Are you Tracking Project Schedule Regularly?
There can be only 2 answers to the above question. Yes and No.
I am appalled when I hear PMs say No to the above question. I hear all sorts of myriad funny reasons for not tracking Project Schedule. Here are some of them:
- Why should I track Project Schedule? The project is going on just fine.
- Oh! The customer demanded to prepare a Schedule and we prepared it. Now, there is no reason to waste more time on it.
- There was a project audit some time ago. We prepared a Schedule to keep Auditors happy. Otherwise developing or tracking it is not at all required.
- Tracking Project Schedule is just a waste of time. It does not provide any tangible benefit.
- I never track Project Schedule and I have been managing projects for donkey years.
- Tracking Project Schedule is not a priority at this time.
But many other PMs say Yes to the above question.
It is true that many PMs do track Project Schedule regularly. But some of them do not understand how to do it properly. They would just enter actual dates and/or duration and be done with it. They do not analyse the Actual Project data to see the variances, modify Project Network as necessary, do forecasting etc.
A good PM must use a Project Scheduling tool like RationalPlan to develop and track Project Schedule. The tracking can be done without a tool also but a tool helps in saving time and improving productivity.
In the next article I will throw some more light on what is meant by tracking and how one should track the Schedule. But for now let us understand why Project Schedule tracking is important. Let us take a look at some of its benefits.
Benefits of Project Schedule Tracking
Determining current status is the most common benefit. Unless we know the Current Status of the Project, we cannot do anything else. Let us assume that our Project Objective is to walk 100 miles towards east. Midway thorough the Project we determine that we have covered 50 miles at a good pace. We can feel happy about it but what if we find that we were actually walking towards West.
Forecasting is a derived benefit. We can reasonably forecast future performance of the Project by extrapolating the current performance.
We can identify Scheduling Bottlenecks while tracking the Schedule. This helps us in taking corrective actions for past bottlenecks and preventive actions for future similar bottlenecks.
We can identify past problems and schedule slippages while tracking. By analysing these we can determine the root cause and prevent similar type of problems from happening in future.
I think Lessons Learned is one of the more important benefits of Project Schedule tracking, if not the most important one. Lessons Learned should be documented regularly. Usually PMs capture them at the end of a project. But by that time it is too late. Usually, by that time, the Project Team is looking forward to new work and they are not motivated enough to devote sincere effort for the Lessons Learned session. Many times important lessons are forgotten by the end of a Project. It is best to periodically capture Lessons Learned. Schedule tracking meetings can be used to document them.
We can Identify Risks, Analyse them and prepare Risk Resolution steps while doing tracking.
PMs should extra urgency while managing Critical Path. Any slippage in Critical Path can lead to Project delay. Critical Path(s) can change as Project moves forward. Critical Path is always Today Forward. It is almost impossible to maintain Critical Path(s) without regular tracking.
The Project Team should interact proactively for project success. During tracking meetings, the team members should discuss about problems, help each other, brainstorm, come out with new ideas et. el. These meetings, if managed well, can improve team spirit, increase collaboration among team members, develop camaraderie and improve overall team motivation.
We should share the Project Progress Reports with Senior Management and Customer after tracking. Regular communication with these stakeholders improves stakeholder engagement and increases chances of project success.
To conclude let us make a promise to ourselves. Let us spend some time on a periodic basis for Project Schedule tracking improve the health of our projects.