Tag: Project delivery

Why Program Design is Essential

Importance of Program Design

Never underestimate the importance of design when managing major organizational change and improvement; programmes remain the most effective framework for achieving success. The level of complexity and risk involved in shifting an enterprise into a new phase of development and operation – and the associated investment – means the process has to be managed properly and improvement measured.

In respect to the demands of society changing, with people wanting things better and faster and the new normal which has been dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Change now happens continually and organizations need enterprise agility – the capability to pivot in response to their environment. And, in a typical programme timeframe of three to five years, a lot can happen.

This is why the design phase of a programme is so critical to get right and where a best practice approach provides the necessary level of focus and rigour.

Traditionally, programme design has been neglected. Without designing the programme properly it’s likely to fail and potentially waste a lot of money in the process. Therefore, there simply shouldn’t be any debate – design is compulsory.

This will set up the programme up for success by installing the building blocks for delivering the benefits, managing associated risks, and creating what an organization will look like in the future.

Managing Successful Programmes highlights four aspects of programme design:

  • Vision
  • Benefits
  • Target operating model (the new, future state of the organization)
  • Risk identification and prioritization

As each of these programme elements are happening simultaneously, they must be integrated. If not, the nightmare scenario is a target operating model that doesn’t align with the vision, affecting the adoption of the change and reducing the expected benefits.

Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle: the image on the box is the future state or vision being built; the individual pieces are contained inside the box and, when put together, they deliver on the original promise (in programme terms, the target operating model).

The vision reflects the future state of the organization; something that everyone needs to endorse to gain engagement and commitment for the change.

It should be encapsulated in a concise and easily understood vision statement (i.e. jargon-free), outlining why the status quo is not an option. This provides senior management with a driving force for the programme.

Whoever facilitates the vision statement (for example, via a workshop) must ensure it involves the stakeholders affected by the programme and not just the sponsoring group.

What constitutes the move from an organization’s current state to its desired, future state is contained in the target operating model.

The sponsoring group decides what it wants the organization to look like in the future, enabling engagement with the wider enterprise, accessing resources, and guiding the programme team towards delivering the target operating model.

This can cover a range of elements such as technology, knowledge and learning, processes, culture, organization, infrastructure, information, and data.

Another aspect of programme design – the benefits – drive programmes, as their delivery supports the organization’s strategic objectives.

There are two main categories for benefits:

  • Efficiency – obtaining business results with fewer resources and reducing costs
  • Effectiveness – creating better results and improved adaptability.

Creating a “benefits map” establishes the connection between benefits and strategic objectives. Benefits are realized at various points during and after the programme’s lifecycle, with the detailed timing included in the benefits realization plan.

Compared to projects, the scale of potential risk in programmes is far greater.

So, it’s necessary – at programme design stage – to introduce a risk management mindset and approach. Without it, the programme may not deliver the necessary benefits.

Starting up a programme is highly important and therefore identifying and prioritizing risks from the earliest opportunity. For example, a significant risk might be the capacity and capability of the organization to undertake the programme at all. To mitigate that risk might involve recruiting more suitably qualified people.

Managing programme risk effectively requires a plan for how to mitigate the risk and then checking and acting on what has been identified.

What should programme managers and their stakeholders expect from focusing on programme design?

It gives them a structure that creates confidence to deliver what the stakeholders require. And, for the stakeholders, they should expect to see the benefits they signed off on day one.

Also, effective programme design feeds into projects: it helps to assess which projects are business-critical, ensures they are created, scheduled properly, and will produce the outputs that lead ultimately to outcomes and benefits.

Ultimately, programme design will ensure that the future state of the organization is clear. This means understanding the gap that will be filled to achieve the future target operating model as well as how to manage the associated benefits and risks. Let us know your approach to programme design, has it helped with your delivery, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Successful Remote Project Management

Remote Project Management

If the current situation has taught us anything, it is that there is a new normal, as remote project management becomes a must have skillset. Regardless that doesn’t change the ongoing and increasing importance of project management to organizations, as projects are key to develop new capabilities and deliver improvements.

The critical elements needed to ensure projects are managed successfully – leadership, communication and team management – apply as much to remote working as “in person”. However, managers need to think and work extra hard to ensure they translate fully to a virtual environment.

Leadership means having the confidence to lead the team; being resilient and removing impediments to success. It requires leaders to ensure they’re as visible as possible and more emotionally intelligent to get the team’s vote of confidence.

This is more challenging and just as important with remote working, good leadership is about demonstrating the correct behaviours including transparency, collaboration, communication, honesty, empathy, exploration; each of which can be called good business behaviours. Deploying these approaches helps a remote team become more productive.

Communication is vital as project managers liaise across many departments and stakeholders, handling a lot of information and conveying it in a multitude of ways. As the remote world remains two dimensional without the dynamics of face-to-face meetings, it’s essential to get the communications blend right.

That means good communication can’t be left to chance, such as the informal interactions that happen when people are co-located. Instead, it needs to be organized and planned to understand their effect and resolve any misunderstanding.

Team management is extremely important, especially when working on high-risk and high-profile projects. When building a team, often in a project’s start-up phase, the project manager needs to assess how people work together and what additional skills/training they need. For some skills, the need for improvement might be easier within a remote context. But for other skills, the assessment could be more challenging. Wherever possible, it’s good to avoid someone leaving an assembled team, as this can have a major impact on the shared understanding that’s been created.

When everyone in the team is clear on the project’s objectives and the tasks in hand, they will educate their organization through the change. Even with leadership, communication and team management in place, there is no denying that the virtual environment is more complex for project management. For example: The spontaneity of in-person collaboration is reduced in a virtual environment

No doubt there are challenges and more planning and preparation to deal with potential unknowns in remote project engagement. Project managers need to work harder to identify team members’ body language when communicating through remote platforms to have colleagues’ well-being in mind.

Remote on boarding of new team members takes a lot of courage from everyone, so consult your new people to involve them and encourage their views. Also, having cameras on in virtual meetings means you can gauge people’s feelings much better. Having the visual component really helps communication but you need to establish the ground rules for this in advance; that might mean being mindful of people’s mental health by allowing them to switch cameras off, especially if they’ve been involved in back-to-back video calls and need a break.

By enhancing the virtual engagement experience, with things like online chat functions, it encourages feedback. Virtual whiteboards are a good way of increasing interaction in meetings and energizes the team, showing that their contribution is valued. Facilitators can also inspire engagement by making sure everyone can contribute. Build intention into preparation and reach out to the team as much as possible – a skill developed over time in a virtual environment.

The importance of celebrating success is as relevant in a virtual world as the physical world. Therefore, that could mean delivering cakes to everyone on the project team – but ensuring there’s enough for their families too!

Finally, make technology a friend and avoid trying to fix IT issues in the middle of a meeting; rather postpone and reschedule. The expanding, virtual world is here to stay in one form or another. This means embracing it as an adaptable and flexible way of working. Indeed, virtual platforms have enabled more introverted people to contribute ideas and feel less inhibited.

However, this environment also brings a continued need for project management skills. For example, PRINCE2 principles, supported by themes and processes support project managers’ planning, delegation, monitoring and controlling projects along with their various constraints. Ultimately, project managers must be in control when leading their teams: calm and composed on the surface, let us know your style in managing projects remotely, we would like to hear from you. All the best on your project management journey.

Process Thinking for Project Delivery

Process Thinking

The delivery of projects successfully is made up of many factors, one is process. The ability to follow established set steps to ensure that results are achieved. The ability to understand that everything correct flow is the result of a process and is the key to performance and possibly project improvement. 

To effectively deliver projects as close to scope as possible, or at least not to have such a variance from the concept, final scope and then what is delivered, look no further than the process.  As there is a place for process thinking in operating, managing, and directing projects.

Every outcome is the result of a process, set of steps, under a set of conditions.  Analysing processes provides lessons learnt and allows for improvement for future performance.

When it comes to figuring out what went right or wrong, focus on what was done, why it was done, how it was done, and why it was done that way.  Then learn from what happened to continuously improve.

There are two broad categories of processes, internal (intrapersonal) and external (collaborative).  While the internal processes have a direct effect in the external ones, in most teams and organizations they are left to the individual.  The external ones are observable, such as speech, behaviour, and outcomes can be seen, felt, and analysed.

Processes weave together in a dynamic system.  The system, the environment being worked in, is complex.  Managing its processes is more an art or craft than a science.  Documented policies, processes and procedures are useful, though it is behaviour that counts.  And behaviour in complex situations requires flexibility and the right balance among intuition and analysis, compliance, and flexibility.

There are many ways to say the same thing and there may be more categories.  The point is to assess processes to see with which allow for satisfaction, and which can and should be improved?

The following is list of processes that are involved in project management

  • Communication
    • Demeanour, decorum, and respect for others – emotional and social intelligences, rules of order
    • Structure – purpose, position, evidence, dialog (questioning, opposing views, and rebuttal), conclusion.  Why is one saying what they are saying?  Is it the best way to address the purpose, meaningful, as brief as possible and to the point?
    • Active Listening – sensing one’s own and other people’s meaning through “vibe”, body language, tone, and content; asking questions to better understand; open to what the other person is saying as opposed to assuming what that are saying.
    • Transparency – what was decided, why it was decided that way, what is being or was done, the outcome, implications, and changes.
  • Conflict Resolution, Problem Solving, and Decision making
  • Operational performance
  • Management
    • Operational
    • Human resource
    • Quality (reviews, compliance, performance analysis and continuous improvement)
    • Procurement
    • Stakeholder (managing expectations, informing, obtaining input)
    • Financial and Accounting
    • Legal
  • Direction
    • Strategy and policy
    • Stakeholder relations and politics
    • Accountability and performance evaluation
    • Decision making
    • Values and principles

Regardless if a good track record in project delivery exists, there probably are parts of processes which can be better understood and improved, particularly in the areas of communication, decision making, stakeholder relations, and quality management. 

How best to address process?  Cultivate process thinking.  Ask what processes are behind chronic performance problems?  Are processes too rigid or too loose?  Is process documentation enough?  Is everyone aware of process thinking?

Make the time and take the effort to manage processes, let us know you approach to the use of processes in delivering projects. It would be great to have your point of view, all the very best on your project management journey.

Critical Path Method Essentials

Critical Path Method Essentials

In project management, the critical path is the longest sequence of tasks that must be completed to successfully conclude a project, from start to finish. The tasks on the critical path are known as critical activities because if they’re delayed, the whole project will be delayed. By identifying the critical path, determining the total duration of a project can be made.

Calculating the critical path is key during the planning phase because the critical path identifies important deadlines and the activities which must be completed on time. Once a critical path is determined, a clear picture of the schedule becomes evident.

To find this, project managers use the critical path method (CPM) algorithm to define the least amount of time necessary to complete each task with the least amount of slack.

Once a manual task, but with the availability of project scheduling software the critical path can be calculated automatically.

The critical path method (CPM), also known as critical path analysis (CPA), is a scheduling procedure that uses a network diagram to depict a project and the sequences of tasks required to complete it, which are known as paths. Once the paths are defined, the duration of each path is calculated by an algorithm to identify the critical path, which determines the total duration of the project.

The critical path method (CPM) is used in project management to create project schedules and helps project managers create a timeline for the project. The critical path method includes:

  • Identifying every task necessary to complete the project and the dependencies between them
  • Estimating the duration of the project tasks
  • Calculating the critical path based on the tasks’ duration and dependencies to identify the critical activities
  • Focusing on planning, scheduling and controlling critical activities
  • Setting project milestones and deliverables
  • Setting stakeholder expectations related to deadlines

After making these considerations, insight is gained into which activities must be prioritized. Then it becomes evident of which resources need to be allocated to get these important tasks done. Tasks discovered that aren’t on the critical path are of a lesser priority in the project plan and can be delayed if they’re causing the project team to become over-allocated.

Projects are made up of tasks that must adhere to a schedule in order to meet a deadline. It sounds simple, but without mapping the work it can quickly get out of hand and project can get off track.

When analyzing the critical path, pay particular attention closely at the time it will take to complete each task, taking into account the task dependencies and how they’ll impact the schedule. It’s a technique to find the most realistic project deadline. It can also help during the project as a metric to track progress.

Therefore, when  doing critical path analysis, finding the sequence of tasks that are both important and dependent on a previous task. Less important tasks aren’t ignored and are part of the analysis; however, they’re the ones which can be jettisoned if time and money won’t permit.

To properly understand the concept of critical path, it is best to understand the various terms used in this method.

Earliest start time (ES): This is simply the earliest time that a task can be started in the project. This cannot be determined without first knowing if there are any preceding tasks, or figuring out other constraints that might impact the start of this task.

Latest start time (LS): This is the very last minute in which to start a task before it threatens to upset the project schedule. Calculate what the latest finish time is for the same reason. By having a clear picture of this timeframe, better scheduling of the project can be covered to meet its deadline.

Earliest finish time (EF): The earliest an activity can be completed, based on its duration and its earliest start time.

Latest finish time (LF): The latest an activity can be completed, based on its duration and its latest start time.

Float. Also known as slack, float is a term that describes how long to delay a task before it impacts the planned schedule and threatens the project’s deadline. The tasks on the critical path have zero float. Either calculate the float using the steps above, or by using project management software. If an activity has a float greater than zero, it means it can be delayed without affecting the project completion time.

Crash duration. This describes the shortest amount of time that a task can be scheduled. This can be achieved by moving around resources, adding more towards the end of the task, to decrease the time needed to complete the task. This often means a reduction in quality but is based on a relationship between cost and time.

Critical path drag. If time is added to the project because of a constraint, that is called a critical path drag, which is how much longer a project will take because of constraints on tasks in the critical path.

Once the key definitions of CPM are known, here are the steps to calculate the critical path in project management:

  1. Collect Activities: Use a work breakdown structure to collect all the project activities that lead to the final deliverable.
  2. Identify Dependencies: Figure out which tasks are dependent on other tasks before they can begin.
  3. Create a Network Diagram: A critical path analysis chart, or network diagram, depicts the order of activities.
  4. Estimate Timeline: Determine the duration of each activity.
  5. Use the Critical Path Algorithm: The algorithm has two parts; a forward pass and a backwards pass.
  6. Forward Pass: Use the network diagram and the duration of each activity to determine their earliest start (ES) and earliest finish (EF). The ES of an activity is equal to the EF of its predecessor, and its EF is determined by the formula EF = ES + t (t is the activity duration). The EF of the last activity identifies the expected time required to complete the entire project.
  7. Backward Pass: Begins by assigning the last activity’s earliest finish as its latest finish. Then the formula to find the LS is LS = LF – t (t is the activity duration). For the previous activities, the LF is the smallest of the start times for the activity that immediately follows.
  8. Identify the Float of Each Activity: The float is the length of time an activity can be delayed without increasing the total project completion time. Since the critical path has no float, the float formula reveals the critical path: Float = LS – ES
  9. Identify the Critical Path: The activities with 0 float make up the critical path.
  10. Revise During Execution: Continue to update the critical path network diagram through to the execution phase.

These steps determine what tasks are critical and which can float, meaning they can be delayed without negatively impacting the project by making it longer. The availability of this information needed to plan the schedule more accurately and have more of a guarantee that the project deadline will be met.

Also, considerations of other constraints that might change the project schedule need to be understood. The more these issues can be accounted, the more accurate the critical path method will be. If time is added to the project because of these constraints, that is called a critical path drag, which is how much longer a project will take because of the task and constraint.

Critical path software is used to automatically calculate the critical path in the project schedule. Without using software, managers would have to manually calculate the time-consuming and complicated equation.

Time is one of the triple constraints of a project, so it’s understandable why critical path software has become popular in project management. Any opportunity to gain efficiencies steers the project closer to meeting its goals and objectives.

Since critical path is a very specific technique, critical path software is usually associated with a larger project planning tool that organizes tasks, prioritizes the sequence of activities and other features that go into creating the schedule. One of the most used project management software to identify the critical path is Microsoft Project, although there are many others as well.

Knowing the critical path and having a tool to recalculate it as the schedule evolves over the course of the project is key to getting back on track when behind schedule. More benefits to using critical path software include the following.

  • Quick Calculations Save Time and Effort
  • Track Progress to Know If You’re Behind
  • Recalculate as Project Schedule Changes
  • Keep Track of Task Dependencies
  • Set Milestones and Save Important Dates
  • Get Insightful Data When Planning Tasks
  • Create Schedule Baseline for Project Variance

 

The Critical Path Method (CPM) and the Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) are both visual representations of a project schedule, but it’s important to know the differences.

The main difference between PERT and CPM is that PERT was designed to plan projects with uncertain activity times. Therefore PERT uses three time estimates for each task: optimistic, most likely and pessimistic. On the other hand, CPM was designed for projects where activity times are certain.

CPM uses a single time estimate for each task and focuses on the analysis of task sequences to estimate the total duration of a project. Another important difference is that the CPM is used to identify critical activities that must be completed on time to avoid affecting the project’s deadline, which is something that PERT can’t do.

PERT can be used alongside the critical path to help estimate the duration of activities.

The Critical Path Method is one of the many tools that project managers use when creating their project plan and schedule. It informs them on the length of time, the amount of resources and costs associated with each task and the overall project. Once they have this mapped out they can start plotting the timeline in their scheduling software and start the process of managing their project.

Critical path plays an important role in developing a schedule in project management. It is used in conjunction with PERT (program evaluation and review technique) to figure out the longest amount of time that it would take to complete a project by looking at the dependencies and duration of each task involved.

Simply put, using the critical path is a way to order the seeming chaotic complexity of any project. If deadlines are important to getting a project to deliver on time, then the duration of each task must be understood in order to better estimate where those deadlines will land on the project timeline.

Critical path analysis is charting the dependent tasks, which are those that cannot start or finish until another has started or finished. This creates a great deal of complexity, but the analysis is crucial in order to have a realistic schedule. If the project isn’t as complicated, however, it might not require critical path analysis.

The critical path is important when managing a project because it identifies all the tasks needed to complete the project—then determines the tasks that must be done on time, those that can be delayed if needed (due to the triple constraint of time, cost and scope) and how much float there is.

The reason for understanding the critical path in project management is that the more accurate and reliable the data, the better the project timeline, schedule, plan and so forth. The critical path of a project shows not only how long tasks are likely to take but prioritizes them.

When in the middle of a project and it’s running behind schedule, the critical path will show which tasks must be completed and those that can be left undone without negatively impacting deliverables. This could mean the difference between a successful project, and a failed one.

Critical path is also helpful within the project as a measurement of schedule variance. That is, it can help determine which stage of the project compared to where the plan indicated at that time. This information will quickly advise if the project is on target or lagging behind.

Another benefit of using the critical path in project management is that it helps identify and map task dependencies. Not all tasks can be done at the same time. There is an order and often that structure means that some tasks can’t start or stop until another has started or stopped. It can help avoid bottlenecks by map parallel tasks and keep the project moving.

Finding the critical path is a useful tool that project managers use to make better time estimates. It lends itself to complex and larger projects, but it can be a helpful tool no matter the size of the project.

Time is always weighing heavy on a project, and a critical path identifies which of the project tasks are not necessary to end with a quality deliverable. Completing every task is important, but sometimes that’s not possible. Critical path helps determine which are not needed.

Once the critical path is determined, keep returning to the analysis and continuing to crunch those numbers as things change when executing the project. That’s a lot of work, but when used in conjunction with a robust project management software, the first steps towards success have been taken. Let us know your thoughts on the Critical path Method, and how it has assisted you in your projects. All the very best on your project management journey.

Creating and Maintaining Project budgets

Project Budgets

A project is deemed successful based on many criteria, in particular cost, scope and time, staying within budget is paramount. There are six steps which can help create the budget and establish a dependable system to track project expenses. All projects cost money, being able to manage and track expenses is what keeps the project within a budget. Stakeholders are not likely to consider the project a success if it costs them too much.

To avoid expenses from getting away, there must be a system in place to monitor and track it. That’s the only way to control expenses and in so doing stay on budget. Have a system in place to deal with project expenses and have the capacity to track them. This can be via a robust project management software with dynamic functionality or something more static like an Excel spreadsheet.

Regardless of which mechanism is chosen, data must be collected and identify who is spending what and when. This is the bare minimum and a good place to start. Without a system in place there’s no way to know where money is going.

The next logical step is to have a system that is online. Being able to gain access to tracking system anywhere and at any time is more than just a luxury. It has become an essential part of any project management plan. Team members may not be in the office every day, hence an online tool provides access to the system.

A system is important, but it’s useless until items have been identified in the budget. Understanding where the costs are going. To create a budget, estimate the cost of all the tasks that make up the project, including all the resources needed to execute them.

For example, money on resources will be spent, such as equipment and the team; their might be real-estate costs, legal and travel expenses. All these items must be identified and listed in order for expenses to be tracked.

It’s all part and parcel to creating a budget, identify fixed and variable costs and expenses figured out before tracking them. The budget will be the umbrella under which all the project expenses will be covered.

Once the budget is created, it must be approved. This will allow parameters for expenses and help tracking and determining the permissible spend and when those costs are going beyond what has been earmarked for the project.

A system, budget and everything related to managing the project costs are all for nil if there is not a person in charge of overseeing this process. Assign someone from the team who is tasked with operating the system devised to track expenses. This person will become invaluable. They’ll be on the front lines of the actual budget and can raise concerns when costs are exceeding what has been approved for the budget expenses.

To streamline this process and make it more effective, use an online tool. In this respect online project management software has an advantage over Excel, in that it’s constantly updated and reflects actual spending on expenses. Therefore, if a spike in spending is noticed, not only has it been identified quickly but can be addressed before overspending occurs.

The six steps mentioned are critical to ensure there is a handle to a budget, and avoid expense overrun. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it should be maintained, to avoid headaches during the delivery of the project. Use templates if they are available and pay attention to details.

If you have tips and tricks on maintaining a project budget, we would like to hear from you. All the very best on your project management journey.

Project Tracking Essentials

Project Tracking Essentials

Project tracking is an essential part of staying on schedule and within budget. A project management method used to track the progress of tasks in a project. By tracking projects, it is possible to compare actual planned progress, and identify issues that may prevent the project from staying on schedule and within budget.

Project tracking helps project managers and stakeholders know what work has been done, the resources that have been used to execute those tasks, and helps them create an earned value analysis by measuring project variance and tracking milestones.

Key to project tracking is the use of project tracking tools and project management techniques. For example, status reports allow managers to track project progress by providing an overview of tasks, risks and milestones at any point of the project life cycle. Other types of project reports like progress reports can gather extra details that provide further insight into deliverables and performance. This data can then be distributed to the project team and stakeholders to keep them updated.

A project tracker is a tool that lets managers measure the progress of their team as they execute tasks and use resources. It’s an essential tool to keeping projects on schedule and within their budgets.

The use of project management software to track projects is recommended. Online tools are updated in real time, and that data is shared throughout the software. It can then create reports with live data to help make better decisions.

Tracking the progress of projects can seem like a daunting task, but by laying out the process and planning ahead, is a pathway to success. The following are a few ways to get on the right track;

  • Start with a project outline
  • Create deliverables and milestones
  • Set realistic, clear and measurable goals
  • Use a project tracker template or a project tracking software to keep track of time, costs and tasks
  • Meet regularly with team and stakeholders
  • Have clear deadlines
  • Support transparency

These suggestions are structural and should be set up for every project. They can work with project tracking software to give project managers the details they need to hold their teams to the planned schedule and budget.

Additionally, with project tracking, it’s important to remember the triple constraint, which are time, cost and scope. The key to managing these interrelated variables is proper estimation and control. First estimate costs to create a project budget, the time that tasks will take to create a project timeline and the project scope to create the project schedule. Then control them during the execution phase by using a project tracker that allows for tracking of time, costs and tasks.

Project tracking software is the best way to keep track of projects because it monitors all the tasks associated with project and helps to stay on schedule. Most project tracker software is not used only for tasks; it can also keep track of budget and resource management.

A project tracker is useful even before the execution phase of a project. During planning, it can help manage the resources needed to complete the tasks. When in the monitoring and control stage of the project, the software can be of real assistance, providing visibility of actual progress.

Using a project tracking software is essential to manage any project. It provides a tool to control the triple constraint of time, cost and scope. Managers know when tasks are completed and that they’re not sucking up more than the allocated costs and resources.

As the execution phase progresses, it’s important to report on project progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray. Comprehensive project reports include six elements:

Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective time, cost and task tracking requires detailed information. Provide the information which is needed, 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 project status information. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.

Milestones are major touch-points for the project. They play an essential role when it comes to time tracking because 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.

List issues and risks encountered, note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution. Risk assessment and risk management processes must be implemented throughout the project life cycle.

Back up statements with hard numbers and data points. Project planning details should have outlined these metrics. Show how data illustrates the success of the project to date, or, highlight needs for immediate improvement. Determining metrics to measure project progress is essential for tracking tasks, time, costs and managing teams.

There are some project reporting best practices to consider:

  • Communication is the cornerstone: Status reports are a key element of 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. Weekly status reports are the most common to keep track of project progress.
  • 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 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 you’re reporting.
  • Always verify what you’re reporting: 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.

Defining the project scope and keeping track of it must be a priority for every project manager. There are five ways to avoid scope creep:

  1. Document all project requirements: We’ve covered this at length, above.
  2. Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Engage the project team: Make sure your 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 your 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. Make sure you use project management software, or at least a project tracking template, to facilitate the creation of reports.

Project reporting can be tough, but also efficient with the right tools. Tool can make collaboration and development of project reports less time-consuming and more intuitive. Let us know your thoughts and methods on project tracking. All the very best on your project management journey.