My Projects

January 6, 2008 8 comments so far

Project Controlling: Goals, Deliverables, Progress and Quality

One of my New Year's resolutions: Back to project monitoring and controlling, our main topic stream ;-). Let's start with content-wise controlling, i.e., what has been achieved and how are we progressing?

As you might remember, project controlling means that you regularly take a close look at your project in a defined time interval. A simple way to support this is to create a recurring event in your preferred calendaring application (e.g., iCal or Outlook). Make sure that you take your time, project controlling is typically not done in 5 minutes.

The first controlling dimension we are taking a closer look at is the "what" dimension:

  • What has been achieved so far and what has not (progress)
  • Did you get everything you should have so far (deliverables)
  • Did you really get what you wanted (goals and no-goals)
  • Did you get the quality level you were expecting (quality of results)

Please note that this controlling dimension is often neglected, but it is a very important one. Even I did a bad job recently in content-wise controlling of a small outsourcing project we did.

So how do we control this dimension, i.e, what tools can we use?

  • For controlling the content-wise project progress I am a fan of the work breakdown structure (WBS) as defined by the PMBOK Guide of the Project Management Institute (PMI). As phases and work packages are crossed out as you are progressing through the project (once: activity was started; twice: activity is completed), it is a very easy and a very powerful tool at the same time in order to get a good picture of your overall project progress
  • Deliverables can, for instance, be controlled by creating checklists for work packages and milestones (for key deliverables). In the project controlling meeting go through the checklists of those work packages and milestones that are currently in progress and cross out the deliverables that have really been already delivered
  • Goals and no-goals can also most easily be controlled by using checklists. In this case, we typically need only a single checklist for our project goals and maybe an additional one for our no-goals. Goal controlling is important to ensure that the overall direction of your project is still in line with the overall project goals
  • Finally, I do not think that there is a general "tool" for measuring the quality of the results. It is even quite tricky - at least in my opinion - to write down the level of quality you expect. It is probably the only way to simply draw samples and see for yourself (or via dedicated quality engineering resources that are ideally not part of the core project team) whether the quality level is OK

Let me conclude by again stressing that this controlling dimension is very important: It happens over and over that (especially outsourcing) projects get delivered and either the result is not OK, or the quality of the result is not ideal. By regularly taking a close look at the key deliverables and the overall quality of the work in progress such failure can most of the time be prevented by taking counter-measures early on.