While the project is underway, the project manager must have a constant pulse on how the progress is tracking and have a real-time way to capture, track, manage, and report on their project status.
This includes knowing whether tasks and milestones are being completed on time, if the budget is in line with actual costs, and more. Read on to discover the five key factors that you should be monitoring, along with helpful resources and templates, to ensure that you stay ahead of all the details.
1. Identify and Mitigate Risk Early
It’s inevitable that projects face issues. These issues can include budget risks, timeline risks, incidents, emergencies, opportunities, and more. Project managers who complete their risk assessment early on will have a better chance of avoiding issues, but they still must have a real-time view into their work to identify and mitigate unforeseen risks before they impact the overall project timeline and budget.
Since no project is without risk, having the right risk management tools and processes in place can help you identify, monitor, and resolve risks far more efficiently than relying on your own ability to be in the right place at the right time. Some benefits of using a risk management software include:
- Greater Transparency: Project managers are able to tackle and prioritize project risks with the best risk/reward outcomes.
- Reduced Compliance and Legal Costs: Integrating corporate governance and risk management compliance processes means lower costs for all.
- Better Internal Controls: Project managers that closely monitor and manage their risk show deeper ownership of their projects than those who don’t monitor as closely.
- Strengthened PM Operations: The more knowledge a project manager has, the better they can be at predicting risk for future projects.
- Increased Stakeholder Trust: Showing that you have the right tools in place to stay ahead of risk puts stakeholders minds at ease.
2. Track Key Performance Indicators
Project managers must use key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine whether the project is on track. Here are some of the top KPIs to measure project performance:
- Project Objectives: A project that is on schedule and on budget is a good indicator to determine if the project will meet its original objectives.
- Quality Deliverables: Measure whether task deliverables are being met and if they meet specific standards set within the project requirements.
- Effort and Cost Tracking: PMs must track effort and costs associated with resources to see if the budget is on track.
- Project Performance: This tracks changes that occur in the project including amount and type of issues that arise and how they are addressed.
Tip: Creating a project-specific dashboard to track high-level KPIs and then sharing it out to all stakeholders will help reduce the time spent answering status questions. Bonus if it automatically updates in real time.
- Comprehensive Guide to KPI Dashboards
- Cisco Drives Decisions with Dashboards
- How to Create a Dashboard in Excel
- How to Pick the Best Dashboard Software for Your Company
- Sample Dashboard Templates
- How to Set Up a Project Management Dashboard in Smartsheet
- Video: Make Better Decisions Faster with Smartsheet Dashboards
3. Manage Documentation
Documentation is an important part of any project. Whether you prefer Waterfall over Agile, Kanban over Scrum, keeping records of what happened and changes that occurred throughout its lifecycle will add to the project’s overall success.
Depending on size and complexity of your projects, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to remember everything that happens. Further, when there are clients or external stakeholders involved, having organized documentation can be the deciding factor when disagreements or issues occur. Additionally, having a well-documented project provides historical insights that can be used on future projects.
The key here is organizing your documentation so that you aren’t searching through folders, email, messenger apps, your project management tool, etc. to find the documentation you need. Create a single location to manage all project documentation so that you can quickly access the information you need and keep details in context.
4. Know Status
Part of the project manager's role is to keep key stakeholders up to date on status throughout the duration of the project. Not knowing the status of your project when asked can send red flags that you aren’t tracking your project closely, and may reduce stakeholder trust in both you and the project.
One way to guarantee that you know the status of your project at any moment is with a project status report. A project status report should capture all the business-critical activities, developments, and risks associated with a project. Essentially, a project status report is a snapshot of where a project stands and how various aspects of the project are doing.
Additionally, status reports help to:
- Create and enable buy in from stakeholders
- Provide transparency into progress toward milestones
- Identify issues and risks, so course correction can happen quickly
- Pinpoint work done by individuals, teams, or departments, so you can allocate resources as needed
- Provide a high-level gauge of project health
- Create a method to keep project managers and teams accountable
- Prevent scope creep
5. Control Scope Creep
Changes happen throughout a project, and are to be expected. But, because the scope is defined at the very beginning of the project during the initiation phase, it’s very easy for stakeholders to try to add to that scope months down the road when the project is underway.
It’s essential that the project manager add requests to the requirements and prioritize based on value. If you say “yes” to everything without evaluating the value and the impact on timeline and budget, you will have a never ending project that becomes a money pit.