Maintaining the project plan often falls to the responsibility of the project manager, yet the project team can play an important role in ensuring the project stays in control. To effectively monitor a project's progress, the project team should understand the importance of their contribution.
Project Team and Planning
Before a project can be monitored and controlled it needs to have a project plan. Without one there is no means to determine if the project is on track or not. The project team plays an important role from the very beginning.
It is typically the people who will be doing the activities that can best estimate the amount of work involved. A project manager can provide guidance, however the project team should feel comfortable that the estimates provided in the project plan are realistic and achievable. It's essential that the project manager has strong communication with the project team so that they can feel able to challenge estimates and project plan expectations. If the project team does not believe a plan is achievable than it is unlikely that it will be achieved.
Monitoring the Project's Progress
With an agreed project plan the team can get to work. However, despite the best will in the world, it is unlikely that things will goes as anticipated. Projects exist in a changing environment and must be able to cope with unexpected events.
Regardless of the size of the project team, it is impossible for the project manager to understand fully the progress of the project. Therefore, he or she is reliant on the project team to keep the project informed. This includes updates on:
- Completion of activities
- Any expected delays to activities
- Any new activities that were not previously foreseen
- Any new dependencies not previously identified
- Any issues
There are two aspects to keeping the project manager updated:
- Informing them of progress against plan on a regular basis.
- Identifying unexpected events, such as new activities or incorrect estimates.
Control through Communication
It's vital that the project team members stay informed of progress and issues from across the project. Project team members may be able to provide knowledge and advice, and also be able to contribute additional details such as impact and knock-on effects of issues and changes. Strong team communication aids project plan monitoring and input from the project team can bring a plan back on track.
Regular team meetings are important to ensure that everyone remains informed. The ideal situation is where the project team are located together and have daily opportunities to keep each other informed. If the team are not located together, than the project manager must take additional steps to ensure that communication does not suffer.
Change Control Process
The project needs to have good change control procedures to ensure that changes do not simply happen. Change needs to be managed in a controlled manner. This means:
- Identifying all requested changes
- Conducting an investigation so that the requested change is understood
- Assessing the impact of the change (both to the project and those external to the project)
- Involving experts who can provide information on impact of change
- Determining the cost of the change
- Deciding how the change be funded (this may need to be decided by the sponsor)
- Understanding impact of not doing the change
The project team must understand change control procedures and follow them accordingly. If changes are allowed to simply occur, it won't take long before the project spirals out of control.
Project Team: Eyes and Ears of the Project
The project team members are often in the position to find out much about the project. They can be talking with users, hearing the concerns that staff may have and often, the first port of call if people have problems. If the project manager and the project team have regular and frequent communication, the project manager can remain informed and prepared for potential issues.
The project team can also provide regular contributions to:
- Potential project risks
- Potential delays
- Project issues
- Changes occurring outside of project (such as in the business or other projects)
For a project to remain in control throughout it's life, it will require participation and contributions from all members. Part of the process of building a strong project team is making all members aware of the importance of their active participation and involvement.