As a project manager, you assume a major responsibility that can sometimes seem more overwhelming than satisfying. However, when effective project monitoring and control are a key element in your job description, it’s imperative to develop and hone project monitoring and control best practices. In this article, we will break down the 10 Best Practices For Effective Project Monitoring And Control, and explain how you can break your project management into manageable tasks by following these practices.
1. Develop Formal Roles
Simply selecting your support staff for the project isn’t enough. Within your project management team, everyone needs to be assigned a clearly defined role. It is your responsibility to ensure that every team member knows and understands the exact spectrum of their position, and what is expected from them, and on what timeline.
Don’t leave it up to your support staff to guess at what responsibility is solely theirs and when they should have their tasks completed. By following project monitoring and control best practices, and by clearly developed and defined roles being assigned, you’ve taken the guesswork out of the project and explained what it is you expect, and when you expect it.
From a team member creating and assigning purchase orders to suppliers, to the team member that is the contact liaison to the project construction superintendent, every role should be well defined and documented. The documentation of roles needs to be filed with the remainder of the project documentation once it has been noted and sent to all of the project team and stockholders.
2. Create A Risk Response Team
Anyone who has held a role on a project team understands that within a project, a problem can escalate to critical status quickly. Don’t wait until something major occurs to get a plan of action together. Identify your point of contact within the organization who is to be notified in the case of a situation that could threaten the project completion or budget terms, and clearly define the point at which they are to be notified.
The time for guessing who to call isn’t when your project is at a full stop because a supplier wasn’t paid, or a contractor walked off of the job site. Identify who will address the critical issues and what staff member or shareholder these critical issues are to be reported to. When following project monitoring and control best practices, a plan of action will be documented and in place to save unnecessary headaches and stress if a major hiccup in the project does occur.
3. Identify The Key Performance Indicators And The Frequency They’ll Be Reported
Putting KPI’s together and reporting on their trends is an effective way to communicate the progress during a project. Per project monitoring and control best practices the objectives, cost tracking, labor tracking, and change orders should be tracked vigilantly by the project manager and reported to the team and managing staff at the frequency that is agreed upon at the onset of the project.
For example, if the purchase orders issued under the project number are the method used to track project expenditures, then simply querying a report with any purchase order reflecting your project number should give you the KPI amount that needs to be tracked and reported. The same idea, of course, applies to track the labor costs on the project. By querying the time punches of the team members in a report and graphing the information, the relevant information can be acquired, reported, and used to forecast the future performance in that area for the remainder of the project schedule.
4. Create And Monitor Forecasts
This is the next natural step following the reporting of KPI’s. Once the progress made has been tracked and reported, it will allow you to accurately predict the performance during the next phase of the project so it can be relayed to staff and team members. This gives everyone a complete look at the project up until the current point and can lend a hand in measuring the actual completion percentage of the project.
During the project forecasting, any issues or opportunities that have arisen in the project should be notated and a brief explanation can be given along with the timeline and expense predictions you have assigned to the project. This is to ensure that the problems up until the current point are fully resolved and the resolution relayed to the project team. It is also to prevent similar situations from arising and derailing the project.
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Per project monitoring and control best practices, when moving in the forecasted direction, and tracking the progress with established KPI’s, a pace to complete the project on time can be set and monitored for any deviations.
5. Determine Variance Thresholds
At what point does a project change require a change order and approval? What is the threshold that would merit a project scope change? By defining the threshold that requires a change order and approval, and identifying what percentage of scope change is allowable before another project approval must be obtained, you are defining the amount of scope walk that will be permitted in the project parameters.
If a change order is over the variance threshold, it is not permissible within the current scope of the project. Any change that is more than 50% of the budget, timeline, or scope parameters as a whole is not a change order, it is a redefined project due to the change in project scope.
Conversely, if a change is less than 5% of the budget, it doesn’t require a change order, it requires a purchase order to be issued and approved by management. There should be enough fluid funding to cover a 5% budget uptick.
6. Know The Project Status
As the project manager, you are the point of contact for any project information that is necessary. Because of this, you need to constantly be abreast of any and all matters regarding the project. There needs to be a direct line of information and communication from all project team members, management, contractors and suppliers directly back to you at all times.
As the project manager, ultimately the accountability for successes and failures inside the project parameters is to end with you. You should always be capable of giving the latest news, figures, forecasts, and estimated date of completion to any party requiring an update.
A good idea for a project manager to have on their supply list is a project book. Per project monitoring and control best practices, a binder that includes a copy of the project definition documents, project budget worksheet, project timeline projection, and active change orders is usually what you’ll find in the project book. Keeping an active project book is a sure way to constantly have the full project information at the touch of your fingertips.
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7. Approve Or Reject Requested Changes And Change Orders
Not all change order requests that come to the project team need to be approved. Once a change order request is received along with the necessary documentation, the request should be looked over with the shareholders or accountable managers and the project management team.
If the change order request is approved, the necessary documentation should be added or updated, and all team members copied, along with the change order requestor. Any applicable changes to the project scope should be documented and copied to the team along with purchase orders issued, updated timelines, and any changes to the defined project team roles that occur due to the change approval should also be discussed and documented.
As the project manager, it should be your role to review the project team roles and budget worksheet and note any updates that are required because of the approved change order. In addition, if the change order requires any change to the defined project team roles, you should review the team member defined role with the staff member responsible for the work that has been changed, and ensure that staff member has a full and realistic grasp on the new tasks they must perform, and how they differ from the old role assignments. This will ensure the staff member not only can perform the additional tasks but also has a grasp on the work necessary to complete the change order in the same time frame as the original project timeline was approved for.
8. Measure And Report On Performance In The Budget And Scheduling
Your already established KPI’s will be a tremendous asset at this point in the project. By establishing a performance indication point at the onset of the project, you’ve outlined exactly where the data should be gathered in order to analyze how well the project is running, or the areas where the project is not on track and what should be addressed to get the project back onto the path to successful completion.
Any deviations in the budget should be analyzed and the results reported. If scheduling changes have occurred, for example, with the construction on the project, those changes need to be listed, along with the approving managers’ comments and a forecast of how the scheduling change will affect the original project timeline and completion date.
9. Control Scope Creep
The reason for change order control is to ensure that scope creep does not happen inside the project. Even a 20% change to the project scope can be a costly matter, before the additional expenses such as team labor hours and resources being reallocated to manage the project change.
Your project approval was obtained and documented for a set dollar amount, a particular result expected, and a set timeline for completion approved. When changes are allowed that take the project outside of its’ approved scope by any notable amount, it’s going to change all of the aspects of the project, and will more often than not change the outcome of the project as well.
It is your duty as a project manager to guide the project to completion under the parameters of the project scope as it was written in the original project definition documents. Any aspect of the scope that isn’t applicable due to change orders needs to be rewritten to reflect the new scope parameters. The same applies to the project approved budget and the project approved timeline. The current project definition documents, current project budget, and current project timeline should always be an accurate reflection of the actual state of the project.
10. Obtain Proper Approval Upon Completion
Once the project deliverable goods have been received and invoiced, and the goods are approved by the team, you can begin the project completion approval process. In order to complete the project, you’ll want to first ensure that all relevant documentation is reported and filed in the project file. The approving manager and project manager should view the completed project together, inspecting it from top to bottom and discussing the results in terms of a pass or fail.
If the approving manager and project manager are in agreement on the completed project fulfilling scope and meeting the pre-defined specifications of the project, then once the full documentation has been reported and filed, the project file, any change order information, and the project definition documents should be submitted to the approving manager to be signed off as completed.
However, if there are any open issues, including change orders, the project cannot be approved as completed at that particular point in time. It is key to understand that until the final invoice is received against the project, the project will need to remain open and tracked to ensure that the project monitoring controls are in place until the moment the approval signature is issued and the project number is closed.
You should also reflect on your feelings about the project at the time of completion. Note any key areas that you feel were problematic for your team to address and any areas of improvement that you want to address for the next project. Upon your completion approval, be sure to discuss with the approving manager your thoughts on the process, and ask for the managers’ feedback on your project management team and your personal project management role. Be sure to prepare yourself for constructive criticism, and use the feedback as a tool to hone your project management skills between now and your next project to manage.