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Reporting Progress in Projects

As a regular basis Project Manager should provide periodic status reports that give stakeholders an accurate idea of ​​how things are going, trying to keep an eye on the progress of the team throughout the project progress.

These status reports are not designed to directly help the team or the Project Manager. Its purpose is to provide stakeholders (who are funding the project, or responsible for supervision), an idea of ​​how the team is using all the resources, even money.

But not always is possible to determine exactly how is an initiative working, and often is necessary to trust in our team’s instincts. Often this turns out to be an accurate assessment of the current state of the project. But the first impression is not always infallible, and a more reliable way of tracking project progress is needed.

While each stakeholder group may need a different format to the same data, the common measure to measure the overall progress of the project is percentage completed. But while the percentage of completion can be interesting, it is not recommended for many reasons:

  • “Complete” (or “Done”) rarely is defined at the right detail level so it can ensure the agreement of all the team.

  • Does not consider changes in scope

  • It is difficult to accurately estimate the original and the remaining work

  • Most people do not think in terms of effort, but in terms of dates and deadlines

  • Most organizations do not record working hours at the same level of granularity

  • Most people did not complete exactly 40 work hours a week

  • Most people working in continuous projects have interruptions, so providing an accurate amount of remaining time is impossible

  • Work already finished is not as important as work that remains to be done or work that could be done

  • A fuzzy definition of “complete”, leads to inaccurate estimates are poorly calculated and not add up.

In traditional project management, traditional methods are used to calculate the percent complete:

(Hours worked) / (estimated hours) =% advance (ie 32/40 = 80%)

This is done at the bottom level of task, added to the summary tasks and, finally, at the project level to show the percentage of completion of a milestone or project in general. Pretty straightforward, at least for labor-intensive projects where the hours and the cost are closely matched.

But the average inaccuracy of granular tasks contributes to the inaccuracy added to the project.

The second approach is to simply ask the person doing the work that indicates the percentage complete, register it at task-level and make similar aggregates. The challenge now is that most of the tasks adhere to the Pareto principle, that is, 80% of the work is done in the last 20% of the time. And added to the project level, this approach is probably as bad as the first one.

In theory, as the project progresses, the task of estimating the remaining work should be better. Therefore, if you are logging hours against estimates, the suggestion is taking real data and enter the remaining hours estimated in the equation:

1 – (remaining hours / (hours remaining hours devoted +)) =% complete

Consider a task originally estimated for 40 hours, after working 32 hours (8 hours remaining) equation looks like this:

1 – (8 / (32 + 8)) = 80% complete

But it is better not to get the remaining hours by a mathematical operation. Is better to ask them directly to the team. In the example you team member is more likely to work 20 more pending hours, so that the formula would be:

1 – (20 / (32 + 20) = 61.5% complete

It looks like a much more real data.

While the percentage completed is a valuable data, you can use another method for reporting and monitoring project results: the control dashboard.

A dashboard should consider various metrics: indicators that help determine where to direct the time, effort and resources. When a manager takes metrics and analyze them correctly, can make critical adjustments on the fly. The dashboard provides an overview of where the projects and help improve their performance.

Common metrics to consider on a dashboard include:

  • The actual cost of the project, which represents information obtained from a database of project finance to indicate the amount of money that has been spent. This provides an overview of the costly project that has involved. (In earned value corresponds to the actual cost)

  • The planned project cost considers current spending compared to what the organization planned to spend. It is useful to determine if the expected spending is outpacing actual spending. (In earned value corresponds to the Planned Value)

  • Actual performance schedule is determined according to the progress that has been taken. It is an indicator of the amount of work completed and how much remains to be done. This metric is useful to anticipate future workloads. (In earned value corresponds to the schedule performance index)

  • The planned schedule performance represents the original project expectations. This timeline is important because it can be compared with the current performance to determine if a project is progressing according to plan and is being delayed.

  • The metric known as the “number of important issues” is a record of how many problems experienced by the project. This is a valuable tool because it can inform the Administrator if the project faces an increasing number of obstacles that could indicate the presence of a larger underlying problem.

  • The number of open risks shows that there are many unresolved risks in the project. It helps determine the trend of the risks and determine whether a project is viable.

  • “Percentage of team that are contractors” The metric provides a breakdown of the number of employees working on a project and are contractors versus full-time employees of the organization. Project manager must avoid having too many contractors because these are going to go the project with a wealth of knowledge that the organization can not take in the future.

Once it has collected all relevant information, you can report the status of the project from different areas:

Identify Major Risks

Every project has risks, so it is suggested to identify the three most important and included in the report. So that interested parties are aware of the risks or take actions, or simply to be aware of them.

Make a list of important issues

Like the risks, problems are inevitable in the project. Therefore it is suggested to provide a list of the main issues facing the project and what measures are being taken to solve them.

Make a summary of progress

One of the most important aspects for sponsors and stakeholders is to know how far along the project is progressing and if according to the program schedule.

For this to include the main milestones of the project – and the state – in the report. It is not necessary to list each one, you just have to choose those that are most significant for this reporting period.

Report budget updates

Stakeholders are also likely to worry about monitoring the budget. If it appears that a project will be more expensive, the status report is an opportunity to raise this as a potential problem. And if it is running low budget, we must also inform, as the extra money could be used in other jobs.

We should remember that the project budget is closely associated with the agreed scope. And this scope is represented by a WBS, so one way of reviewing the budget and updates required is to show how much the work packages already finished cost, how much has been invested in the work packages that are currently in development and how much is expected to spend on the work packages to be developed in the future.

To keep the project in control, scope vs budget reviews should be in a regular basis, and they should also include how resources are being used in the project. The frequency of these reviews is not necessarily weekly; It must be agreed with the project sponsor.

Any request for additional budget should be firmly supported explaining how the WBS is changing and must be processed through the change control process established for the project. And all this should be considered in the progress report.

Using a simple status indicator

It is advisable to make it easy for those interested to know how the project is going. Standard traffic light colors (red / yellow / green) are known to everyone, and provide a clear and quick view of how they are progressing the project elements.

You can use a color box at the top of the report to define the status codes. Usually, green means that an element is progressing as planned, yellow indicates that something is not progressing as planned, and red that management attention is required.

While it is possible that the first impression of the Project Manager displays an accurate picture of the project status, to convince others that certain decisions are prudent almost always hard data is needed.

With a project dashboard, performance monitoring can be performed accurately.

It is important to remember that projects of any size can be accurately assessed with the use of an indicator panel, but the project manager should study these indicators regularly to keep stakeholders fully informed of project status and to be able to better predict future events in the project.

Using a project board is a way to ensure that finish on schedule. It not only give a clear picture of what the situation in any particular task, but present information in visual form that is easy to interpret.

References:

Collins, J. (2015, February 2). How to Track Project Performance The Right Way. Retrieved November 20, 2015, from ims-web.com

G. L. (2014, January). Percent Complete? Are You Kidding? Retrieved November 20, 2015, from projectconnections.com