Plan, monitoring and control in project management: Data collection, processing, and analysis
Monitoring and controlling is a long phase in project management practices. A key role in these activities is the project manager, who monitors and controls the project variables together with stakeholders such as the project director and program manager.
At the beginning of each project, the project manager prepares a monitoring and controlling plan. Reference: “Monitoring, control, and evaluation of the implementation of infrastructure projects”, https://bvop.org/posts/monitoring-control-evaluation/
In order to put the project plan into action and to monitor and control it, the project hierarchy must now make sure that the final results remain feasible and meet the initial conditions.
The operating instructions have already been approved. Once you have a plan in place for monitoring and control, you can start implementing the project. It should not be forgotten that, although approved, the plan may be amended. Reference: “Monitoring and control in project management”, https://managerspost.com/monitoring-and-control-in-project-management/
For example, the implementation may lead to unexpected results that will affect the future path of the project. Some of the key people may leave or be withdrawn from the project. Or someone forgets something and the work has to be done again. It is possible for the person in control of the project to change the direction of work – priorities, resources, etc. Therefore, it must be approached flexibly. After the adoption of a plan, we must be prepared for the future by developing options, indicating the reasons for the changes and their effect on the project. Reference: “Monitoring and Controlling in Project management presented with real scenario examples“, https://www.polyscm.com/monitoring-and-controlling-in-project-management-examples/
Monitoring and control are two things but also a continuous process during the project implementation. The monitoring begins with an examination and clarification of the objectives set at the very beginning and continues until the end of the project in order to check the implementation of the plan and to be able to take timely actions (control) if necessary.
In our project, this simply means making sure that what is needed is done. By monitoring the progress and comparing it with the planned, the consequences can be assessed and, if necessary, the necessary changes can be made to the plan.
Although some changes are beyond our control, it is important not only to monitor and control progress but also sometimes to question the feasibility of continuing the project and whether to terminate it.
When managing a project or working on it, it is especially important to repeat what the desired result of the project or our participation in it is. This must always be at the forefront of our minds.
Monitoring and control give us the opportunity to get quality results on time and within the budget or to take quick measures to correct them.
By constantly comparing the project schedule and progress reports, it is possible to assess whether everything is going according to plan, whether any changes are needed, and to effectively monitor the project.
When asked by a senior project manager, to whom several teams are subordinated, what is his style of working with the words: “Surely you are constantly standing over their heads and asking them questions?”, He replied: “No way! I have quality people. I want to keep them, not to drive them crazy and drive them away! ” It’s just available all the time. It’s always there if they need it. He is always nearby to exchange words with the performers. This leader called this “bypass management”, but also sat down to talk about working with team members – on their territory, not in his office. People feel more comfortable in their own work environment and are more outspoken, says the manager.
Each of his people, as soon as a problem arises, immediately reports to the head. He learns immediately about the problem.
To get a real idea, we need to ask questions. Sometimes just “How’s it going?” not enough. It is often not enough and “Will it end on time?”. And sometimes it is best to use a specific question: “What needs to be done now and how to do it?”. The leader must know what is happening before it happens! He can choose the role of an unobtrusive, non-authoritarian leader. But whatever approach is taken, it must be seen that effective control is exercised. People need to know that the manager takes the job seriously, so to speak, “keeps the job short.” This is because even the slightest grant can become epidemic and large, and then no one can save the project – such as time, nerves, resources, etc.
What should we control and monitor?
Here are some specific recommendations. We are seriously considering them in connection with our own project.
Monitoring and control of:
- cost in relation to the budget and cash flow;
- changes in the instruction and their impact on the project and the organization;
- the quality of the work;
- the possibility to meet the deadlines;
- the availability of resources.
The control of the project costs is carried out by:
- the cost calculation is prepared at the beginning of the project and is specified when the more detailed planning is done;
- If the calculation exceeds the available funds, we must look for cost-effective options that will preserve quality – a technical method known as value management can help us find the most profitable options.
- contingency amounts are included – often about 5-10 percent of the total calculation;
- break down costs for key tasks and forecast cash flow to track actual costs.
- where additional costs arise during the implementation, other areas are sought in which to make savings.
During the implementation, it is often necessary to make decisions to find a compromise between time, quality, and price. In such cases, the project plan should be used to guide, not manage. You have to think seriously before sacrificing quality. Maybe the deadlines or the budget need to change. Before sacrificing quality, we must look for all other options to deal with the problems.
The control over the project is carried out by monitoring its development, assessing the data, and taking appropriate action in a timely manner.
Things will go smoothly with the help of the following process:
- We make a plan and work schedule;
- We hold meetings;
- Receive and prepare reports on the progress of work;
- After receiving the information we take appropriate actions;
- We update the plan regularly.
It is best to get used to the idea that meetings are inevitable. They are an important part of the manager’s life in project management – team meetings, quality control meetings, coordination meetings, planning meetings, information exchange meetings. Every certified project manager needs to establish these rules to prove not only their certificate but to protect the project from failure. Reference: “What Does Certification Mean to a Certified Project Manager?”, https://smartprojectmanagers.blogspot.com/2021/01/what-does-certification-mean-to.html
The purpose of each of these meetings can be briefly described as follows:
- to monitor the progress of the work according to the instructions and to be aware of the consequences;
- to discuss the implementation of the next stage of the work;
- to gain approvals that are beyond the powers of the project manager;
- to inform people and get opinions from them;
coordinate requirements with other areas of work.
The purpose of the coordination meetings
The purpose of the coordination meetings is to ensure that everything goes according to plan or to identify possible changes in the plans in order to reallocate resources, as well as to inform all those involved.
It must be done so that the meetings are useful.
They are the best time to build a team as a cohesive unit, as well as to bring together groups that are connected to each other, but perhaps work in isolation from each other. Frequent opportunities to be aware of everything that happens are insurance against the familiar troubles of each project – someone on the team does not know that there are changes or has taken his own path. Learn what Joan did for her project as a certified project manager: “Joan is a certified project manager”, https://projectmanagementeurope.wordpress.com/2021/04/01/joan-is-a-certified-project-manager/
Whenever possible, a written agenda for the meeting is used. Clarifying the purpose of the meeting is the first step towards controlling it. Here are some guidelines that are helpful to make meetings productive:
- to prepare and send the agenda and invite people to complete it;
- to receive the reports for the meeting in advance and to send copies to the relevant people before the meeting (the aim is to create an opportunity for feedback);
- to determine the time for starting and ending the meeting and stick to it. One hour is usually not enough, but meetings lasting more than two hours should be avoided unless they are dedicated to planning.
- to always have a chairman and minutes of these meetings.
The chair facilitates the meeting – it is his concern that everyone knows the purpose of the meeting, the issues addressed at it are relevant, to start and end on time. The recorder clarifies the ambiguous points before recording them in the minutes, noting what actions should be taken and who should take them. At the end of the meeting, the recorder checks whether everyone knows what action he is responsible for and whether he has accepted the agreed deadline for transmitting the results of this action.
You can choose a format in which there is a column on the right, indicating who, what and when will perform each necessary action. It is not bad to include in the basic rules the deadline for distribution of the minutes after the meeting. In order to send the reports and minutes to all interested parties, the so-called communication matrix.
Meetings concerning monitoring and control of the project process
It is reasonable to hold the meetings with a minimum number of attendees. The experience of project managers shows that the more people present, the more difficult it is to control meetings and achieve results. If the participation of some people in the meeting is not really necessary, they feel that they are just wasting their time.
In addition, project managers should encourage meeting participants to communicate with each other, as well as receive feedback from those they have spoken to – to contact leaders or team members about issues that concern them. According to project management specialists, meetings and personal conversations between participants are a valuable means of exchanging information.
Such conversations provide an immediate opportunity for questions and answers, as well as a way for the project manager or management to sense people’s moods. Meetings overcome barriers that might otherwise arise. People who may be affected by the project appreciate that we take the time to understand things from their point of view, especially if they are shown that our plan is flexible and can be adapted to their goals if necessary.
Monitoring and control generate reports
We need to introduce specific layout requirements, especially when we receive information from several sources. If there is an accepted format, the information is easily collected.
The project manager and the newly formed team must clearly indicate in the basic rules who is authorized to sign. Reference: “Monitoring and control over the project implementation”, https://wikipedia-lab.org/monitoring-and-control-over-the-project-implementation/
If the documents come from different team members, it should be clearly stated whether the authors’ sign individually or the project manager combines the documents into one joint report and signs it.
It is advisable to make reports in the critical stages of the project, but not less than once a month. Dates for these reports are indicated at the initial stage of the project when the above-mentioned procedure is defined.
Both the leader and the team will be able to write effective and readable reports if they adhere to the five key rules of communication: clarity, brevity, comprehensiveness, accuracy, and courtesy. Actual figures should be compared with preliminary estimates of work, costs, deadlines, and quality.
Deviations from the plan
Deviations from the plan, possible consequences, and problems, as well as recommendations for future work, may be included. A list of people who will receive a copy of the reports is added to the communication matrix.
Communication is largely a means of control. Leaders, beware of professional jargon. Working in a team, you will find that he always sneaks. You need to notice it and not use it when communicating outside the team. When developing the communication strategy, it is recommended to answer the following questions:
- Who will work on the project?
- Who will be affected by the project?
- When should we communicate?
- How to communicate (through a report, letter, memorandum, newsletter, questionnaire, video presentation, meetings, slides, suggestion box)?
- Who is responsible for disseminating the information and in what area?
- What feedback channels do we need and who is responsible for its implementation and action?