Monday, May 28, 2012

Proportionality in controls

Early identification of the 'pinch' points and putting more effort towards controlling those elements is, in my opinion, time well spent.

In the example below, we're 5 months in on a project, the customer isn't too sensitive to cost, but is extremely sensitive to delays.

Doubtless there are a few ways of tracking quality. I've often thought that if you're handing over  project deliverables sequentially, CPI and SPI sort of give you a 'QPI' or quality performance index since your customer is signing off acceptance of products as you go. 

With IT projects you do involve the customer in test and review activities throughout the design and development work, but sign-off tends to be a bigger bang type activity. The PM of any IT project needs to be fully cognisant of the customer's wants, needs and any deficiencies as an ongoing process. This activity is encompassed within testing and defect management.

I'll do a post at a later date on the range of metrics relating to defect management which I like to capture but here I've singled out something I've always been very keen on. See the bottom of the three charts above. Something not entirely clear is that that the graph isn't cumulative. Each month the number of defects identified that month is plotted against the number of defects fixed that month. At a glance, this shows whether or not you have an unsustainable, worsening or improving state with regard to defect identification and resolution.

Note the control charts above, not only are these easily maintained and communicable, they illustrate trends and the tolerances to which the project is expected to adhere. Incidentally, I'm a fan of publishing this sort of material directly to the project team - it encourages shared ownership and good alignment of decisions throughout the project team.

As can be seen above we've got more tolerance on cost than time. Take the cost (CPI) plot, we went from a good start, to holding steady, followed by three consecutive periods of deteriorating performance. With the benefit of hindsight it would have been useful to have a more frequent reporting interval - if we'd had fortnightly reporting - somewhere between month 2 and month 3, it would have become apparent that corrective action was required, and consequently far more easy to justify.

While the time (SPI) plot serves to illustrate this point very well, what we could have seen in advance was the very limited tolerance on schedule would have benefit from more regular reporting for precisely the reason above. The emergence of a trend would have happened far more quickly.

These sort of indicators are one approach to helping ensure that within any given project, benefits are maximised and risk is minimised. The best indicators are those that inform timely decision making before things go off the rails, not simply reporting on the fact that they have.


  1. Some interesting points. To continue the thought process, what ideas would you have about putting in place procedural controls relating to a 'trigger' point for reviewing a project more frequenntly? A set of project health criteria, for instance, that would automatically trigger the review the project henceforth to be more frequent and, if necessary, more thorough.

  2. Hi Simon - thanks for the comment. In an ideal world, my view is that you'd get these 'feeds' from either the PMO or by getting to know your stakeholder's sensibilities. Ideally, you set these controls 'up front' before the problem arises rather than as a response to an issue when it's happened. In the scenario where you are responding to identified shortfalls, you could look to the lessons learned log or the issues register for inspiration. However, these won't tell you specific numbers as these are going to be on a case by case, customer by customer basis.

    However, specifically and with a view to answering your question, breaching tolerances may be an opportune time to review controls or perhaps three successive indicators / indices in consecutive reporting interval which may indicate the emergence of a trend.