Creating the framework

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Exercising control over a project and ensuring that targets are met is a matter of regular monitoring, finding out what is happening, and comparing it with current targets. If there is a mismatch between the planned outcomes and the actual ones then either replanning is needed to bring the project back on target or the target will have to be revised. Figure 9.1 illustrates a model of the project control cycle and shows how, once the initial project plan has been published, project control is a continual process of monitoring progress against that plan and, where necessary, revising the plan to take account of deviations. It also illustrates the important steps that must be taken after completion of the project so that the experienced gained in any one project can feed into the planning stages of future projects, thus allowing us to learn from past mistakes. See Chapter 11 for a In practice we are normally concerned with departures from the plan in four discussion of software dimensions - delays in meeting target dates, shortfalls in quality, inadequate quality. functionality, and costs going over target. In this chapter we are mainly concerned with the first and last of these.

Creating Project Framework

Figure 9.1 The project control cycle.

Responsibility

The overall responsibility for ensuring satisfactory progress on a project is often the role of the project steering committee or Project Board. Day-to-day responsibility will rest with the project manager and, in all but the smallest of projects, aspects of this can be delegated to team leaders.

Figure 9.2 illustrates the typical reporting structure found with medium and The concept of a reporting large projects. With small projects (employing around half a dozen or fewer staff) hierarchy was introduced individual team members usually report directly to the project manager, but in in Chapter 1. most cases team leaders will collate reports on their section's progress and forward summaries to the project manager. These, in turn, will be incorporated into project-level reports for the steering committee and, via them or directly, progress reports for the client.

Team leader

Steering committee-A

Client

Project manager A

Team leader

Team leader

Team leader t t t

Analysis/design Programming Quality control section section section

User documentation section

In a PRINCE 2 environment, there is a Project Assurance function reporting to the Project Board and independent of the Project Manager.

Figure 9.2 Project reporting structures.

Reporting may be oral or written, formal or informal, or regular or ad hoc and some examples of each type are given in Table 9.1. While any effective team leader or project manager will be in touch with team members and available to discuss problems, any such informal reporting of project progress must be complemented by formal reporting procedures - and it is those we are concerned with in this chapter.

Assessing progress

Progress assessment will normally be made on the basis of information collected and collated at regular intervals or when specific events occur. Wherever possible, this information will be objective and tangible - whether or not a particular report has been delivered, for example. However, such end-of-activity deliverables might

Table 9.1 Categories of reporting

Report type

Examples

Comment

Oral formal

weekly or monthly

while reports may be oral formal written

regular

progress meetings

minutes should be kept

Oral formal

end-of-stage review

while largely oral, likely to receive and

ad hoc

meetings

generate written reports

Written formal

job sheets, progress

normally weekly using forms

regular

reports

Written formal

exception reports,

ad hoc

change reports

Oral informal

canteen discussion,

often provides early warning; must be

ad hoc

social interaction

backed up by formal reporting

The PRINCE 2 standard described in Appendix A has its own terminology.

Short, Monday morning team progress meetings are a common way of motivating staff to meet short term targets.

not occur sufficiently frequently throughout the life of the project. Here progress assessment will have to rely on the judgement of the team members who are carrying out the project activities.

Setting checkpoints

It is essential to set a series of checkpoints in the initial activity plan. Checkpoints may be:

• tied to specific events such as the production of a report or other deliverable. Taking snap-shots

The frequency with which the a manager needs to receive information about progress will depend upon the size and degree of risk of the project or that part of the project under their control. Team leaders, for example, need to assess progress daily (particularly when employing inexperienced staff) whereas project managers may find weekly or monthly reporting appropriate. In general, the higher the level, the less frequent and less detailed the reporting needs to be.

There are, however, strong arguments in favour of formal weekly collection of information from staff carrying out activities. Collecting data at the end of each week ensures that information is provided while memories are still relatively fresh and provides a mechanism for individuals to review and reflect upon their progress during the past few days.

Major, or project-level, progress reviews will generally take place at particular points during the life of a project - commonly known as review points or control points. PRINCE 2, for example, designates a series of checkpoints where the status of work in a project or for a team is reviewed. At the end of each project Stage, PRINCE 2 provides for an End Stage Assessment where an assessment of the project and consideration of its future are undertaken.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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