Monitoring Project Work and Controlling any Deviations From the Plan

Monitor and Control Project WorkHave you observed how a Formula-One race is intensely monitored by the Race Director and staff, and driver’s actions are controlled by means of continuous feedback?

Race control lies at the very heart of Formula-One, with features essential to allow the F1A Race Director and his staff to make right decisions to keep things safe and on schedule.

CCTV screens help quickly detect location problems. Timing data information feed is given to teams, and Race Director gets lot of additional information such as pit lane speed trap allowing him to ensure that all sessions are run safely.  There is constant telephone and radio contact with principal marshal’s posts, safety car, medical response car and medical center, so that in case of a major problem Race Director can remain in full contact of the situation.

F1 is an excellent example of close monitoring and controlling of an event, taking control of situations quickly when things go wrong and bringing proceedings back on track.

It is not too different from how monitoring and controlling is done on a project.

You successfully prepared the project management plan and got into execution phase. Now in order to ensure smooth sailing, all activities of project work must be monitored constantly. Any deviation from set expectations of work has to be caught and set right. Constant course correction is very essential on a project. In spite of best efforts, things may and will go wrong, like Murphy’s law. Project has too many variables and constraints for everything to go exactly as per the plan.

Monitoring and Controlling Project Work  and Managing Changes to Project both go hand in hand and feed back into Direct and Manage Project Execution process.

The cycle is –
Integration management processes feed into each otherHere project manager compares actual project performance with performance objectives in the plan and determine whether preventive or corrective actions are necessary. This is also where she collects project performance information and distribute the same to appropriate stakeholders.

The project manager needs to ensure that necessary project documentation is maintained and updated.

When you monitor risk, cost and schedule of the project you workout their forecasts based on how they are faring right now. If costs are going up you will plan corrective or preventive actions and also forecast what will be the cost going forward due to these changes.

This is where processes being used such as for requirements gathering, communications, testing, defect management, configuration management are monitored and improvements are suggested.

The project manager also verifies whether approved change requests are implemented properly.

Project management plan, project schedule and cost forecasts are are considered which are calculated by comparing current progress against schedule and cost baselines, respectively. These are expressed as variances (schedule variance and cost variance) and performance indices (schedule performance index and cost performance index) and other indicators such as estimate at completion (EAC) and estimate to complete (ETC).

Schedule forecasts come from project management activity to control schedule and Cost forecasts come from project management activity to control project costs.

More information about how these numbers and forecasts are calculated can be understood from Earned Value Method (EVM) and other tools and techniques in Controlling Costs post.

Validated changes are changes done to project deliverables based on approved change requests. This is another aspect to be considered so you can ensure that all change requests taken up for implementation have indeed been done.

Work performance information comes in from various knowledge-area-specific control processes. Performance reports are a snapshot of project work accomplished, milestones achieved, requirements fulfilled, issues found, change requests raised, and any problems encountered and how they are addressed.

Work performance data when analyzed becomes work performance information, which when represented in graphical or physical format becomes work performance reports.

Like other Integration Management knowledge area processes, expert judgment is a very helpful tool to monitor project work or controlling any deviations from plan.

Analytical techniques such as Earned Value Methods (EVM), Variance analysis, Reserve analysis (these are all part of cost management knowledge area as well) and trend analysis are used.

Meetings, is a ubiquitous tool for monitoring and controlling, and needs to be used cautiously, because they can easily be a drain on people’s time and energy if not conducted well. Meetings are conducted one-on-one, face-to-face with a group, telephonic or through video conferences.

As you monitor, you will find issues and they lead to some more change requests (read about how change requests are born on the project here) – which is one of the output of this process.

Work performance reports such as status reports, memos and presentations go out to corresponding stakeholders to keep them up to speed on project performance. This helps them make decisions or take actions.

And again, as gaps are identified and change requests are raised, and customer-requested changes are analyzed you will end up making changes to necessary subsidiary project management plans (such as cost, scope, or risk).

The other output of this process is the updates to project documents such as forecasts and issue logs.

Remember that all these changes must go through a change control board (CCB) and approved. Only then they will be addressed.

Now that we’ve understood what’s involved in monitoring project work, let’s see how one of the most crucial aspect of the project is managed by the PM – change management!

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