The great thing about enterprise project management tools is that they give you plenty of ways to dice the data and see what’s going on with your project. When you are starting out, the number of reports and options can be daunting. So what should you focus on first? Here’s our take on the five things that you should be keeping an eye on during your project.
1. Resource usage
If you don’t want your team to burnout, monitoring resource usage is essential. Use your enterprise project management tools to check who is assigned to what work and what their load is. This should tell you if anyone is overburdened and who is sitting around waiting for the next task to come in. Then you can make the necessary alterations and allocate the project work accordingly (or ask for more resources) so that you can get everything done without burning out your subject matter experts.
Measuring the resource utilization on the project will also help you assess whether you are making progress according to your original plans. You can compare the amount of hours you thought a task would take against how long it actually took and revise your estimates if you need to.
2. Available budget
How much cash have you got left to spend? Many project managers take a lot of time assessing what has been spent against the original forecast and unfortunately forget to check what is left in the budget! That amount should equate to your forecast for the time period of the project that is left, and if it doesn’t then you could have a problem.
3. Progress against benefits
OK, so only the largest projects with the longest timescales are going to see benefits occurring during their lifecycle. But programs will definitely see some benefits coming in before the program is shut down, and it is definitely worth tracking those.
You’ll have to set up a way of measuring benefits as what you need to measure will depend on what sort of benefit you are expecting to see from the project. Talk to your business users about how they would want to track benefits and work together to establish the best way to monitor these. Then make sure that someone on the team has responsibility for making sure that progress towards the promised benefits is being monitored and reported.
4. Baseline vs. actual schedule
Accurate project scheduling is essential if you want to know whether you are on track to complete the project at the agreed time. And you’ll only get an accurate schedule if you continually monitor it and tweak it as tasks get done and changes are approved.
The purpose of measuring the baseline schedule against your actual schedule is so that you can see how far off your estimates were for completed tasks. This can be a real help. For example, if a project task took three times as long as you had planned for, then you’ll know that when that task is done again in Phase 2 of your project, you should ‘budget’ more time for it. The baseline will show you the amount of time you thought you would take on this task and the actual schedule shows you the reality of the situation. Then it’s your job to take those two bits of data and do something useful with them!
5. Team engagement
Team satisfaction and engagement is not always easy to measure. For a start, do you trust your project team members to give you accurate feedback about how they are feeling or how satisfied they are? And what if you catch them on a bad day – how will that affect what they say?
Formal measurement methods include surveys but asking them on an informal basis can be just as good. Check in with your team regularly, not just to find out what they have been working on and whether they are hitting their deadlines but also about how they feel the project is going and what their levels of motivation are.
Admittedly, if they come back to you and say that they aren’t feeling very motivated and they aren’t engaged with the project’s objectives, you will have to find a way to address this. You could plan some team building activities and talk to them about what would have to happen for them to feel more engaged.
Of course, what is important to measure will vary from project to project and organization to organization. Discuss key project metrics with your Project Management Office. Then all you have to do is set up a way to measure them regularly and make sure that you do!