financial claim attaching the certificates issued by the auditors. All this process is developed in an online platform called eMS, which is loved and hated across boundaries all over Europe everywhere an Interreg project is implemented.

Organising a partner meeting is a very different type of task, although it also can extend through several months from setting the dates to actually having the meeting. Preparing both the content (agenda, presentations, etc.) and logistics of the meeting (travels, accommodation, timetables, etc.) are part of my role. Good communication with the partner host is key to the success of the meeting.

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