Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Project Tracking Through Milestones

We have a Project management process defined for covering Project Planning (PP) and Project Monitoring and Control (PMC). It includes a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) (task effort size must be about 20 hours), estimation process, assigned resources, etc. We are using MS-Project for tracking the schedule, and each month there is an Excel report with a project status summary.

People think it is very heavy to track the all of the fine-grained tasks in MS-Project. They would prefer tracking the project through milestones in Excel.

I’ve heard about using the burn down chart in Scrum, and I know some organizations use agility within CMMI model.

It is possible to do that? Could we be more “agile”?

The short answer is yes. The CMMI does NOT prescribe any project management tool or level of tracking. These decisions are left up to the organization to make. Sounds like what you need is a process that fits your organization. If people are complaining that the tracking process is too cumbersome to use, then you should definitely examine other methods. Take a top down approach from the business goals and objectives. What project tracking information does a project manager need in order to determine if the business goals and objectives are being met? Once you answer this question, that will help you decide the proper level of project tracking and monitoring. If you are still having difficulty figuring out the best method, work with a CMMI consultant to help you define a process that will be the best fit for your organization.


Thomas said...

I have encountered the same reluctance from project managers in my company to manage project schedule with MS-Project. A causal analysis shows that project managers split their WBS in too many detail, consequently it was too complex to update their schedule. Moreover, the update frequency was sometimes too important. So by recommending to create tasks having more that 5 days of effort and to update their schedule during project review with their team on a week-basis, we have succeed to establish an efficient project planning and tracking process. 55 % of our engineers have managed at least 2 projects during the last 4 years.

I recommend to develop some macros under MS-Project so that you will be able to export under Excel or on any other format. That what we do... we export project key milestones in a database so that we can follow last estimation for milestone end date.

Henry Schneider said...

Hi Thomas,
Thanks so much for your excellent comments. Another method is to establish a standard Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) containing the tasks you want to track and manage. These tasks would need to be clearly defined along with a list of work product(s) produced by each task. If done correctly, then there won't be a problem of making the schedule too complex.
The problem here is analagous to requirements engineering. A systematic approach is to develop the top level requirement (50,000 foot level), functional requirements (10,000 foot level), and the detailed requirements (5 foot level). So for the project schedule you should be looking at the 10,000 foot level. The 50,000 foot level is too coarse to provide any meaningful tracking and the 5 foot level is far too detailed to manage.