End-to-End Project Tracking – A Tool for Project Managers

By Bob McGannon, PMP

Despite the pressure to “get to building the product” you have performed detailed planning and lined up a very capable team. It is time to start the next phase of the project and move into “Project Control”. Our tendencies as project managers at this point are to manage progress against our schedule, manage status meetings and handle issues. When we limit our activities to this set we miss a number of strategic opportunities.

View/download the Mindavation Project Control Tracking tool from the Mindavation website and read the following article to see the value it provides – beyond being a centralized place to control a number of project elements the project manager can…

Reinforce Stakeholder Management

Project control processes can be used to reinforce project value to your stakeholders, as well as keep your project team focused on the business goals that spearheaded your project. Continuous tracking of the progress of your project, not just from a schedule and task standpoint, but from a “status against business objectives” approach will help the project manager answer the stakeholder’s question “Where are we relative to my ability to accomplish X?” Having a tie between requirements presented by stakeholders and the progress the project is making towards those objectives provides a business-minded versus a technical-minded status approach. In addition, tracking status in this way keeps the project team focused on the matter at hand from a business standpoint – which is the REAL reason the project exists, isn’t it?

This business focused project control approach also helps keep the project’s need for user/customer involvement in the minds of key stakeholders. Tying the requirements of the project’s product directly to interim product testing is valuable, both from a quality assurance and end user perspective. This approach gives the stakeholder a view of how: the requirements will be delivered, the requirements have to be tied to distinct objectives, and the need for key users to be involved to test against those requirements.

In conjunction with the above, sorting the tool by “requestor name” provides a concentrated view of the project from the stakeholder’s perspective, and can greatly enhance the effectiveness of the project manager in managing stakeholder expectations.

Promote a Risk Management Culture

Project management is a game of risk management. After all, project managers constitute overhead for most every project; if there were no risk involved, there would be no need for project mangers. All would go well, everyone would work completely in harmony, and we could “pack it in” and go home! Fortunately for our profession, and unfortunately for the business world, this is not reality. Risk is a major part of what we have to manage, and risk management needs to permeate the approach we take in handling our projects.

Holding a discussion with the project team and stakeholders to surface potential risks and their mitigation plans is an excellent start. But what to do about those team members and stakeholders that “selectively forget” the risks involved? On Mindavation projects, we use the tool to tie each risk we derive not only to a task in the project schedule, but also to a requirement and module we have to produce. In this fashion we can quickly ascertain where the riskiest modules and/or requirements of our project lie. This can open up and reinforce the need to dialog with our stakeholders, bolster their involvement in addressing risks, as well as properly prioritize their requirements from both a potential benefit and possible impact approach.

Lastly, it can keep both the stakeholders and the project team mindful of items to examine when performing testing – both interim quality assurance testing and final user testing. Assessing a module or series of modules against a given set of business objectives (established as performance criteria) might only be a subset of the testing required. Assessing a business function against a list of potential risks might also be prudent. Our tool’s tie between the risks involved, the technical module and the requirement itself reinforces this need.

Project Team Focus

The tool also serves as a great consolidated checklist for managing the project team and helping ensure they are focused on the quality of the product(s) they produce. The tool can be built when only the requirements are known – and reinforces the need for a test plan to be started early in the project. This tool provides a means of recording test items in a concise manner, ensuring that all modules and stakeholder requirements have a test against them. In addition, the spreadsheet tool provides a means to ensure that modules or other project components do not get introduced to the project if they aren’t directly related to a project requirement. This provides a defense against a common issue that can surface with technical projects – the introduction of technical elements that don’t directly address stakeholder requirements.

Noting the results of the testing on the spreadsheet also gives the project manager a quick “sanity check” as to where the greatest number of quality issues are surfacing – again from a business, rather than a technical standpoint. Most good testing plans will be designed around technical components and naturally provide a technical module focus for analyzing results. This spreadsheet will alert the project manager to any trend that exists from a business standpoint, indicating potential complexity issues, or a lack of appropriate training/focus of the project team or their end-user counterparts.

Additional Uses for the Spreadsheet

The spreadsheet can also be used as a configuration management tool for small projects – version numbers of the project product’s components can be recorded along with the testing results. Additional columns could be added to the tool (according to your own organization standards) as a means of summarizing this information. Unless the number of modules you are handling on your project is limited, using the spreadsheet for configuration management directly is not recommended – a more detailed configuration management tool would be warranted. However, the spreadsheet can be used to provide summary information as to the module versions tested and their results. Modification of the tool in this manner is left to the individual project manager.

Summary

The spreadsheet provides a concise location for the recording of key project information – tied directly from requirements to tested delivery. Item completion can be recorded on the spreadsheet if desired, and it can be sorted by stakeholders who provided the requirements for the project. The data also can be sorted by module for use by technical teams. This tool provides an excellent approach to enhance project control, beyond tracking a project schedule and holding project team status meetings.

Bob McGannon is a Founder and Principal of MINDAVATION, a company providing project management training and consulting services, leadership workshops and team building programs throughout North America. Bob can be reached at MINDAVATION via the web at www.mindavation.com or by calling 866-888-MIND (6463).

The Mindavation Foundation is proud to donate 5% of profits towards development of youth leaders.
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