My Projects

October 13, 2007 44 comments so far

Monitoring and Controlling: First Steps

After our brief detour into pecha-kucha we will take a look at the basics of monitoring and controlling. In addition, I will answer the question of a friend of mine (who was "too shy" to post a comment ;-) about the difference between monitoring and controlling.

Let me first answer the question about where I personally draw the line between project monitoring and controlling:

  • Project monitoring is for me to constantly monitor the key parameters of a project. Ideally, you have some visual indicators, e.g., traffic light functions which draw your attention to a potential problem with your project without having to look into every detail (because for this, you typically will not have the time for)
  • Project controlling is implemented for a project if there is a defined, regular controlling cycle where you really look a the details of a project every two weeks, month, quarter (depending on the complexity and overall duration of the project)

The question that remains is: Which key parameters do you have to monitor and what details do you have to check in a controlling step? There has been a lot written about this. My answer would be a quite simple one: You monitor and control those dimensions and parameters which will most likely break your project.

Let me provide you with some examples in order to illustrate this:

  • If you have an IT development project and your key goals are to create some piece of software and to deliver it on time and this is the top priority in your company and, therefore, you have basically unlimited resources then you will most probably only monitor your key milestones and the progress of your deliverables
  • On the other side, if you have a customer project where a fixed quota of hours was sold to the customer, but the delivery date is not so critical you will closely monitor the profitability of your project, i.e., planned effort vs. actual effort and/or planned personnel costs vs. actual costs
  • In the case of a construction project which must be delivered 100% on time, but you have the option to deliver on 120% budget your key parameters will be milestone dates, deliverables and dependencies, but you will also have to take a close look on the overall cost of the project

In a nutshell, this means that you, as the project manager, have to decide which parameters are important for constantly monitoring your project and for the regular controlling cycles. A straightforward way to do this is to think about what can break your project, i.e., what can prevent you from reaching your project goals.

Finally, there are of course a few dimensions that are always important to monitor and control. These typically include: Key deliverables, milestone dates, project resources and costs. In the next months we will explore together how we can control these dimensions in an easy and straightforward way.