Project monitoring plays a vital role in the decision-making processes of a project manager.
However, despite being an often overlooked method, if put into practice, project monitoring can help the project manager and his team to foresee potential risks and obstacles that if not treated could bring the project in the wrong direction.
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What is a project monitoring plan?
The monitoring plan of a project consists of keeping track and monitoring of all the data related to the project.
Thanks to this activity the Project Manager can always have control of the situation, identify potential problems, and put the corrective actions into practice. The monitoring plan assures that the project is within the field of application and respects the specified deadlines and budget.
In simple terms,
Monitoring is the fourth phase of the five phases of project management according to the PMBOK: starting, planning, execution, monitoring – precisely – and closure.
The monitoring phase should be performed together with the execution of the project, so that to have useful information on the project.
Project monitoring helps to keep track of project performance and progress using key performance indicators (KPIs) given during project planning.
Why is the project monitoring plan important?
When project managers make important decisions without verified data, it is like they move into a dark room they don’t know with their eyes closed.
Decisions will be based on very little or no evidence. The action could therefore not be very efficient and could only be a waste of time and resources.
This is why it is important to monitor projects diligently and use the data collected to reach rational and logical decisions.
ere are some basic questions to ask during the project monitoring phase:
- Are the activities performed as planned?
- Are there unintended consequences that arise as a result of these activities?
- Are there any elements of the project that need to be modified and if so which ones?
- What is the impact of these changes?
- Will these corrective actions lead to the expected results?
Automation in project monitoring
Automated tools and technologies can simplify the project monitoring process.
Most project managers have already adopted project management tools to delegate tasks and monitor their projects.
The six advantages of project monitoring
Project monitoring offers six advantages:
1. Align progress with the plan
Monitoring project progress will help assess whether the project is in line with the original plan. Moreover, it will help to understand, if the project is going wrong, what corrective actions to apply.
2. Involvement of interested parties
Monitoring improves stakeholder engagement. If a problem or risk is detected too late, the project sponsor is often powerless. With regular monitoring and clear communication, it will be easier to deal with risks and contingencies.
3. Customer satisfaction
Open communication and feedback increase the likelihood that the final result will meet expectations, thus considering the project a success.
4. Team motivation and responsibility.
Team motivation will have fluctuations during the execution of the project. By monitoring progress and completing the milestones, the team will have clear goals for the project.
5. Management of external suppliers.
Communication is essential for any project, especially when working with external suppliers. Monitoring the performance of these resources will help meet key deadlines, manage the given budget, and take into account unexpected project planning delays. Similarly, it is necessary to share project changes with suppliers, so that they can update their internal plans and be available accordingly.
6. Continuous learning and improvement.
Monitoring represents an ideal opportunity for continuous learning and improvement, as well as planning and project execution. Once the project is finished, it is essential to document the lessons learned, a task that is easier if the project was monitored during the execution.
Methods and techniques for monitoring the project
Project monitoring starts already during the project planning phase.
During this phase, the project manager must decide which are the factors that will define the success of the project. He will also determine how to measure the target using key performance indicators (KPIs).
In this phase, it is also necessary to consult the team and the sponsor of the project.
The KPIs used to track and measure success can be, for example:
- Cycle time: the time required to complete an activity.
- Number of program adjustments: how often project planning has been changed.
- Budget variance: how much the actual budget varies from the project budget
- Number of errors: the number of times the job needs to be repeated.
Moreover, it is possible to keep track of customer satisfaction, planned working hours compared to the actual ones, etc.
The 6 phases of project monitoring
1. Identify the goals of the project
The definition of the program goals begins with the answer to three questions:
- What problem is the project trying to solve?
- What steps are taken to solve this problem?
- How will the project team know when the project was successful in solving the problem?
Answering these questions will help identify what the project should do and how the team, and especially the project manager, will know if it was a success or not.
2. Define the indicators
Once the project goals have been defined, it is time to define the indicators to track progress towards achieving them. The indicators trace the progress of the project and help to answer the question “Are the activities implemented as planned?”
3. Define data collection methods and timing
Now it is time to decide the methods for data collection and how often the data will be collected. The method chosen will have important implications for project monitoring. In fact, a wrong method could lead to a wrong perception.
4. Identify roles and responsibilities during monitoring
It is important to decide who is responsible for collecting data for each indicator from the early stages of planning. Data management roles must be clearly decided so that everyone is on the same page.
5. Create an analysis plan and report templates
Once all the data has been collected, someone will have to draw up a table of results for internal review and external reporting. The project monitoring plan should therefore include details on what data will be analyzed and how the results will be presented.
6. Plan data disclosure
The last element of the monitoring plan describes how and to whom the data will be given. For example, a project team might want to review data on a monthly basis in order to make policy decisions and develop future work plans, while other stakeholders may want to review the data every quarter. These options should therefore be discussed with stakeholders in order to determine reasonable expectations for data review and to develop dissemination plans at the beginning of the project.
These six steps are all you need to set up a good quality project monitoring plan.
By consistently applying these steps, each project manager will be able to see how his project is going. Above all, he will be able to intervene promptly to correct the course when necessary, avoiding inappropriate failures.