Tracking Project Management Details
Most organizations track project budgets and schedule closely during their project implementation work. Lessons learned are less well tracked. Budgets represent money and schedule represents staff or contractor work load, more monetary concerns. Because money is vital in the business environment, elaborate systems have been developed to finely track expenditures and plans in order to get maximum value for business capital. But what about project experiences, the lessons learned during the entire life of a project? How well do organizations track these? Many don't track their project experiences at all.
When it comes to budget tracking, organizations use spreadsheets, databases and custom forecast applications to determine how all money is used. There is a cost for all business items which must be paid by the company in the form of salaries, equipment purchases and interest on debts. Companies strive to know exactly how much money is required by a project and when. Entire divisions of accountants and economists are employed to ensure that the capital assets of companies are used efficiently in order to increase profits.
Many companies use complicated scheduling and task tracking applications to monitor staff and contractor work on projects. Project tracking tools allow extensive recording of tasks, staff assigned to tasks and the completion metrics of tasks. Task duration, start time, end time, planned versus actual are recorded and reported. Essentially, such scheduling and task tracking is really an extension of budgeting. The computer applications used to track schedule and cost are not useful for task tracking. They are cumbersome for entry, they are expensive and reporting is complicated.
Contrast the situation most companies have with their project tracking systems. Many companies have little or no formal mechanism recording project experiences. When a project is underway, events occur as planned, or not. Each of these represents a potential lesson for the organization. Project managers working on future, similar efforts, might learn a great deal from a quick review of prior projects. Even dissimilar projects may benefit from the results of others. Perhaps a project developed a new technology. Another project is started which could use some or all of the new technology. If the second project manager doesn't know that the technology is available in house, he could possibly develop it again or purchase such technology elsewhere. These represent direct costs to the company, costs that might have been avoided.
The problem with project tracking in most organizations is that they either place little importance on it. They do not have easy to use applications that allow quick recording of lessons learned. In order to be effective, project tracking must be quick and easy so that all project team members do it. Everyone involved in a project is important and their work is often vital to the project and the company. Everything done by the team should be recorded. This is obviously best if a project tracking application is available which is easy to use. If it is, then the team will start to document their project experiences in a regular and consistent basis. Everyone involved in a project should use such an application if the benefit is to be maximized.
Consider the case where a project is wrapping up. A project team may have an extremely competent person working on vital tasks. As they begin to finish their work, they are naturally in demand on other projects. There is a great expense if the person is idle. Instead, the company often pressures the project manager to free up the person as soon as possible. Perhaps another project reaches a stage when they desperately need expert services. If the expert has not yet documented their experience on the first project, what might happen? If he moves to another role early, he might never document his tasks. The company benefits because the expert is not idle, he is completing tasks for the new project. It would seem that money has been saved. What if the company later has a project which is similar to the first one? This project runs into problems that were solved by the expert. Without documentation in the project file, the new project has no way of knowing how the problems were solved. It is very possible that the project manager spends new money to fix a problem that was previously solved. The company pays for the same work twice.
Project tracking software should be easy to use and hosted on the Internet for maximum efficiency. Ease of use is vital so that all team members are able to save their project experiences. They become habituated in the use of such a tool. The tool allows them to easily record the key points that occurred during each task. By having the tool available on the Internet, with adequate data protection, it encourages team members to enter experiences the moment that they occur. The application enforces structure on the project tracking issues. There is a minimum of complexity involved with applications. The best tracking applications offer management reports that may be used to show the extent of work entered into the system. Good information retrieval options allow company staff to search the body of project knowledge for items that will help them on their projects.
Business organizations need to understand that project tracking is important for all aspects of the project. The triple constraints of Schedule, Cost and Scope dictate that adequate tracking should exist for each. Schedule and Cost are quite well tracked by most organizations but scope is not. Scope tracking requires that lessons learned during project planning and execution are saved. Experiences of the project team represent cost to the company, cost that should not be wasted. By avoiding duplication of costs, companies save money. By reviewing the lessons learned by one project, a project manager may find ways to solve problems easily and save the company money. This can only be done if an efficient and easy project tracking application is available for use by the entire project team at all times.
Luckily, an easy to use project tracking application is now entering the beta stage of development. Soon companies will be able to use the application to track their project experiences. Reports will be available that show the level of work performed on projects. Easy querying of project lessons learned will be possible. By using this tool, companies can expect to increase their overall project efficiency which will lead to significant cost savings.