Project managers need to keep track of different problems or issues that may occur during the project. Certain risks may be associated with the project that may hamper the processes of the project. So, the project must be supervised regularly and monitored carefully throughout its life cycle.
Project Management Life Cycle
A sequence of activities required to obtain the goals or objectives of a project is termed as project management life cycle. As per the Project Management Institute (PMI), the project management life cycle also refers as “process groups” categorized the cycle into below main stages:
- Project Initiation Phase: This includes the scope and nature of the project. This phase is also considered the analysis and evaluation phase.
- Project Planning Phase: This consists of different important aspects of a project such as a cost, time, scheduling, and resources.
- Project Execution Phase: This phase defines the different processes involved in project completion.
- Project Closure Phase: This includes a formal ending of the project.
We’ve thoroughly explained All the above phases of the project management life cycle in a separate article here:
Project Monitoring and Control
In order to ensure the success of a project, it is required that it should pass through different project management life cycle phases in a planned way. A project can be executed as per the plan if its progress is monitored carefully. This demands defining control factors that help in keeping the project on the right track and towards progress. So, monitoring and controlling of all necessary inputs and outputs are required and for this, certain standard controlling tools may be used by a project manager.
Two main techniques i.e. PERT (Program evaluation review technique) and CPM (Critical path method) can be used. PERT includes determining variance and further utilizing the variance for analyzing different probabilistic estimates related to the project. Whereas, using the CPM technique, the starting time and ending time for all events of the project can be estimated. Through analysis charts, a project can be monitored, controlled, tracked, and executed.
Process of Monitoring and Controlling a Project
Below are the steps involved in the process of monitoring and controlling a project from its initial to finish stage:
1. Initial Work
This step includes an understanding of the project plans, tracking and project stage schedule, progress controls, etc. by team members of a project. It is required to understand the tolerances and accordingly, a change control log has to be maintained. By keeping in view the importance and requirement of quality, the quality review schedule must be followed strictly by team members and quality agendas must be discussed on a frequent basis. Team members must also understand various reports such as stage status, stage end approval, and stage end reports.
2. Tracking the Progress of a Project
The project progress must be traced by team members and other members should also be communicated the progress of the project. A project’s progress can be monitored and controlled using quality charts, regular checkpoints, and statistical tables. The quality factors that may change from their expected values must be controlled because any change or variance may cause deviation to the stage schedule. The project manager ensures the smooth adaptability of these changes.
3. Stage Control
A checkpoint cycle for the project is required to be established by the project manager by following the suitable control procedures of the stage version. The stage-wise documentation should be done. Also, updating project files on a frequent basis is required.
4. Quality Control
This is an important aspect of any project. It is possible to achieve quality control by following the quality norms and charts properly. Below are a few ways to control quality:
Scheduling Quality Review
The quality review should be scheduled by project managers at the initial and end of every stage. This facilitates the project team in advanced planning to meet any unpredictable changes.
Quality Review Agenda
A quality review agenda should be made and distributed by the project manager that specify the goals, time frames, products, roles & responsibilities related to the project. This makes reviews more effective and helps in reducing the time gap.
Conducting Quality Review
There is a structured and formal way to conduct quality reviews. The main focus of the quality review is product development and factors related to its quality. The team members of the project examine if the reviews are in accordance with the defined quality standards or not.
Follow-up should be there to change the product status from “in progress” to “quality review complete”. To ensure compliance with standards, planned actions are required to follow-up strictly.
Review Procedures of Quality Control
The verification of quality goals for each product is done by the project members to ensure that these goals are appropriate. The satisfaction level of all participants related to the process and its output is also ensured.
Resources that are used in different stages of a project should be planned by the project manager. A project’s objectives, products, planned activities, and project controls should be briefed to key resources and team members of the project by the project manager. This helps in achieving quality control by increasing the visibility into the performance of the project. The effectiveness and efficiency of the resource can be increased by allocating the right resource at the right time and right place.
6. Progress Control
Below are the aspects that are considered for a project’s progress control:
The process of project control starts with monitoring the progress of a project. Different ways are available to monitor the project performance and measure its different parameters. For instance, the project’s team members’ login details related to the actual start and finish date, actual hours they spent on each task, estimated hours for completion of the task, elapsed hours during task completion, etc. These details act as a base through which the performance of the project can be monitored.
The schedule is updated for aspects such as date of actual start for tasks started, date of actual finish for tasks finished, actual hours for working on each task, latest estimated hours to finish the task.
This includes updating the worksheet of stage cost summary with the actual cost of that period and estimation of remaining costs.
Re-Planning of Stage Schedule
This consists of reviewing the cost workbook and tracking Gantt. Based on this review, any deviations from the standards are identified and the cause of such deviation is examined. Project control factors can be referred to find out the corrective action and the schedule will be adjusted accordingly. Re-planning also includes reviewing status related to open issues and determining any further action that needs to be taken on such issues, reviewing any change requests, etc.
Conducting Review of Team Status
This includes conducting a status meeting with the members of the project team as it is required to align everyone on a single platform of the progress of the project.
Creating a Status Report
Through the status report, the current achievement record and a project’s immediate expectations can be predicted. It is required to effectively communicate the status among all stakeholders.
Creating Flash Report
This includes summarizing a month’s accomplishments, upcoming tasks, schedule status, and any big issues. These are further distributed among team members and stakeholders of the project.
Project Status Reports
A project’s immediate expectations and current achievements can be determined through the status report. This is based on a project’s requirements, type, and phase and is created on a regular basis. A status report on a weekly basis contains information such as accomplishments, incomplete items during the project period, and proposed tasks for the next period, etc.
This stage includes reviewing the decisions and different planned actions and seeking approval from the top management. The purpose of this review is a quality improvement by determining defects. This also includes improving productivity by identifying the defects on time and in a cost-effective way. Several stages are included in the group review processes such as planning, group review meeting overview, preparation, recommendations for rework, and follow-up activities.
Network Diagrams Usage in Project Management
Network diagrams include rectangles or circles that are connected by arrows. These diagrams are used for visualizing the flow of activities and establishing the connection between activities in project management.
There are mainly two types of network representations that exist i.e. PERT and CPM. PERT stands for Program Evaluation and Review Technique and the full form of CPM is the Critical Path Method.
Benefits of Network Diagrams
The network diagrams have the following benefits:
- Provides a graphical representation of different project activities and valuable documentation related to the project.
- Applicability exists for a huge range of projects and industries.
- Utilized in the monitoring of schedules and costs.
- Through network diagrams i.e. PERT and CPM, precedence and interdependencies of project activities can be predicted.
PERT and CPM also have advantages such as calculations in these are mathematically simple, use of graphical displays, beneficial in different stages of project management, useful in project documentation, and cost monitoring.
PERT (Program Evaluation Review Technique) Chart
A PERT chart is considered a popular project management tool that is utilized for making a schedule of tasks as well as organizing and coordinating tasks of a project.
In other words, PERT is a method through which tasks involved in the completion of a project can be analyzed. It helps in analyzing the time required to finish each task and identifying the minimum time required to finish the whole project. PERT charts can be used to represent parallel tasks of complex projects in the form of network diagrams.
Objectives of PERT
Objectives of PERT include providing support in the decision-making process and reducing the cost and time involved in a project’s completion. PERT is mainly used in those projects that are one-time, complex, and non-routine in nature.
PERT Planning Process
Below six steps are included in the planning process of PERT:
Identifying particular activities and milestones/ Breakthroughs
Activities are considered the tasks that are required for the completion of the project. For convenience, the project manager should list particular tasks by identifying them. Similarly, milestones or breakthroughs should also be listed. The milestones or breakthroughs are those events that represent the beginning point and ending point or deadline of one or more activities.
Determining the Sequence of all Activities
This step is utilized for regulating the sequence of different activities. In order to determine the activities required to be performed, the planning of identified tasks should be in a proper sequence. The sequence shows the inter-dependency of activities. So, this step involves the identification of relationships among activities.
Constructing Network Diagram
This step includes drawing a network diagram through the information of activity sequence and activity identification. This diagram shows the sequence of different activities that are parallel to each other and serial activities. In the network diagram, arrowed lines resemble activities and circles denote breakthroughs or milestones.
Estimating Time to complete each Activity
There is a steady unit of time to represent all activities of a project. The most commonly used time unit is weeks for completing an activity. PERT has a unique feature of dealing with the uncertainty and ambiguity in activity completion time.
Below are the three estimates that are used by PERT for each activity:
Optimistic Time (tO): This is the shortest time to complete an activity.
Most Likely Time (tM): This is the time of completion that has the maximum or highest probability.
Pessimistic Time (tP): This is considered the longest time that might require to complete an activity.
A beta probability distribution is assumed by PERT for estimation of the time. For the distribution of beta, the expected time can be determined by the below formula:
Expected time (tE):
Optimistic Time (tO) + 4 (Most Likely Time (tM)) + Pessimistic Time (tP)
Variance for the completion time of each activity is calculated by using the below equation:
V= [(Pessimistic Time (tP) – Optimistic Time (tO)) / 6]2
Determining Critical Path
The maximum amount of time is taken by the critical path is determined. Different paths are there in the network diagram to demonstrate the beginning and end of events of the project. To determine a critical path, the time consumed by the activities in each sequence is added and further, the longest path in the project is determined. The critical path provides the total calendar time required for the project. There is no change in the total project time even if there is an increase or decrease in the speed of the activities that are outside the critical path.
The critical path is used to determine the EST (earlier start time) and LCT (latest completion time) and for this, it uses the relevant activity’s estimated time.
Updating the PERT Chart as the Project Progresses
The modification in PERT chats takes place along with the progress of project work. With the continuation of the project work, different changes are done in the PERT chart such as replacing estimated time with the actual time, resource addition.
Project Control Process
Project control process includes the following:
- To achieve the effectiveness of project control, the actual progress of the project should be measured and compared with planned progress in a regular and timely manner. Moreover, required corrective actions should be taken on an immediate basis.
- A reporting period should be established regularly.
- At the time of each reporting period, data should be collected on actual performance, and also, information on any changes related to the scope of the project, budget, and schedule should be gathered.
- Establishing a new plan is required if changes are included.
As uncertainties are considered a part of the project, so, the project should be flexible and adaptive enough to accept those changes. Changes in the project can be controlled by using a thorough change management process and tools. Change control is essential for controlling work increase at different stages of the project and the effective management of any disruption occurs in stages.
Project Change Management Process
Below are the steps involved in the change management process of a project:
This step starts with determining the need for the change. Once the need is identifi