Tracking all of the variables in a typical project can seem like a daunting task. As with any undertaking of this magnitude, it’s best to start by determining exactly what it is you need to track. There are many ways to approach project performance metrics, but it all boils down to two important factors: A project needs to be delivered on time AND under budget. If you deliver projects that are always on time and under budget, your clients and your management will be pleased.
Timing is everything
You can deliver the highest quality project at the lowest possible cost – but if it’s a year too late it won’t be successful. Delivering projects on time is a top priority for satisfying your clients. Therefore, your project management dashboard must include information about project schedules, milestones, and progress against target delivery dates.
- Schedule: Let’s start with the schedule. As we know things don’t always go according to plan. Therefore, your schedule should provide more information than just the work ahead and people assigned to do the work. It should include previous weeks or months and show the actual time spent on scheduled tasks and whether these tasks were completed in the time allotted. This will help you know when and how to adjust the current schedule if actual work being completed isn’t matching up with the project schedule.
- In the same way the dashboard is broken into smaller pieces or components, the project should be broken into smaller pieces or milestones. Monitoring your progress against project milestones is important. As we see in the sample chart above you’ll want to compare three trend lines. The first is your project milestone trend line – what was agreed upon in the contract. Against this, you’ll want to include a second trend line that tracks time spent and committed towards completion and a third trend line that shows the project’s reported percent complete. Comparing these three trend lines will give you a better view into your project’s performance and will allow for much better forecasting capability.
- Earned Value Analysis (EVA): With forecasting in mind, routine entry of project completion estimates paired with project cost and budget information will give you another key component of the project management dashboard: Earned Value Analysis (EVA). An EVA chart provides a project manager with the insight necessary to know when a project is going off course so adjustments can be made to keep it on course for on time delivery.
A Tale of a Timesheet
Now that we’ve got the project timing aspect covered – the second half of a successful project is to make sure it is kept under budget. This requires closely monitoring all project costs - timesheets, expenses, and consulting fees that will be charged against the project.
- Project Snapshot: You’ll want to include a project snapshot report on the project management dashboard. This report compares the project budget to the amount you’ve billed the client and the total unbilled activity, referred to as work in progress (WIP). Having this information for the project as a whole, as well as each phase of the project will help you ensure every phase of the project remains under budget. With this detailed comparison, you’ll always know where you stand at any point of the project’s life cycle.
- Timesheet Detail Report: The majority of the costs represented in the snapshot report will be made up of the project team’s timesheets. It’s important that you’re able to drill down to see the details that make up this report. Pairing the snapshot report with a timesheet details report makes this even more powerful. Make sure that your timesheet details report allows you to easily separate time by project, phase, and employee so you can easily identify and resolve any problems. The ability to include timesheet notes in your report will add an additional layer of depth to your dashboard.
So what else should the perfect project management dashboard include?
Well, that depends on additional metrics you need to track based on the variation of your projects. However, regardless of the types of projects you are managing - every project management dashboard should contain the basic elements we’ve described here: Scheduling, EVA, Project Snapshot, and Timesheet detail. When you can easily track these components on your dashboard you can be confident that your projects will be more successful!