Powerful Techniques for Project Control

We emphasized the value and importance of planning your control system. In this section, we will highlight some of powerful project control techniques that you want to consider during your planning efforts and then implement during the execution of your project.

  • Small work packages This was a point of emphasis during our discussion on building a WBS. If you recall, there were two primary reasons for advocating small work packages: more accurate estimates and better control. From a control perspective, if your work packages are scheduled to complete within one (or at the most, two) reporting periods, it is much easier to detect a delayed or troubled task. With earlier notice, you are more likely to resolve the variance and protect the project's critical success factors.
  • Baselines A fundamental control principle is to manage to baselines. First, establish a baseline. This is generally applied to the critical success factors of schedule and budget, but can be applied equally as well to product-oriented aspects of the project, especially requirements. Second, measure and report performance against the baseline. Third, maintain the baseline unless there is a formal agreement to reset the baseline. We will discuss this in greater detail in Chapter 11.
  • Status meetings The simplest, and most widely known, technique is the status meeting. Consistent and regular status meetings help to keep everyone honest, accountable, and on their toesespecially if work assignments are small and have clear completion criteria. In addition, status meetings are powerful tools for improving project communications and managing expectations.
  • Completion criteria This starts during project definition with defining the acceptance criteria for the project, and it continues for each deliverable and work assignment. Answer this question in advance for each deliverable and work assignment: "How will we know when it is done?" Understanding the completion criteria up front increases productivity and avoids many of the issues associated with status reporting on work tasks, especially the infamous "I'm 90% done" syndrome.
  • Reviews Reviews are a key technique for ensuring quality and managing expectations on project deliverables, and they can take many forms. The principle here is to plan for the review-feedback-correction cycle on most, if not all, of your key deliverables. Common examples of reviews are process reviews, design reviews, audits, walkthroughs, and testing. In addition, reviews can be combined with pre-defined milestones and checkpoints.
  • Milestones and checkpoints A key feature of most proven project methodologies is the use of pre-defined milestones and checkpoints. These markers are important points to stop, report progress, review key issues, confirm that everyone is still on-board, and verify that the project should proceed with it's mission. Besides being a powerful expectations management tool, these pre-defined points allow project sponsors and senior management to evaluate their project investments along the way, and if warranted, redirect valuable resources from a troubled project to more promising pursuits.
  • Track requirements A simple, yet often neglected, technique to help control both scope and expectations is the use of a requirements traceability matrix. The traceability matrix provides a documented link between the original set of approved requirements, any interim deliverable, and the final work product. This technique helps maintain the visibility of each original requirement and provides a natural barrier for introducing any "new" feature along the way (or at least provides a natural trigger to your change control system). In addition, the trace matrix can link the specific test scenarios that are needed to verify that each requirement is met.
  • Formal signoffs Formal signoffs are a key aspect of change control management, especially for client-vendor oriented projects. The formal record of review and acceptance of a given deliverable helps to keep expectations aligned and minimize potential disputes. Most importantly, the use of a formal signoff acts as an extra incentive to make sure the appropriate stakeholders are actively engaged in the work of the project.
  • Independent QA Auditor The use of an independent quality assurance auditor is another specific example of the "review" technique mentioned earlier, and is often a component of project quality assurance plans. In addition, the quality audit can be focused on product deliverables, work processes, or project management activities. The power of this technique is in establishing the quality criteria in advance and in making the project accountable to an outside entity.
  • V method The "V method" is a term used for a common validation and verification approach that ensures that there is validation and verification step for every deliverable and interim deliverable created. The left side of "V" notes each targeted deliverable and the right side of the "V" lists the verification method to be used for each deliverable directly across. The diagram in Figure 10.2 helps illustrate this method.

    Figure 10.2. V method approach for a software development project.

  • Escalation thresholds Escalation thresholds sound much more ominous than what they actually are. The purpose of escalation thresholds is to determine in advance what issues and variances the project team can handle and what issues or variances demand attention by senior management. Often, these thresholds are defined as percent variances around the critical success factors. For example, if the cost variance is greater than 10% or schedule variance is greater than 15%, engage senior management immediately for corrective action steps. The key value of this technique is that it helps define tolerance levels, set expectations, and clarifies when senior management should get involved in corrective action procedures.

Part i. Project Management Jumpstart

Project Management Overview

The Project Manager

Essential Elements for any Successful Project

Part ii. Project Planning

Defining a Project

Planning a Project

Developing the Work Breakdown Structure

Estimating the Work

Developing the Project Schedule

Determining the Project Budget

Part iii. Project Control

Controlling a Project

Managing Project Changes

Managing Project Deliverables

Managing Project Issues

Managing Project Risks

Managing Project Quality

Part iv. Project Execution

Leading a Project

Managing Project Communications

Managing Expectations

Keys to Better Project Team Performance

Managing Differences

Managing Vendors

Ending a Project

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Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
Absolute Beginner[ap]s Guide to Project Management
ISBN: 078973821X
Year: 2006
Pages: 169
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