Collect the data, chart the data, summarize the findings, repeat…
The treadmill of technical project control is tedious and mind numbing. Nonetheless, it’s those precious insights into the status of progression that management must have to make intelligent decisions during the project life-cycle. Knowing the value of control tools is great, but exactly how do you use the resulting analytics to guide future action? In the following, I describe three commonly used control tools and how those tools are used to inform and improve management of the project.
Earned value management (EVM) empowers a project manager with many useful techniques for accurately presenting the status of a project and projecting the future performance based on the current performance data. By tracking actual costs against planned costs and comparing actual costs of planned activities against the cost of activities actually completed, the project manager can say with confidence whether the project is progressing as planned. The information provided using EVM will indicate whether schedule, budget, or both do not meet expectations. With a few additional calculations, the expected future performance can be projected as well.
Process managers use control charts to determine whether a process is stable by collecting means of statistically sufficient sample sizes. These analytic tools enable managers to reliably and repeatedly identify variance in data points above an upper control limit or below a lower control limit. When analysis identifies performance outside the specification as expressed in the control limits, managers should initiate some method of cause determination.
Trend projections prove their worth when a reasonably complete set of time-phased data points exist. By focusing analysis on the general relationship of data in one duration to data in another duration, relative projections about future state should the trends continue may be made.