Few things in project management are more debatable than its life cycle. It describes the stages the project will go through from the beginning until the end. A well-defined life cycle brings order and structure to the project. We already know that the projects must be divided into stages, but how this division must occur and what should be done in each stage still brings a lot of questions to the table. To better understand, we explain below how the life cycle should work so you can understand whether the project planning is being met.
A Brief Overview of the Project’s Life Cycle
Before diving deeper into a project forecast, let’s quickly review the phases of the project life cycle. The project management process can be divided into 5 different groups:
- Initiation: This is the first step, where you discover why the project exists. You need to map the objective, choose a manager, and clarify your approach. The main deliver of this stage is the opening term of the project.
- Planning: This is the step where a detailed plan for the execution of the project is developed. You’ll establish the scope, create a Projects Analytical Structure, and map the schedule. The biggest parts – communication plan, risk management plan, etc. – happens in this stage. The main delivery of this stage, the Project’s plan, must also happen here.
- Execution: In the execution stage, the activities are put into practice and you must actively track the tasks assigned and guarantee that the project remains in progress. You must hold meetings, send status reports, and assure the project will be executed without any problems.
- Control: This must take place simultaneously with Planning and Execution and its focus must be on monitoring the project’s progress. You must monitor activities and milestones to keep the project on track.
- Closing: This is the moment to deliver the project to the stakeholders and to have a formal closure. You will also analyze any challenges, insights, and strengths of the project. The main delivery in this stage is the project’s closure report.
How to Follow the Project Forecast?
While the life cycle guides the phases in which a project should take place, with deliveries and activities well established for each step, how is it possible to monitor whether the progress of the project is happening according according to the final delivery of the project? Tracking the project’s forecast could be challenging unless you had established quantitative metrics to measure it. We have listed below a few different ways to have visibility if the project is really developing the way it should.
1. Use the Project Plan as a Road Map
Has work on completing the project progressed at the rate set out in the plan? Which tasks of the current stage should already be completed? Were the intermediate deliveries completed on time, meeting the milestones? Or are the tasks taking more time than expected? Are the milestones moving or is the team finding extra work besides what was previously defined? To follow up with the project’s forecast you need to use your plan as a script and establish what real progress has been achieved until this moment. After evaluating the forecast regarding the time, you’ll be able to set if your project is delayed or on schedule.
2. Define Tangible Deliveries
To get the most accurate gauge of the actual project forecast, don’t just keep track of the work of the tasks. Anyone can easily say a particular task is 80% finished if they don’t have a well-established delivery criteria. Make sure to use tangible deliveries in your planning to provide verifiable items that allow you to measure the progress of the project. The more tangible deliveries you can track – even intermediate deliveries – the easier it will be to know if a part of the project is actually finished, such as drawings, parts, functions, reports, etc.
3. Use Proper Tools
Using PM tools is a practice that has been helping people for generations and could help to measure the progress of your project, especially because today it is possible to lean on tools that are made specifically to manage projects. They are easy to use and should be available to any person in charge of conducting and delivering a project to success. For instance, there is a tool called The Gantt Graph, which is just an elegant way to express a progressive line that indicates the time that each task is happening, from the beginning until the end of a project. This graph makes it easier to see where you stand in a project’s timeline. Another useful tool is the Project’s Panel. A well-elaborated panel must collect all the metrics of your project and present them in simple graphics and charts so you can quickly locate them. Besides that, if it’s online, it will be updated with real-time data, so you do not stand still looking at past progress, but can visually see where the project actually is.
4. Monitor Costs with KPIs
Knowing whether projects costs are within the budget is essential to assure a positive return on investment. In the initial phase, an estimated cost forecast is made of each individual task. That estimate is used as a base for cost management. Cost management happens with the creation of specific controls to verify the project expenses. It is necessary to establish KPIs that allow you to follow up with these costs and determine if you are respecting the implemented controls. Let’s meet some of the main KPIs that must be monitored:
- Project Cost Variance (PCV): This shows if a project’s spending is above or below the established budget
- Cost Performance Index (CPI): This is a efficiency measure that compares the whole cost forecast with the real cost up to this moment
- Project Schedule Variance (PSV): This is a measure of the efficiency of the schedule expressed as the ratio between the added value and the planned value so far There is no doubt companies who measure the execution of their projects are more likely to succeed. In a competitive market, it is necessary to keep track of the project forecast to deliver the best results, respecting deadlines, and budget. Did you like our article? Sign up for our newsletter and receive more tips to become an expert in project management!