Over the course of this article, we will look at five key areas of any project that you’ll generally want to track as part of the ongoing project status review process.
Reviewing the current status of the project allows you to track the progress of the project against the project plan, which simply means comparing where you are now versus where you planned to be, and then determining what you need to do if the project is veering off track.
The purpose of tracking progress is to ensure that you complete the project as promised: that the final deliverable meets the customer’s acceptance criteria, that the project is on time and on budget. If you monitor the project regularly, you won’t get very far off track without knowing it, and that gives you an early warning signal that allows you to take action to get back on track.
There are five areas you’ll want to track:
- Scope quality
- Staff effort
For each section track what is versus what was supposed to be at any point in time and then decide what to do about any deviations from the plan.
Let’s begin to look at each of these areas of the project status:
For project risk, you’ll be monitoring the environment to detect any new risks or detect a change in your assumptions about the risks you identified earlier in the project.
When and if your original risk assumptions change or if you identify new risks, you’ll need to add new counter measures (which may require a change request), delete planned counter measures (maybe the probability of a risk occurring has decreased and you no longer need the counter measures), or add new risks to your assessment (which may also require a change request).
Any changes in the risk assessment for the project should be noted on the status report in a risk status section (see the figure left).
When you monitor the schedule you are asking, “Have you accomplished what you intended to accomplish by this point in time and do you expect to be on time in the future?” You’ll monitor both milestones and deliverables, in the past and looking forward into the future. Looking back, have you met your milestone dates? How do the actual dates compare to the planned dates? Have you delivered the interim deliverables on time? How do the actual delivery dates compare to the planned delivery dates?
Looking forward, do you expect to meet your future milestone dates? If not, when do you expect to complete the milestone? What is the projected date of delivery for each interim deliverable scheduled for completion between now and the next team meeting?
You track your schedule, of course, with a full-featured tool of your choice. Using something like Seavus’ Project Viewer not only gives you full control of your schedule but also allows you to collaborate with your team and give them control to update task status on their own. Your schedule status is recorded on the status-report form (see the Scope and Schedule Status figure below).
Note: Leave the last column blank (in the Deliverables Completed Since Last Update section of the status report) until you review scope quality.
If you see the schedule is starting to slip, work with the team to determine what might be causing the problem and brainstorm with the team members how to get the project back on track. Not every actual or projected slip in a delivery date will affect the project deadline; so focus your energy on potential changes that do jeopardize the deadline date - the ones on the critical path. Minor deviations from projected dates are expected. Major deviations that may cause you to miss your deadlines need your attention. Detect these potential deviations early so you can prevent the schedule from slipping.
The scope quality plan is the plan for how the team intends to meet the customer’s acceptance criteria for the final deliverable.
Effective project management does not include waiting until you deliver the ?nal deliverable to the customer and then discovering that you have a quality problem.
By the time that happens you have already disappointed the customer and you’ll have to do rework in order to correct the problem.
Rework is not only expensive, it adds additional time to the project.
Therefore, the best approach to assure that the final deliverable is acceptable is to assure each interim deliverable is acceptable to its customer in the chain.
This is done by creating a scope plan and then monitoring the quality of the deliverables as they are produced throughout the project.
Each time an interim deliverable is completed and handed off to the customer for the deliverable, ask him or her if they are satisfied with the quality of the deliverable.
If the customer is satisfied with the interim deliverable, then indicate acceptance with a check mark on the status report form.
If the interim deliverable does not meet the criteria, then the person supplying the deliverable will need to make whatever changes are required to get the deliverable up to the quality standards required.
Indicate on the status report form your plan of action for correcting the quality of the deliverable.
Tip: It’s a good idea to agree on the quality or acceptance criteria for interim deliverables before you begin producing them. This can be done during planning. It’s only necessary to de?ne quality or acceptance criteria for deliverables you haven’t produced before or for ones that, in the past, did not satisfy the customer.
Staffing and Spending
If you included staff effort and spending in your project plan, you’ll need to monitor the actual staff effort and cost versus the planned amounts. Even if you didn’t include them in the plan, it’s not a bad idea to monitor them anyway, so that you can begin to amass an historical record of what it takes to complete a certain type of project. Staffing effort actuals, the amount of time that has been spent on the project, are recorded on the status report form. Spending actuals versus the spending plan are also recorded. The actuals tell you what you have spent to date, but don’t tell you if you’re on track to meet the planned budget unless you periodically re-project how much you still have to spend to complete the project. Let’s suppose you have a spending budget of $120,000 and the project is four months long. After the first month, you’ve spent $50,000. Are you on budget? Over? Under? You may be on budget if more of your expenses were to be incurred in the beginning of the project.
On the other hand, if most of the expenses will be incurred late in the project, you’re probably running over budget. The way to find out if you’re on budget or not, is to ask the team for a forecast of what they need to spend to finish the project. Add this forecast to what has already been spent for a new spending estimate. For example, let’s say that your team projects they will spend another $90,000 (with medium accuracy) to complete the project. You may place a range on the projected spending number of $80,000 and $100,000. You add the $100,000 projection to the $50,000 already spent, giving you a projected total that is $30,000 over budget. Not good. You have several options if you find you are projected to be over budget:
- After you’ve discussed the situation with your sponsor, complete a change request for more funds.
- If you’re in the beginning of the project, do nothing and continue to monitor spending to see if the actual spending is lower than the projections.
- Investigate where you can cut expenses or how you might reduce scope.
If you find you will run over budget, talk to your sponsor as soon as possible. The sponsor probably doesn’t like surprises and he or she might have some ideas on how to get spending back on track. Record your staff effort and spending actuals on your status report (see the figure below).