Get more done with Time Management techniques, which will assist with rework, refine activities and get the project completed on time. Mastering the time management technique in these modern times can be a challenge. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of emails, memos, Slack and Skype messages, and other office distractions.
The most important thing to remember when looking for the best time management strategies is that being organized equates to being productive. If time is an issue, or understanding how to manage time so moving from project to project can be achieved without distraction and loss of productivity, then the strategies mentioned below should be of assistance.
An Organized Task List
The single most powerful thing you can do to better manage your time is to organize your task list. There are several different ways to organize your list.
Organize Tasks by Due Date
This is the most popular way that managers and employees choose to use task management software. Simply add start dates and due dates to each task in your to-do list and sort them by due date. This way, you can see which tasks need to get done today, and which tasks are coming up in the next few days or weeks.
Organize Tasks by Priority
Some people prefer to work in a less structured way, and using priority levels instead of due dates. With this strategy all you need to do is assign each task on your to-do list a priority (very low, low, medium, high, very high, or critical). You should take care of critical tasks in the beginning of your day, then move on to less pressing tasks after lunch. This strategy is great because once you knock out the critical work in the morning, the rest of the day becomes easy!
Organize Tasks by Progress (with Kanban)
The third way that will help you better manage your time is to organize your work by progress. The simplest way to do this is to open your to-do list in a Kanban board. Now you can see the tasks that are backlogged, in progress, or finished, all on one screen. Organizing by progress is a favourite method for agile teams that want to quickly move on tasks and complete projects efficiently.
Keep Detailed Notes
Nothing slows down your work day like having to stop to figure out where you left off on something from yesterday or last week.
The easiest way to overcome this stop-and-start problem is to keep detailed notes about every task you may be working on. When you are working towards completing a task on your to-do list, leave a note to yourself so you can quickly pick up where you left off. Some examples include:
- “Emailed Steph, waiting to hear back.”
- “Ordered supplies, delivery scheduled for next Tuesday.”
- “Per Jason’s instruction, pausing this task until further notice”.
These little notes to yourself will let you quickly pick up where you left off, saving you precious time throughout the day.
Get Help from Your Team
Sometimes the biggest time waster is our inability to recognize when we should ask for help, instead of taking on every little thing that comes our way.
This can be a hard thing to learn, but saying “no” to a project can be the best thing you can do for your company. If a task comes your way that will require lots of research, Googling, and headaches, stop and think about who might be better suited for this project. It might be as simple as reassigning this task to your co-worker who is more equipped for this type of work.
Additionally, sometimes it’s better to outsource work to a professional outside of your team to get the task finished quickly and professionally. Professional contractors can be expensive, but if they save you your precious time, then the value is worth the cost.
Pivot Quickly / Avoid Commitment Fallacy
Another huge time waster pops up in projects when teams fail to recognize that it might be time to pivot.
There can be a fear in the modern workplace of walking away from failing projects, even when we know they are doomed. This fear is sometimes referred to as the commitment fallacy, where we refuse to walk away from a project because we’ve already put so much work into it. This becomes a problem when teams end up working on tasks in because they are committed, even though it might be better to walk away and work on something else.
To improve your time management skills, you should constantly be asking yourself, “what should I be working on that will have the most impact?” By constantly evaluating and re-evaluating your impact, you will learn to quickly pivot from project to project and avoid wasteful work.
Use the 80/20 Rule
This strategy of constantly evaluating where you can have the most impact is often referred to as the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 Rule simply states that approximately 80% of your results will come from 20% of the work that you do. Therefore, if you can recognize which 20% of your work has the most impact, you can optimize your work day to get more done and be more productive!
So, there it is, some strategies to assist you manage your time more appropriately to finish the project on time, it’s not easy getting into a mindset of structure if it is not part of your DNA, but it is the best way to organise time. For a more detailed description, there is a Time Management eBook, Time Management Strategies For the Knowledge Worker which can be downloaded from the Project Management Companion site.
Project portfolio management (PPM) is the management of many projects, which is called a portfolio. This includes the processes, methods and technologies used by the project managers and or project management offices leading these individual projects. PPM analyzes the portfolio to have the portfolio be as productive as possible, while remaining on schedule and within budget.
Many different perspectives are at play with project portfolio management. Such as the mentioned various schedules, scope and costs of the portfolio must be maintained. But there are also the constraints imposed by customers, the strategic objectives of the larger organization and the impact of external real-world factors that require attention as well.
Managing an organization’s portfolio of projects requires prioritizing projects, allocating resources, tracking performances and much more. Also, data from individual projects is collected, reviewed and analyzed to make sure it’s aligned with the overall strategy of the organization.
In the hierarchy of business management, project portfolio management is the link between project management and enterprise management. Project management being project teams working on assessment, proposals and project deliverables; portfolio management overseeing the resource allocation, project prioritization and tracking performance of those projects; and enterprise management dealing with the overriding vision, mission and strategy of the organization.
To further understand where project portfolio management and project management differ, it’s important to define each and expose the areas where they diverge.
Project management is defined by its name: it’s the management of a project. A project is a temporary endeavor that results in a product or service. It has a beginning and an end, which is planned and monitored through a series of processes, which is project management.
Project management can include the following:
- Defining project goals
- Managing project requirements
- Breaking down tasks into a schedule
- Managing cost and budget
- Assigning resources
- Monitoring, tracking and reporting on project progress
- Communicating to teams and stakeholders
Project portfolio management is a formal approach to orchestrating, prioritizing and analyzing the potential value of many projects, called a portfolio, or many portfolios. The goal is to manage and leverage the life cycle of investments, initiatives, programs, projects and outcomes to best reach the overall goals and objectives of an organization.
What project portfolio management is concerned with is a high-level view and how the many projects under its wing can rise to meet the larger strategic objectives of the organization. Unlike project management, which is dealing with aligning one project to business strategy, project portfolio management is looking to make portfolios act as one in their ability to achieve the goals of the organization.
Therefore, project management is a subset of portfolio management. It leads to the overriding objective, which is meeting the strategic goals of the organization. Often there is a step between project management and portfolio management, known as program management, which is a related group of projects. Project portfolio management doesn’t have to be comprised of similar projects.
The person in an organization who is responsible for the management of the project portfolio is called a project portfolio manager. They can be in charge of one or more portfolios. They work with different financial algorithms and models to help guide their decisions in keeping the portfolio within the organization’s strategic objectives. They supervise and manage a small team of project management staff and project managers, who report back to the project portfolio manager on project reporting, methodology, application and financials.
The project portfolio manager reports to the program delivery manager or a similar high-level C-suite executive. In big organizations—especially those that are structured, vertical operations—portfolios managers might work for a project management office (PMO) within the larger organization. In some cases, the PMO is managing the portfolio, not a specific portfolio manager.
Again, the portfolio manager is in charge of a portfolio or group of portfolios. The structure of a portfolio is that it’s made up of a number of projects. These projects can be related, as in a program, or not.
Each project is broken down into phases, which are managed by a series of processes. These phases, also called the life cycle of a project, are the initiation, planning, execution and closure. Each of these phases is made up of a number of tasks with the objective of moving the project forward and creating deliverables. The final deliverable being the project product or service.
Project portfolio management doesn’t dig deep into the mechanics of each project, but must manage the overall goals and objectives of each of the projects in the portfolio in order to ensure that they’re all aligned with the overall goals and objectives of the organization.
Project portfolio management requires a balance of time, skills, budgets, risk mitigation and finding ways to run the projects in the portfolio cheaply and quickly without losing quality. They do this through the use of five key capabilities.
- Change Control Management: Identifies and prioritizes change requests. These can be feature requests, operational constraints, regulatory, etc., based on demand, financial and operational constraints.
- Risk Management: Identifies risks in projects that make up the portfolio, and develops contingency and risk response plans in order to rein in the uncertainties of managing the portfolio.
- Financial Management: Manages financial resources related to the projects in the portfolio and demonstrates financial value of the portfolio as it pertains to the organizational strategy, goals and objectives.
- Pipeline Management: Gets enough project proposals in the pipeline and determines if they’re worth executing and will assist in the goals and objectives of the organization.
- Resource Management: Efficient and effective use of organization’s resources, from materials and equipment to people and technical skills.
Project portfolio management started as a broad brush in which to paint the selecting major strategic initiatives. It was mostly based around cost, risk and return. These were the decision mechanisms that drove portfolio managers.
Capacity planning then was crowned king of project portfolio management, but it was also too narrow to act as an overall process to control portfolio management. The need for a wider lens on which to view project portfolio management was clear as more senior-level management and executives wanted greater detail and focus on improving process.
While simple software has been in play for years, it wasn’t until the advent of the internet and the personal computer revolution of the mid-to-late 90s that software solutions were able to offer the breadth of features that gave portfolio managers the tools they needed to manage every part of the project portfolio management process.
With software moving from the desktop to the cloud, project portfolio management grew more efficient and effective. Some of the features that serve portfolio managers are the following:
- Online Gantt Charts
- Real-Time Dashboards
- Shared Calendars
- Time Tracking and Timesheets
- Dynamic Reporting
- Collaborate with Remote Teams
There are project portfolio management tools which can be used to make tracking easier. The features that are needed to manage a portfolio are broad and powerful, and can be found within a selection of tools located in projectmanagementcompanion.com, online tools such as Gantt Charts. Planning a portfolio of projects is exponentially more complicated than scheduling one project, which is no small task itself. The online Gantt chart, makes it easy to prioritize and link tasks across all the projects within a portfolio and track their progress.
Any industry that is working on multiple projects at the same time, which collects those works in a portfolio that requires management, benefits from the discipline of project portfolio management. Obviously, that’s a lot of industries and organizations.
Some of the industries and organizations that are reaping the rewards from using project portfolio management include IT, computer software, hospitals and healthcare, construction, automotive, non-profit, financial services and banking, service and staffing recruiting, insurance, telecommunications, government administration and more.
Anyone can benefit by looking at their projects from a higher perspective, which is what using project portfolio management offers as its perspective. PPM leads to better decision-making, helps with risk management and creates a faster turnaround time for projects by streamlining processes and getting more on investments.
But it’s not only that projects move faster and cheaper. Project portfolio management also increases product delivery success. PPM streamlines data and that makes for a more efficient collaboration.
All these factors and more make it clear that project portfolio management is a methodology that can serve any organization with a portfolio of projects.
Projectmanagementcompanion.com, provides a selection of the best PPM tool in the market, so take full advantage of all these business benefits.
The following is a mini-glossary of project portfolio terms that have been used in this guide.
- Portfolio Management: Controlling a portfolio of projects to make sure they align with the overall strategic goals and objectives of an organization.
- Program Management: Managing a portfolio of projects with the same aim as portfolio management, only the projects in the portfolio are all similar or related.
- Project Management: Planning, executing, monitoring and reporting on one project, from start to finish, including controlling scope, costs and schedule.
- Project Management Office (PMO): Group within organization that’s tasked with maintaining standards for project management within that organization, often oversells portfolio and program management.
- Portfolio Manager: Individual who manages a project portfolio or portfolio of portfolios.
- Program Manager: Individual responsible for managing a program.
- Project Manager: Individual tasked with managing a single project and project team through all project phases: planning, execution, monitoring and closure.
- Change Control Management: Process to identify and successfully respond to change in a project or portfolio.
- Portfolio Reporting: Creating charts, graphs and other reporting documentation to communicate progress and other portfolio metrics.
- Risk Management: Identifying and resolving risk before it happens and after.
- Resource Management: The process of allocating resources throughout the life cycle of the portfolio.
- Pipeline Management: Making decisions for estimating and selecting which projects to fund that align with an organization’s strategy.
- Financial Management: Understanding each project’s unique risk and using this knowledge to make decisions across the entire portfolio.
Defining roles and responsibilities is important in most projects, but in complex projects it should be mandatory. It reduces validation and time wasting, without clear and defined communication channels then it becomes confusing and disjointed. There is a difference between strategic communication, project management communication, and change management. When this confusion is brought into large, complex projects, it can create waste, ineffective resourcing and dissatisfied stakeholders.
In most organizations, the people who perform these three distinct functions have built their expertise on very different professional backgrounds. Regardless there are many occasions when a project manager has been tasked to produce a strategic communications plan, or a strategic communication manager been asked to handle the “team” communications on a large project.
As business increases in speed, scale and complexity, clearing up this confusion is more important than ever. Just as each function is critical to success, so is learning how to resource, structure and execute each of them effectively – without tripping over each other.
Being clear and definitive in each role is a must, when this is clear from the start the ability to drive the most important strategic work forward between the three distinct functions of strategic communication, change management and project communication occurs.
It’s useful to think of these functions in terms of what drives them:
- Strategic communicators use storytelling to move employees’ hearts and minds and get everyone on board to advance broad organizational objectives. They support employee engagement, leadership and growth by sharing timely and meaningful news across the organization. They speak on behalf of the organization and often own the voice of the organization internally and externally.
- Status Updates. Project managers use communications to deliver project-specific information to relevant parties and ensure that all objectives, plans, risks and time constraints are clear and aligned. They speak on behalf of the project, but not the organization.
- Transformation. Change management experts help employees make successful transitions to new roles, responsibilities and ways of working. They connect people to the reason for change and move the organization to help assimilate to the needed level of change. When done well, change management increases the business value of what is being delivered. Change management strategies usually accomplish this through tactics using communication, engagement, readiness, training, and enabling strong project sponsorship.
For this to occur successfully, it is best to build a RACI to define roles and responsibilities. Before developing any project, communication or change management plan, take the time to jointly build a RACI (exercise of identifying stakeholders who will be responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed throughout a project) that clearly defines these overlapping roles and associated responsibilities. Keep the plan and actions aligned with each role; the RACI should only be adjusted to close project gaps or address new discoveries.
Once completed, a RACI can also provide insight on the effort it will take to achieve the project goals and to ensure it is properly staffed for success. Meet with sponsors and key leadership before the project begins to review roles and responsibilities, request additional staffing, or reduce scope as indicated by the RACI. As part of this effort, decide when and how often to meet and with whom. Establish a structured meeting cadence to address critical intersections in work deliverables.
Once the RACI is defined, keeping resources within their respective lanes while meeting overall project needs can be a task on its own. Project managers, strategic communicators and change managers will each approach planning differently. In order to align them on a project, then they should be aligned to the deliverables.
Format may seem like a minor thing. Yet some programs have struggled for months over how to insert a change management plan into a project management plan. Decide up front which format should be used, who will manage the plan, and how. If change managers and strategic communicators will be managing their own plans, decide how they will provide project managers with usable updates and core milestones for tracking.
Coordinated reporting on progress is essential to staying on track. Project managers, change managers and strategic communicators often report to different people. Make sure all of them are on the same page. Once a decision is made on a format for managing the project plan, leverage the same status information into all reports and updates to key stakeholders. This will avoid duplicate and/or uncoordinated reporting, a common source of confusion and wasted effort. Don’t forget to let plan management get in the way of work. People need to respect each other’s roles and focus on status updates, not the format.
It is important that each person works to their strengths, this will ensue effective and be cost-efficient, while increasing employee satisfaction. Valuable skills, dedication and know-how of internal and/or external resources shouldn’t be wasted. When everyone’s working at the top of their game, then the full value of each resource is received. Project management communication, strategic communication, and change management are three very different functions. Organizations that clarify these three distinct roles, and align them before launching a major project, can finesse the integrated structure, message and activities that lead to success.
A PERT can assist in taking control of deadlines and project tasks, PERT is an acronym that stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique. It’s a statistical tool that can be very useful when working on a project, as it analyses and represents the project’s tasks.
A PERT chart is a tool that can help project managers schedule, organize and coordinate tasks in their projects. It’s a graphic representation of the timeline of a project, which gives project managers the tools they need to breakdown each of the project’s tasks for analysis.
There are milestones for the project indicated on the PERT chart by triangles. Circles represent the individual tasks and are connected by lines to show the duration of that task from start to finish, call nodes.
The PERT chart is used by project managers to estimate the minimum amount of time that will be needed to close a project. This is done by examining the breakdown of the project and the connections there are between tasks, which also helps determine the amount of risk inherent in the project.
One of the purposes of a PERT chart is to help project managers get a handle on complex projects. The nature of the PERT chart and its breakdown structure help to take the complexity of a project and its many parts and visualize the dependencies between each step in the process.
PERT in project management has been around for a while, but it in fact was developed in the U.S. Navy. In 1957, its Special Projects Office created the PERT chart to assist in its Polaris nuclear submarine project.
Since then, it’s found a home in all manner of industries, even the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble.
PERT diagrams and the critical path method came about at roughly the same time, growing from the scientific management founded by Frederick Taylor, also called Taylorism, which was later refined by Henry Ford. But the use of the term critical path comes from DuPont, which developed the method also in the late 1950s.
The problems that a PERT chart has evolved to solve are myriad. They help plan realistic timetables for projects and identify the critical path. They also help project managers see which tasks can be done at the same time. If the project schedule is shortened, the PERT chart points to tasks that can be compressed, and it helps to show tasks that are not critical.
When creating a PERT chart tasks, or activities, are represented as arrows on the diagram. The dates of project milestones are represented as nodes, or circles. A PERT event is a point that marks the start of completion of one or more activities. There are also predecessor events, which occur immediately before some events, and a successor event, which naturally occurs afterwards.
PERT has four definitions for the time required to accomplish an activity:
- Optimistic Time: The least amount of time to accomplish a task or activity.
- Pessimistic Time: The maximum amount of time to accomplish a task or activity.
- Most Likely Time: The best estimate of how long it will take to accomplish the task or activity, assuming there are no problems.
- Expected Time: The best estimate of how long it will take to accomplish the task or activity, assuming there will be problems.
There are terms associated when using a PERT Chart;
- Nodes: These are the symbols used to visualize milestones and project tasks.
- Arrows: Visual representation of the sequence of a task, diverging arrows indicate tasks that can be completed at the same time.
- PERT Event: The start or end of a task.
- Slack: The amount of time a task can be delayed without causing an overall delay to the project or other tasks.
- Critical Path: Charts the longest path from beginning to the end of a task or event.
- Critical Path Activity: An activity with no slack.
- Lead Time: How much time you should complete a task or activity without impacting the following ones.
- Lag Time: The earliest time in which to a task can follow another.
- Fast Tracking: Working tasks or activities at the same time.
- Crashing Critical Path: Shortening the time of a task.
The steps involved when implementing a PERT Chart;
- Begin by identifying the project milestones and then break those down into individual tasks.
- Then figure out the sequence of the tasks.
- Make the PERT diagram.
- Do an estimate for each task and the time it will take to complete it.
- Calculate the critical path and identify any possible slack.
- Finally, the PERT chart is a living document that must be returned to and revived as needed when the project is in progress.
There is a difference between a PERT Chart and a Gantt Chart, while both PERT charts and Gantt charts are visual tools used by project managers to control tasks scheduling, they are not exactly the same thing.
PERT charts, as detailed above, were developed to simplify planning and scheduling larger and complex projects. A Gantt chart is also a graphical depiction for planning and scheduling a project, which breaks work down into tasks that populate a timeline. A Gantt chart can set task dependencies and shows the duration of each task.
If that sounds similar, there are differences. For example in a Gantt the timeline is represented by a bar chart, while a PERT is more a flowchart or network diagram. Gantts tend to be used in smaller projects, while PERT charts are for larger and more complex projects. Dependent tasks are linked on a Gantt while a PERT has many interconnecting networks of independent tasks.
However, PERT charts are usually used before a project to figure out scheduling and Gantt charts tend to follow into the project, highlighting scheduling constraints. The Gantt chart can be used when executing the project as well as when planning because tasks start and end dates can be edited. Gantt charts reveal how long each task will take, show who on the team is responsible for those tasks and generally are a more transparent tool to track progress.
The PERT chart is a tool that helps plan and schedule, and Projectmanagementcompanion.com has a selection of online Gantt chart that plans, schedules and works through the execution of the project. Any one of these Project Management tools provide Gantt that provides control over every aspect of a schedule, from placing milestones, assigning team members and linking dependencies. Teams can collaborate at the task level, commenting and attaching documents. As issues arise and start and end dates change, simply drag and drop the duration bar.
As the software is cloud-based, a team’s status updates are instantly incorporated into the Gantt. The Gantt charts even calculate critical path. Try one on a free 30-day trial.
Capacity planning is an issue of supply and demand, which has the ability to derail a project. It is a process that balances the available hours of teams against what the project needs. Capacity in this case is the most work that can be done over a certain timeframe. It’s a bit of a juggling act that has to keep several balls in the air, such as the availability of the team, the money in the budget for those hours and what is demanded by the client, stakeholder or customer. Capacity and planning obviously go hand-in-glove. Planning is how one schedules the hours of the team members so that the work gets done in time.
The first questions to address when planning for capacity within an organization is whether or not there is sufficient capacity, or the resources, to do the work. Regardless of the situation, there will be a lack of understanding unless there is a way to measure and track resources, such as a resource management tool. Only then can an educated decision on capacity planning be made.
It’s a matter of supply and demand, are the resources available or not? Those resources can be people, which can be acquired from other projects that are cancelled. If it’s skill, then there’s training to close the gap. Process that balances the available hours of teams against what the project needs. Capacity in this case is the most work that can be done over a certain timeframe.
While the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same. The process is different. Below is a list to understand the differences,
- It’s a planning process designed to help determine if the organization has enough people resources according to skill sets.
- It looks at the availability of those resources at the skill set/team level.
- Then it facilitates the decision-making process to hire resources or defer/approve/cancel projects.
- Capacity planning is about supply and demand.
- It’s a planning process that coordinates and allocates actual resources to projects based on skills required.
- It provides a plan to project managers, which resources they can plan to use for their projects and when.
- Resource planning is people resource utilization.
Here is a short checklist for high-level capacity planning.
- Establish Cross-Functional Team: To collaborate and communicate about resources, while looking across different projects or programs, the preference is for a cross-functional team with different levels and different functions.
- Calculate Resource Capacity: Before planning can occur, there must be an idea of what is available, which is why it’s important to note the gap between what is wanted and what is needed, and then figure out how to narrow it.
- Determine Resources required by the Project: For each project, look at the scope and what resources are required to do the task for the project.
- Prioritize Projects: Which projects are most important, and which can be put aside for the time being? Not everything can be done at once.
- Allocate Resources Based on Project Priority: Now allocate those prioritized projects and make sure that they are aligned with the goals of the organization.
The following are three capacity planning tips.
- Keep the lines of communications open between executives, project management leaders and stakeholders.
- Document known risks (such as union strikes, weather, government regulations) that stop a project or create new ones unexpectedly.
- Plan for how to handle too much capacity (where is it and how to resolve it, such as reassigning) or not enough capacity (again, where/how.)
Related to capacity planning is capacity requirements planning, which is when an organization decides how much it needs to produce and whether it is capable of doing so. Therefore, capacity requirements planning allows companies to meet supply and demand.
This also applies to IT, as they must access the demand for their service and determine their ability to meet that demand with whatever supply they have, be that people or technology. In order to do this successfully, any enterprise must look at internal and external forces and how they impact the business.
Capacity requirements planning is the macro to capacity planning’s micro. That is, capacity requirements planning is the big picture that takes in the whole business landscape to see where the company’s production fits. While capacity planning is for the specific projects the company engages in.
Capacity planning is linked to resource management. Projectmanagementcompanion.com has a selection of resource management tool that provides control over planning, scheduling and sourcing. Enabling a balance of workload and the ability to reassign tasks to keep team members from being idle.
The resource management tools allow managers to see what their teams are doing, when they’re doing it and how much it costs to do it. Providing the ability to track resources and see progress, which allows managers to make better decisions.
To get a full picture of the costs involved, add hourly rates for teams and contractors across projects or portfolios. As team members log their hours, their actual costs are automatically calculated and can be compared to the costs that were planned, so they can be capacity adjusted as needed.
Holidays can be planned and working days for team members determined, whether they’re local or international. These off days are blocked on the calendar, to better manage resources. Once the capacity is known then resource availability can be more wisely determined to accomplish project goals.
Capacity planning requires the right tools to give managers insight into workforce and how it aligns with budgets. Projectmanagementcompanion.com is a project reference site that provides insight to assist in real-smart business decisions.
The resource management tools listed provides a window into team’s resources and helps for a better planning process by using plan online Gantt charts. To see how we can help you manage your next project better, try any one of the tools found on Projectmanagementcompanion.com.
Once stakeholders have approved the project plan, the execution phase begins. At this point, project monitoring, tracking and reporting become the core responsibilities of project manager. But everyone on the team must also be aware of monitoring and tracking, so if issues arise, they are addressed. Project reporting documents show how things are progressing.
Effective project reporting requires clear, simple and concise communication. This communication flows in two directions. Not only top-down, from project sponsors and external stakeholders to team members, but also in the opposite direction.
Many types of project reports are created during the execution phase in order to track the progress of a project. Project status reports act not only as important communication tools during project execution but also as important historical documents that inform the development of future projects. This makes estimating the scope of future projects less of a shot-in-the-dark, and more of an educated guess.
Project status reports have a few key objectives, including:
- Making communication across the organization seamless
- Simplifying the communication process
- Keeping stakeholders informed as the project moves forward
- Delivering the right information, to the right stakeholders, at the right time
- Enhancing organizational support for everyone involved
Project monitoring, tracking and reporting are a highly-collaborative process. Without monitoring and tracking the progress of a project, the reporting is not accurate. Therefore, teams must collaborate when creating reports, so communications are clear. This collaboration and communication is facilitated by the right project management tools.
Using tools that help with collaboration when monitoring and tracking makes evaluating a project easier. Projectmanagementcompanion.com has a visual, timeline-driven Gantt charts, drag-and-drop Kanban boards and interactive task lists to help teams collaborate on tasks in the way that works best for them. These three views empower teams to collaborate and execute effectively.
There are six elements to a project report, as the execution phase progresses, it’s important to report on progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray.
Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective tracking requires detailed information. It’s an unsafe bet to assume stakeholders share a projects familiarity. Instead, provide information known, even if it seems like overkill. This helps things run smoothly, and also sets groundwork for the project to be referenced as a precedent when future projects are being planned.
Report dates are the most important status information, and should always be front-and-center. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.
Milestones are major touchpoints for your project. They serve as a guidepost for remaining work, and the timeline for it to get done. Conducting a milestone review lets stakeholders see actual progress versus what was estimated in the project proposal.
The project summary includes a projected completion date, as well as resources and costs expended. Inclusion of issues causing delays is an important summary component. There should be a clear explanation of how these issues could affect budget and timeline, and work being done to ensure things are corrected to get the project back on track.
Issues and Risks
This section is straightforward. List issues and risks encountered and note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution.
Back up statements with hard numbers and data points. Project planning details should have outlined these metrics. Show how data illustrates the success of your project to date, or, highlight needs for immediate improvement.
With these elements in mind, there are some project reporting best practices to consider:
- Communication is the cornerstone: Status reports are a key element of your communications plan. However, these reports don’t have to cover everything, and be all things to all people. Writing reports in a way that delivers the right information to the right people, at the right time, should be the overarching goal.
- Be consistent: Consistency is key. Find a format and distribution method that works for stakeholders, and stick with it. They’ll appreciate the predictability of the information they receive.
- Set targets and measure against them: Establishing metrics is an important part of project reporting and monitoring. Accordingly, these metrics should be how the project progress is measured against goals throughout its life-cycle.
- Keep things simple: Keep reports simple to ensure effectiveness. Don’t pull in details unrelated to the issue on which is being reported.
- Always verify what is being reported: It’s a bad idea to assume information is correct without doing due diligence to ensure it is.
- Have some standards: Reporting simplification is made easier through creation of standards defining report structure, and how information is presented. Given this, building templates to make the work easier is a great first step.
Throughout any project, it’s important to evaluate reporting to avoid scope creep. As project teams start to work, and silos of activity develop, it’s vital to keep everyone aligned. This ensures project scope doesn’t creep.
There are five ways to avoid scope creep:
- Document all project requirements
- Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
- Create a clear project schedule: A thorough project schedule outlines project goals. It outlines tasks to be done to reach those goals. This schedule is referenced against the project plan’s requirements document to make sure everything is moving forward. If not, the schedule sets the course for tweaks or changes.
- Verify scope with stakeholders: It’s worthwhile during a project’s lifecycle to review scope with all stakeholders. Reviewing the schedule together, and making sure all tasks stakeholders are expecting to be done on a given timeline is also a good idea.
- Engage the project team: Make sure the project team is happy with how things are going throughout the project. As the change control process starts to take hold, let the team know how it will affect them. Weekly 1:1 meetings or team meetings to review tasks, and also overall project progress is a great way to keep the team engaged.
Project reporting can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Taking things step-by-step can help ease anxieties among everyone involved, and ensure a winning result.
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