This is the last in a series of four articles about maintaining control in software project management. Here we look at mechanisms useful for exercising control. No matter how well the project is planned, it will not succeed if it is not well controlled.
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Mechanisms of Control
How do we ensure that proper control is exercised during software projects? The mechanisms or tools available to assist us include:
Project Monitoring – Projects use progress reporting and monitoring meetings as the main tools for control.
Progress Report – This is generated by the project manager, normally on a weekly basis. This is distributed to all stakeholders of the project. This report normally contains:
Project Status – vis-à-vis the project plans
Metrics that give quantitative measures for aspects such as quality, productivity, effort, and schedule
Issues that could impact the project execution and its status
Progress monitoring meetings – Either face-to-face meetings, teleconferences, or videoconferences can be held in which all stakeholders meet. They can then analyze the project progress using the project plans and progress reports as the base and agree upon corrective actions to be implemented.
Software process – A well-defined software process goes a long way in exercising the proper control of project execution. Project Tracking and Monitoring process, Metrics Process, Software Verification and Validation Process, Checklist and Standards, and Guidelines all go a long way in keeping project execution closely aligned with the project plans.
Metrics – They assist us in measuring quantitatively the project health and facilitate close control of the project. Five classes of metrics are collated, computed, and distributed to the project stakeholders, normally as part of the project progress report. These are –
Now, once the gaps between the actual achievement and the desired achievement are known, they are analyzed and discussed in the progress monitoring meetings described above. The meetings are normally organized by the project manager and all stakeholders participate. The stakeholders discuss the need for corrective action and the actions are assigned to the stakeholders, and the assignments are noted in the minutes of the meeting. Minutes of meetings are distributed to all stakeholders and are used for monitoring the action-assignments in the next meeting.
Actions can be taken to either pump in more resources to move shortfalls up to desired levels by the next progress review, or adjust the project plans to align with the actual achievements. Either way, all stakeholders agree on the decided action points and adhere to the same.
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The Last Word on Control
Control is a very important aspect of software project management. However good the project planning may be, it would fail if the control were not exercised properly. We know areas that need monitoring and we have the tools to facilitate the right amount of control over the software projects.
This series defines the term Control as it is applicable in the context of software project management and explains the aspect to be controlled and the mechanisms available for exercising the right control