Data sources for project monitoring
How can you measure progress? How do you know you are on track? To do this, you need data.
You need data on activity progress and on the time spent by each human resource on project activities. Moreover, you need to measure the use of other resources (materials, equipment, etc.) in the project. Specifically you need data on:
- dates that each completed activity actually started and finished
- dates that each activity actually started, its current progress and estimated completion date based on the latest information.
- labour hours logged for each activity (completed or underway) and hour costs paid
- any amount spent to date for materials and equipment or other resources for each activity.
A variety of means can be used to gather the information needed to track the progress of the project, including regular emails and phone calls. What is typically used are:
- Project status meetings. They are the main conduit of current information on the project and should be conducted on a regular basis. As suggested by Heerkens (2002, p. 165), project meetings should focus on three groups of activity updates, as shown in the image above, which are:
- recording actual results of completed activities
- thorough review and analysis of the condition of each activity currently underway
- thinking about the future by asking for information on the predicted outcome of each activity and the estimated dates of completion.
- Forms and templates. You can get project team members to fill in forms and templates based on the project schedule and mark up the progress of the activities under their responsibility. They can use them to report the hours of work spent, any other costs, and eventual issues and problems. Try to explain why you require a specific report to help the team feel included and to avoid resistance.
- Managing by walking the project. Relying on others to provide all of your information may mean that early signs of difficulties are missed. Many experienced project managers make a point of ‘walking the project’ to keep in touch with the day-to-day issues that emerge as work progresses. You may find yourself doing a ‘virtual walk around’ if part of your team is remote or globally distributed. In that case, it makes sense to consider the best communication media for your walk around, as suggested in the previous step.
Consider what would you, as a project manager, would be able to monitor by ‘walking the project’ that you would not know about from formal reports. Note your thoughts in the comments.
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