In project management, as in politics, knowledge is power. In the process of managing project execution outputs, gathering data on the status of project activities is vital for enhancing communication with stakeholders. It also provides invaluable input for everything from scheduling to quality assurance. Collecting work performance information should, whenever possible, be carried out using protocols established during the planning phase. Automated reporting is an excellent option, but if your organization doesn’t have the resources to implement data tracking tools, the process may have to be done manually. Skipping this aspect of project execution isn’t an option. Without this information, it is impossible to accurately track the progress of a project or anticipate and overcome obstacles to completion.
Progress/status reports should include information such as:
- A list of deliverables that have been completed along with those still outstanding
- An overview of schedule activities that have commenced and those that are completed
- Of the schedule activities currently ongoing, the percentage of work that has been done
- Estimated time and/or resources required for in-progress schedule activities
This set of project management data points provides a clear picture of work done, what’s left, and areas where work is currently occurring. The information can also be distilled into a percentage of the total project that has been finished. A quick perusal of this type of report (along with access to the WBS Dictionary) can give stakeholders a realistic idea of whether or not the project, as a whole, is on track. Often, simply providing an updated report on a regular basis is all it takes to reassure upper management about a project’s progress. However, this type of report can also be used to highlight areas for improvement and to make a case for directing more resources toward a specific activity as needed. A smart PM will always review progress reports prior to distribution and have a handle on any questions or concerns that a report is likely to trigger.
Additional items to gather work performance information about include:
- Whether and to what extent quality standards are being met
- Total costs authorized and the amount of money already spent
- Lessons learned documentation added to the project management knowledge base
- How project resources are being used
Item number 4 on this list deserves a little more attention. The details regarding the use of project resources might also include an analysis of any underutilized resources. When it comes to monetary resources, available funds that ended up being unnecessary and remaining unspent may be viewed as positive. However, an under-utilization of human resources is often simply a waste. Whether it is labor hours or talent/skills that are being squandered, this is an issue that should be addressed immediately. Similarly, if a component or material ends up not being required it may reflect a loss. Attempts should be made to recapture the value of unused materials through resale, recycling, or use in other areas of the project.