A common concern is that the lack of a comprehensive project management methodology is a key impediment to being able to evaluate a portfolio of active projects in a consistent fashion.
While this gap may increase the risks of poor data quality or incompleteness, I believe that you can introduce a few standards to support consistent reporting while still enabling project teams sufficient flexibility to choose the degree of rigor that is used to manage their projects.
I would focus on:
1. Task progress reporting – if teams insist on using a percentage complete method of reporting progress against tasks & projects, insist that they follow one of the following approaches – 0/100, 0/50/100, 0/25/50/75/100 and accept no other options. If they are using the (better) method of evaluating the remaining effort on tasks, you can then allow for more granularity.
2. Issue severity – to overcome individual biases (i.e. conservatives vs. gamblers) it is a good idea to define an objective basis for setting the severity of a project issue. For example, if the issue does not have an action plan in place and has the risk of creating a 25% or greater impact to the schedule, it should be flagged as “critical”.
3. Frequency of status reporting – this needs to be driven by your portfolio review team’s schedule. If they meet on a monthly basis, then project data needs to be updated a couple of days in advance of the scheduled meeting date so that you have sufficient time to chase down laggards and do a quick sanity check on the data before it is rolled up for the portfolio review.
4. Define a bare minimum of metrics to be tracked – the following should cover the key knowledge areas:
- Overall work or percent remaining vs. expected overall work or percent remaining
- Forecast project completion date vs. approved project completion date
- Spend to date vs. expected spend to date
- Forecast spend vs. approved budget
- Actual effort vs. planned effort to date
- Forecast overall effort vs. planned overall effort
- # of unresolved critical & high severity issues
- Customer satisfaction – green (“all is well”), amber (“customer has expressed some concerns”), red (“customer is not happy”)
In summary, focus on a few key standards, and allow project teams to have flexibility over the rest. This will help to ease the organization change of introducing a comprehensive project management methodology while still addressing mandatory reporting requirements.