The main goal of tracking is for project managers to get visibility into the project execution so that they can determine whether any action needs to be taken to ensure that the project goals are met. Because meeting the established project goals is the basic motive, all aspects of project execution that can affect the attainment of the goals must be monitored, and this monitoring must be planned. At Infosys, project managers typically plan for the following tracking:
Activities tracking looks at which planned activities have been completed. If the granularity of an activity is small, then at the lowest level you consider it to be in one of two states: not done or fully done. For higher-level tasks, you can compute the percentage completed from the state of the lowest-level tasks and their estimates.
Defect tracking is done in connection with defect logging, as discussed earlier.
Issues tracking ensures that clarifications and other problems that have the potential to delay the project do not go out of control. Chapter 11 explains how these tracking activities are performed at Infosys. During planning, project managers specify what type of tracking they plan to do and what tools or methods they will use.
In addition, to keep track of the project's status along the effort, schedule, and quality dimensions, project managers also plan for the following:
Activity-level monitoring ensures that each activity has been done properly. You monitor activities quantitatively through the use of statistical process control. Based on past performance, you establish limits for key performance parameters of certain tasks. Then you compare actual performance of an activity to the established limits. If the performance is not within acceptable limits, you might take certain actions. At Infosys, reviews and unit testing, discussed in Chapters 10 and 11, are the two main activities that employ this approach.
Status reports are usually prepared weekly to help you to take stock of what has happened and what needs to be done. At project milestones, you conduct a more elaborate exercise to quantitatively check the actual versus estimated data along the effort, schedule, and defect dimensions. In addition, you monitor risks, training, reviews, customer complaints, and so on. The milestone analysis plays an important role in controlling the project. To ensure that the milestone analysis is done often enough to allow timely intervention, if the milestones required by the customer are too far apart, you plan internal milestones so that a milestone analysis is done every three to five weeks.
At milestones, you analyze actual versus estimated for effort, schedule, and defects. If the deviation is significant, some corrective action is called for. To differentiate the normal from the significant, you specify the acceptable deviation limits; to set these limits, you employ concepts of control charts. Control limits have been defined at Infosys for effort and schedule deviation (between the actual and estimated). These values, originally based on judgment and experience, are now based on past data and are computed in the same manner as other control limits. The earlier limits were 35% for effort deviation and 15% for schedule; with improvements in the process, these limits have been reduced to 20% and 10%, respectively. Figures 7.3 and 7.4 give the control charts showing the deviation in schedule and effort.
If the deviation at the milestone exceeds these limits, it may imply that the project may run into trouble and might not meet its objectives; under time pressure, the project team might therefore start taking undesirable shortcuts. This situation calls for project managers to understand the reasons for the variation and to apply corrective and preventive actions if necessary.
These limits are based on past data and experience. You must set your project's own limits, which may be higher than the organization's limits, during planning.