4 Steps to Gain Full Traceability into Your Project Information

Posted by Megan Cacioppo on December 6, 2016

4 Steps to Gain Full Traceability into Your Project Information Header Image

How often do these questions come up in your day-to-day life as a project management professional?

  • Where did these actuals come from?
  • What is the authorizing document and when did it get signed?
  • Has everyone approved the change request?
  • How am I ever going to get through this audit?!

Questions like these are common place for organizations of all sizes, across all industries. The key to getting the answers easily (and in real-time) is having full traceability into your project information.

So what exactly is data traceability, you might be asking? Data traceability is defined as “the ability to trace application, location, and history of an activity or item by means of recorded data.” It sounds simple. Yet project controls teams know it is actually very challenging, and the results of poor visibility can be devastating to a project (think failed audits, overruns from scope oversights, and uninformed decision making).

But achieving traceability doesn’t have to be hard. It can be established by organizations of all sizes, at various stages of project maturity, as long as these four key steps are followed:

  1. Step 1. Plan your project structures with the output you want in mind. It’s important that you invest the time to define your project costing structure so that you get the information you need to run your total business – thinking carefully about the end product the business wants to see. Only then can you can construct your projects with coding and work breakdown structures (WBS) that will support rapid collection of “like” information. This step is critical and the payoff is huge.
  2. Step 2: Define and track project management processes. Having and adopting project management principles is the cornerstone of managing projects. All teams need a set of rules to live by that are tailorable to every project type. However, it is important to note that project management processes are not one size fits all – they must be structured for individual teams to follow. There are many tools today, like Deltek PM Compass, that can help automate your monthly business rhythm, pulling teams through required processes with confidence (you can learn more here).
  3. Step 3: Ensure data integrity. Data integrity can only be achieved by making sure your teams follow correct processes. If they don’t follow certain processes, you can bet your data will be wrong. Data integrity issues can also make your key performance indicators (KPIs) invalid – and the consequence of incorrect KPIs is that you may make the wrong decision, potentially costing you and your customer time and money.
  4. Step 4: Perform regular data quality checks. You must perform regular data quality checks, and they must be done in the tools you use for project management. For example, there are tools today that will handle the data-driven requirements from Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), providing you with the metrics you need to know before sending auditors your data. In other words, you can quickly self-audit and correct to be prepared to defend your data anomalies. Some quick examples of self-audit reports are Actuals No Performance and Performance No Actuals. The key is to not only be able to see that an anomaly occurred, but being able to trace back to the exact offending work package with the click of a mouse.

To learn more, I encourage you to download our brand new white paper, How Project Controls Teams Can Achieve Full Traceability into Project Information. Authored by Project & Portfolio Management Evangelist, Kim Koster, this informational piece explores the top data collection challenges organizations face and goes into greater detail on the steps you can take to reach complete traceability at your organization.