Learn about 6 types of information that you should track for every project, regardless of size or complexity, enabling you to have a clear understanding of project deliverables, deal with fewer scheduling conflicts and work gaps, keep better track of project deliverables and work, identify and resolve Issues quickly, and deliver end product that meets customer expectations.
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When running a project, especially a large or complex project, there can be several conditions that cause problems for the Project Manager to deal with:
- Many participants with different backgrounds and motives
- Several concurrent activities
- Several issues that arise
- Several decisions that are required
- Lack of overall organization
When these conditions exist on a project, they can cause several problems such as:
- Misunderstood project deliverables
- Project scheduling conflicts or work gaps
- Missed important project deliverables or work
- Lingering project issues
- End product delivery that doesn’t match the customer’s expectations
As a Project Manager, it’s your responsibility to be extremely organized, be detail-oriented, and coordinate the many “moving parts” of the project. For best results, carefully track these 6 types of information for every project:
- Scope / Charter / SoW
- WBS and Project Schedule
- Design Documents
- Change Requests
- Issues and Risks
If you track these six types of information for every project, then you should be able to:
- Have a clear understanding of project deliverables
- Deal with fewer scheduling conflicts and work gaps
- Keep better track of project deliverables and work
- Identify and resolve Issues quickly
- Deliver end product that meets customer expectations
Related Quotes To Consider:
(The following is the full transcript of this episode of ‘The Project Guide with Tony Zink’, where Project Management author and trainer Tony Zink shares his insights on how to use tools and techniques to get better results on projects.)
Hi, folks. Tony Zink here, Project Management author and trainer, and creator of the Project Manifesto. I show people how to use tools and techniques to get better results faster on their projects, whether that means saving time, saving money, reducing risks, or providing a more stress-free and pleasant experience for everyone involved in the project. If you’re new here, please consider subscribing or following me on this channel. If you’re not tuning in directly on my website, TonyZink.com, then you can go there to get the video for this episode and others like it, the audio podcast for this episode, the entire written transcript, and other goodies, too.
Have you ever had misunderstandings with your project requester or customer about what you’re supposed to deliver for them or how you’re supposed to go about doing it? Have you ever had to deal with scheduling conflicts or work gaps when nothing is being accomplished on your project? Have you ever worked on a project where deliverables or other important work got missed or forgotten about? Have you ever worked on a project where there were issues that didn’t get resolved in a timely manner? Have you ever run a project where the team produced something that didn’t match the customer’s expectations?
As a Project Manager, a major part of your job is to lead and coordinate a project team to produce the finished product that your customer is expecting. On many projects, especially large or complex projects, there are many people involved who are working toward that common goal. People who have different skills, different personalities, different locations, and different motives. There can also be several activities being completed at any given time, several issues that the team is encountering, and several decisions that your customer needs to make in order to keep moving forward with the project.
In order to be a successful Project Manager, you need to be organized, thorough, and detail oriented, and you need to do a fantastic job of keeping track of several different types of information that are important to your project. Aside from keeping detailed notes, which you should be doing regardless of the size or complexity of the project, I’m going to share with you six essential things that you should be tracking on every project to provide the best possible outcome. There may be other types of information that you need to share or you need to keep track of, depending on the type of project that you’re running, but you should be tracking these six things at a bare minimum.
The first thing that you should be tracking for every single project that you run is a scope or a charter or statement of work document. It goes by different names, but essentially, this document is the written agreement or contract between you, the Project Manager, and the person who is asking you to produce the finished product, otherwise known as the requester or the customer. It describes what you will build or produce for them, some general parameters such as size and shape, and generally, how you’re going to go about doing it.
Include who is generally responsible for doing what, such as your team is responsible for building the thing, and your customer is responsible for providing requirements and various approvals throughout the project. It shouldn’t be as detailed as a project schedule, but it should include high-level information such as an overall timeline, overall responsibilities of everyone involved, and overall costs. Don’t fall into the trap of designing the solution here, though. Capture only the customer’s requirements. You should have the opportunity to create a more detailed design a bit later in the project.
The second thing that you should be creating and tracking for every project is a WBS, or work breakdown structure, and project schedule. This is a hierarchical breakdown of the agreed-upon project deliverables that you have agreed to produce for your customer, as well as the activities and the resources required to produce them. These two things typically go hand in hand. In fact, many people create the WBS and the project schedule as the same thing, although technically, they are not. The WBS and the project schedule should have the same general structure, but the project schedule is much more detailed than the WBS.
The WBS is a hierarchical breakdown of the deliverables described in the scope document. If the scope document is created properly, then you should be able to take the high-level deliverables from that document as a starting point for the WBS, which breaks them down further. The project schedule should include deliverables breakdown from the WBS, as well as the scheduled activities and resources required to produce them. You can create a WBS and a project schedule in a spreadsheet, but I highly recommend that you use project scheduling software to create and manage these things.
The third type of information that I highly recommend that you create and track for every project is design documents. This is a detailed document or set of documents that describe how you’re going to build or create the finished product for your customer. Now, designs vary widely in size and detail and format, depending on the type of project that you’re producing. They can be conceptual sketches. They can be an electrical schematic. They can be a computer aided design or CAD drawing. They can be a process flowchart, a written document, and so forth.
Please remember to get the designs approved by your customer before you build anything, or you may run the risk of your customer changing the design and forcing you to spend time and money rebuilding something later. If your customer does want to change some aspect of the design after you’ve gotten that approval, then ask them to reapprove the updated design, as well as any impacts that their change has caused to the project from a timing or cost perspective.
The fourth thing that I highly recommend that you create and track for every project is change requests. This goes hand in hand with your scope document, your project schedule, and your design documents. Change requests are any deviations from the originally agreed-upon project scope, timeline, and cost estimate. You can think of change requests like they’re amendments to the original agreement or contract that you formed between your team and the customer. These changes can consist of scope changes — in other words, changes to what you’re going to deliver — timeline or deadline changes, or cost changes.
These changes can be suggested by the project team or your customer, but they should be approved by the customer after you’ve explained the impacts to any timing and cost on your project. Remember that scope, time, and cost changes can be mutually exclusive. For example, there may be a scope change to your project, but there may or may not be any timeline or cost impacts because of that scope change. Assign each change request to someone for ownership, follow up, and closure, and capture and track every proposed change request in a change request log. The customer approval that you obtain for each individual change request can come in the form of a formal signed document or an informal “agreed” or “declined” type of an email.
The fifth type of information that you’re going to want to track for every project that you manage is issues and risks. Issues and risks are any problems, real or potential, that could derail your project. They may cause your team to have problems producing the agreed-upon scope, they may make it difficult for them to produce the deliverables on the agreed-upon timeline, or they may make it tough to deliver within the agreed-upon budget.
Issues and risks are very closely-related to one another. Risks are simply problems or issues that could happen. Capture and track these items in an issues and risks log, and do it immediately after someone on the team has identified them. It’s very important, especially on high-stakes projects, to address and resolve issues and risks very quickly. When capturing an issue or a risk in the log, assign each item to somebody as the owner who’ll be responsible for its follow up and its closure.
The sixth and final type of information that I highly recommend that you track for your projects, in fact, it might be one of the most important types of information to track for every one of your projects, is sign-offs. A sign-off is the customer’s formal acknowledgement that your project obligations have been met, including any requests that you’ve captured and gotten their approval for. You will need to decide how many formal sign-offs you’ll need for your project, but it’s probably a good idea to ask your customer for a formal sign-off for each major deliverable that you’re producing throughout the project. You may have a single sign-off for a small project with a single deliverable, or you may have several sign-offs throughout a larger project. There should be a correlation between the main deliverables described in the scope document, the main deliverables in your work breakdown structure, and your sign-offs.
Sign-offs are important because you should have an understanding with your customer that anything additional that they want after sign-off should be considered above and beyond your original agreement with the team, and will likely take more time and more money to produce. Agree on the sign-offs with your customer at the beginning of the project. That way, they’ll know what to expect from an approval perspective throughout the project, and they will also understand that any post-sign-off changes will come at a cost. Sign-offs can come in the form of a formal signed document, or they can be in the form of an informal “Thanks, looks good” kind of an email.
To wrap up, if you track these six types of information for every project — scope, charter, or statement of work document, work breakdown structure and project schedule, design documents, change requests, issues and risks, and sign-offs — then you should have a clear understanding with your project customer of what you’re supposed to deliver for them and how you’re going to do it. You should have fewer scheduling conflicts and work gaps when nothing is being accomplished on your project. You should be able to keep better track of project deliverables and other important project work. You should be able to identify and resolve issues in a more timely manner, and you should be able to deliver an end product that better matches your customer’s expectations.
Thanks for tuning in and spending this time with me. I hope that enjoyed these tips and that you found them useful. I’d like to take a quick moment, though, and remind you of two things.
Number one… if you’re not tuning in directly on my website, then you can visit my site at TonyZink.com. You can watch this video and others like it. You can listen to the audio podcast. You can read the entire written transcript and find other goodies there, too.
Number two… please post your thoughts in the comments section. Do you have any questions, tips, or recommendations that you’d like to share? How do you handle situations like this? Some of the best questions, tips, and comments come from people like you, the Project Management community… the people who are out there in the trenches every day, working on projects. So, definitely connect with everybody in the comments section.
Until I see you next time, go back out there and keep building great things.