Monitor and Control Document Management Projects
As soon as you start planning, you also need to start to monitor and control your project. This installment of the Insights series on document and information management projects is all about being proactive instead of reactive.
The best way to think about how you monitor and control document management projects is to compare it with a road trip. You plan your journey (Where are you starting? Where are you going? What route will you take?). Then you “do the work” – pack the car, get gas, turn on Waze (or your favorite navigation tool) and then drive.
You’re asking, what exactly is the monitoring and controlling in this example? It’s Waze. It monitors and controls your trip. It monitors: Informing you about heavy traffic and road obstacles, and controls: Re-routing you to take advantage of better conditions elsewhere; and it changes your route but not your destination. You plan, you drive, and Waze monitors. Straightforward and effective.
What to Monitor and Control
When you monitor and control document management projects, you monitor changes. In particular, you monitor the things you planned in the planning phase like scope, risks, and stakeholder communications. Similarly, you control your schedule, costs, quality, resources—and when you have them—vendors and consultants. So, in a project, what do we monitor and what do we control:
|Changes (scope)||Schedule and Costs|
The reason why you monitor and control is, shall we say, in case you need to ‘do something’. When you do something it should benefit the project, i.e., to help the project meet its objectives. Now, let’s look at each one in a bit more detail.
Monitoring changes is for the most part about dealing with change requests to your deliverables and baselines. For deliverables that means doing more (or less) than what is in scope. For baselines, it primarily concerns changes to schedules and costs.
The key word in “change request” is request – it might happen, it might not. So what is the best way to approve or reject a change request? Assuming that during the planning phase you established how change requests are handled (e.g., majority vote, monetary threshold, etc…as defined in your change management plan) it will be straightforward:
- Agree what the change is, why it is needed, and its impact (time, money, resources),
- Communicate the proposed change to the decision makers (change control board),
- If approved: Update schedule, costs, and resource allocation/dependencies.
- If rejected: Document why it was rejected.
That last point – if rejected, then document – is important because some change requests have a bad habit of popping up later disguised as something slightly different. Dealing with repeat change requests takes time and resources away from other parts of the project.
There are two kinds of risks you need to monitor in a project: The risk of something happening, and the risk of not doing something. Let’s look at each.
When we monitor the risk of something happening, we’re concerned with those risks that can affect the outcome of a phase of the project or the entire project. For example, a key team member may leave the project early.
The risk of not doing something falls into two categories:
- Preemptive strike. Taking action to reduce the likelihood something [adverse] will occur in the future.
- Taking advantage of new information. In other words, you may change your course of action to incorporate something new that is now available or known, like a new hire with key skills that would benefit the project.
Regardless of the type of risk, dealing with it when it either becomes known or actually happens is much easier if you identified and classified the risk appropriately in the strategy analysis phase.
Monitoring Stakeholders and Communications
As a project manager, you need to communicate with your stakeholders. How well you do that is directly related to how successful your project will be, which is my personal opinion-experience-fact. Here are some things to do to be successful:
- Communications. Present the facts. And if you’re asked for your opinion, make sure it is derived from the facts rather than feelings (“I feel we could have…”).
- Stakeholders. When you’re engaged, you know if and when a stakeholder is going to change (leave or join your steering committee, for example).
Although monitoring stakeholders and communications are separate activities according the PMBOK Guide, they’re obviously intricately related as stakeholder communications: Who needs to know what, and when, and in what format (email, status report, burndown chart, etc.). Effective stakeholder communications is a big part of being successful when you monitor and control document management projects.
Controlling Schedule and Costs
Your schedule is directly related to your costs. If a task takes longer to complete there will be an associated direct ($$$) or indirect (e.g., quality) cost. What in particular should you pay attention to?
- Note the Float. Float, also called slack (track the slack) comes in two flavors:
- Free float = the amount of time an activity can be delayed without affecting its successor activity, or a schedule constraint.
- Total float = the amount of time an activity can be delayed without affecting the project finish date, or violating a schedule constraint.
- Trendlines. Use past results to predict future performance. Use them. Analyze the actual vs. budgeted costs in a spreadsheet.
Cost and schedule variances need controlling. If you trend higher, figure out why because it is unlikely to trend lower without action on your part. Remember: Figures don’t lie, but liars figure. Work with your project team and vendors to identify what is causing a variance, then have them tell you how exactly, they plan to address.
Quality happens throughout a project, not just with your deliverables. Consider what may happen if a team needs to work 12 hour days to complete a task. A tired team member will make more mistakes. In this case, quality is related to how well you, project manager, estimate the duration of and staffing for a task.
What is the cost of quality? You probably hear this a lot, but do you know specifically how quality affects cost? Here’s what we’re talking about:
- Cost of conformance to quality. Being proactive. The amount you spend to attain your [planning] level of quality. In other words, it’s the amount in your budget you allocate to meeting your planned level of quality.
- Cost of nonconformance to quality. Being reactive. This is the amount you need to spend over your budget to meet your quality standards for things like rework.
And remember, if you end up doing rework, before you start it identify and address the root cause. The last thing you want is re-rework.
Resources are the people who are doing – and will continue to do – the work in your project. Your resources are, for the most part, your project team and, in most information management projects, your IT department.
When you “control” the resources on your project, you’re really just making sure people are in the right place, at the right time, for the right reasons:
- Right time. Confirm availability with resources and their manager(s).
- Right place. Physical and virtual. Workshops, training, testing, etc., may be onsite or offsite or virtual. Make sure people know where to go and confirm they can get there (do they have WebEx, Teams, Skype installed?).
- Right reasons. Make sure everyone understands what they need to do and by when (i.e., their objectives), and reinforce how what they’re doing benefits the project.
Control Vendors (Procurement)
Last and certainly not least, you need to control vendors and consultants. The main thing to know is what they’re doing and when they’re doing it. Ask lots of questions. As a former IM project manager…and current vendor and consultant, I’ve found that the following areas—when controlled effectively—keep the customer-vendor relationship in balance, in harmony if you will:
- Accountability. Keep your vendors accountable for their deliverables. Remember, you control the project (schedule, costs, quality) so you need to incorporate your vendor’s plans – schedule, costs (i.e., time and materials), and quality standards – into the overall project. Make sure they get you what you need, when you need it.
- Invoicing. Speaking of time and materials, if your vendor is on a T&M basis, make sure you get regular, detailed (or, detailed enough please) invoices that describe completed work. Reconcile completed work with costs incurred and remaining budget and make sure you understand how their deliverables align with what they’ve billed you for.
- Quality. As mentioned above, quality happens throughout a project, not just when you receive the deliverables. Ask your vendor to share how they are meeting your quality standards and, gasp, if they aren’t meeting them how what the plan is
A good vendor will share information if you ask. A great vendor proactively shares information because they understand that your success and their success are intertwined; that both depend on delivering the project…successfully.
Monitor and Control Document Management Projects – Additional Considerations
Project monitoring and controlling starts in the planning phase and continues until, well, you’re done and the project deliverables are accepted by the project stakeholders. Just as Waze helps you get through traffic, you need to help your project get through difficulties. And when it comes to the activities you monitor and control, here are some assumptions you can use:
- Never assume a problem will work itself out. It never does.
- Always assume no one but you is going to address a problem.
- Not my problem…is indeed your problem.
- If you, as the project manager, have authority to solve a problem, then do it. If not escalate ASAP so it can be dealt with early when more options are available.
Finally, remember that you need to monitor and control document management projects proactively, as in, be active and engaged. So don’t be passive and only deal with issues once they have festered into problems. You know better!
Any questions? Be proactive—Contact us!CONTACT OVITAS