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Control – part 12 - Progress reporting - What data?

Individual reports for summary

In order to report progress of the plan or schedule it must be based on some facts.
Clearly, just saying things are ‘on track’ or ‘OK’ is hopeless.
The advantage of basing the report on factual data is that it cannot be disputed.
It acts as suitable proof for taking action should adverse trends be spotted.

One to one progress meetings

Such meetings can afford up to the minute information which can be easily questioned at the time.
It is often a good idea to have a list of areas you wish to cover so that the discussion becomes focussed.
If the meetings are regular a suitable agenda will be useful.

Group / project meetings

Data will usually be presented verbally either based upon a report submitted or via, perhaps, a PowerPoint presentation.
Again, the formats of reports and expected PowerPoint presentations should be known ahead of time.
Thus, only appropriate data will be presented at the right level.

Wandering about

Although mostly an informal technique there is no reason that some planning should not occur.
Well directed discussion will help create a bond of obvious interest in the work activity.

Use of standard forms / e-mail

Such means of communication can have its problems.
You will need to be very clear what data you are seeking.
E-mail in particular is prone to poor grammar and ambiguity.

It may be easier to just use e-mail to circulate attached reports with agreed formats.

Formal milestone reporting for management meetings

We have always said that the best control of the schedule is via ‘milestones’ and their ‘deliverables’.
Therefore one key reporting activity might be to record the success of meeting milestone deliverables.
This recording activity could be maintained over a period of time affording a log of milestone achievements, for example, number met, number missed. Thus, worrying trends can be seen and if necessary action taken to regain control.

Data trends

The approach of assimilating data and looking for trends can be applied elsewhere:

Allocation of effort

This can be carried out simply with a ‘timesheet’ and allocating time to a variety of department codes, for example, administration.
Note that the total of non productive activity tends to be about 15% over a period of time.
Any large increase in this area, for instance, may require investigation.

Numbers of changes

Assuming you are recording project changes in key areas, for example, risks and issues, objectives etc, any worrying trends in these areas can be picked up.

Number of tasks started

Similar arguments apply here.

Other areas could be numbers of tasks completed on time etc.
Be aware of trying to collect too much data.

The use of contingency needs to be monitored closely as once it has gone it has gone.
The Project Manager should be a little worried if 80% of his contingency is used up after week 10, in a project due to last 30 weeks!

This particular example, and others, could be monitored by the use of a trigger system, which is put into place.

For example:


In other words, if you assume reasonably even usage of this ‘resource’ a total use of ’60’ at week 8 should set some alarm bells ringing.
You may even be able to spot an upward trend before it gets out of hand.
Control is all about realising a plan is drifting off track and bringing it back on track.

‘Resource’ in this case could be:
Total contingency budget in ‘000s £.
Days effort contingency or planned.

For example:

If you expect work effort to be equal to 200 man days after week 2 and ‘timesheet’ records show 300 then start thinking!

Under PRINCE2® 2005 assessing progress is about knowing what has happened and comparing it with what you expected to happen.
A simple robust monitoring system is required that provides a steady flow of information o n the project progress.
[see Controlling a Stage (CS) - part 3 - Assessing Progress (CS2) and Controls - part 1]

PRINCE2 2009 the theme Progress is used.
The purpose of the Progress theme is to establish mechanisms to monitor and compare actual achievements against those planned; provide a forecast for the project objectives and the project’s continued viability; and control any unacceptable deviations.
Two of the principles of PRINCE2 [see ‘The Complete Project Management plus PRINCE2’] are managing by stages and continued business justification.
The Progress theme provides the mechanisms for monitoring and control, enabling the critical assessment of ongoing viability. [see Progress - purpose]

PRINCE2® is a Registered Trade Mark of the Office of Government Commerce in the United Kingdom and other countries.