Monitor Project Progress
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Describe how to use Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor project progress.
- List the tasks technical project managers complete when performing ongoing maintenance, including monitoring security controls.
- Describe how to find solutions to recurring issues.
Using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Project Monitoring
Project monitoring refers to the process of keeping track of all project-related metrics, including team performance and task duration, identifying potential problems, and taking corrective actions necessary to ensure that the project is within scope, on budget and on time. You use key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor your project’s progress and determine whether you are achieving the desired results. KPIs are measurable values that demonstrate how effectively you are achieving your objectives. For example, one KPI for a security project could be the number of users successfully completing annual security awareness training using a new enrollment system.
As the project enters the monitoring and maintenance phase, you continue to interact and manage a broad set of stakeholders to partner for success and overcome obstacles. KPIs function as your guiding light to keep you on track. Project monitoring is important because making decisions without verified data is like taking a stab in the dark. Basing decisions on data helps ensure you are taking efficient action and making the most of time and resources.
As the technical project manager, you carry projects to completion one KPI at a time. During the project planning phase, you defined project success and how the goals would be measured using KPIs. Now it’s time to put them to work. KPIs can be used for two things: project evaluation and project monitoring. Let’s take a closer look.
KPIs help you evaluate the project’s success in meeting the outcomes you are trying to achieve, and monitor progress toward your goals and milestones. Is the project successful in achieving its outcomes? Is the project contributing to its ultimate goal? Are you meeting stakeholder’s expectations? By carefully monitoring these KPIs, you keep a pulse on whether you’re achieving your project’s goals.
You also use KPIs to monitor operational work. You monitor quality by tracking whether activities have been completed as planned. You monitor the schedule by tracking whether the work is progressing as projected. You monitor the budget by tracking how much has been spent on the project, the extent to which the project’s actual budget differs from what was planned, and so on.
KPIs for budget include actual cost (AC), cost variance (CV), and return on investment (ROI), among others. AC, also known as actual cost of work performed (ACWP), shows how much money has been spent on a project to date. CV indicates whether the estimated project cost is above or below the set baseline. ROI shows a project's profitability and how the benefits compare to the costs. Tracking these metrics helps ensure you deliver the project to the required specifications without budget overruns.
Performing Ongoing Maintenance
While projects are temporary in nature, part of your job will be to transition the project from a temporary endeavor to ongoing business operations, once the goals of the project are achieved. During the maintenance phase of a project, the final system or features are released into the full-scale production environment for sustained use. As a technical project manager, you are responsible for introducing new features into the production system, ensuring they operate securely, and making sure stakeholders are aware of new functionality.
Let’s meet Abigail. She’s a technical project manager at a financial services company. She has been asked to lead the development of the company’s computer-based training system that delivers security awareness training products to the organization. She’s just delivered the new training system, which incorporates new requirements, and has reported on the project’s progress to the senior manager of the education team.
As Abigail works to roll out the new training system to the production environment, she leads her team in performing quality-control functions to ensure everything is working as intended. She works with her team to document the new features of the system in user manuals and ensures stakeholders are trained on new processes associated with the training system.
Abigail also works with the operations team to develop, document, and execute plans and procedures for conducting activities and tasks in the maintenance phase. She ensures a system for reporting problems and evaluating customer satisfaction is included in the system deployment. These are all crucial steps in bringing the development and operations teams together to complete the system development and deployment and move to production. Here are activities that Abigail works on with the team during this phase.
- Ensuring that systems and networks are running and available during the defined hours of operation
- Implementing non emergency requests during scheduled outages
- Performing and testing backups
- Maintaining performance measurements, statistics, and system logs
- Monitoring security controls and performance and escalating problems when they occur
- Putting in place a security plan and defining those accountable for monitoring the system
- Assessing and analyzing new and ongoing risks
- Putting in place new or modified security controls as needed
- Testing of the disaster recovery plan
- Putting in place processes for reporting security incidents
- Reviewing and updating security policies and standards as needed
- Working with the operations team to detect threats and vulnerabilities
- Performing patching of software for the system
- Managing and controlling configurations and changes to the system
- Ensuring all system staff and end users have the proper clearances and access privileges
Keep in mind that Abigail does not perform all of these tasks herself, but it’s her job to make sure there is a clear and seamless handoff of the project to the operations team so that the system can be maintained properly and securely in production.
In addition to these tasks, Abigail also works with the development team to continue to prioritize user requirements from the backlog, including fixing known bugs, and adding new requirements as they arise. She also makes sure to keep help desk personnel informed of all changes to the product, especially those requiring new instructions to users.
Finding Solutions to Recurring Issues
The best project managers recognize gaps as risks to the project, and work to mitigate the potential impact of these risks. Projects are a discovery-driven process, often uncovering new customer needs and identifying critical issues not previously disclosed. Projects also encounter unexpected events, such as team members resigning, budgeted resources suddenly changing, the organization becoming unstable, and newer technologies being introduced. You as a technical project manager need to properly identify and manage these risks throughout the project lifecycle.
You have a crucial role to play in managing variances between the project plans (in terms of scope, cost, schedule), and the realities of project implementation. As you manage these risks, you also update the project management plan and other project documents as needed, and communicate variances to stakeholders, so there are no surprises. All of these tasks set you up for success, and ensure you’ll be a high performing technical project manager.