Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Making life easier (and a bit of process stuff)

Projects generally have a lot of 'interconnectedness'. And please - I don't just mean railway projects.

Processs are rarely 'stand-alone'. The outputs from one process are, more often than not, the inputs fir something else. (So help me) you'll start to hear the words ecosystem and (abandon hope all who enter) 'synergy'.

In an ideal (and possible mythical world) you have ERP, CRM and EPM tools into which all your various risks, issues etc are included. But, from time to time, the enterprising PM may find themselves without these tools and forced to fall back on more prosaic mechanisms (by which I mean Excel).

I've provided a spread sheet here. I call it ACRID (derived from Assumptions, Constraints, Risks, Issues and Dependencies). You'll also come across the term RAID (minus the constraints), and you'll probably not often come across a CORDIAL log which (of course) contains the lessons learned log. Any attempt to include a quality log is headed for the rocks.

We don't want to make life too hard for ourselves and, of course, we'll want to keep an eye on the whole process ecosystem angle so we're not duplicating effort left, right and centre.

I include here a template for a highlight report. I like highlight reports as I know of no better way to bridge the divide between the poets (for whom business transformation is a mere pen stroke) and the plumbers who lie awake all night worrying about it. I take some license but there's a sliding scale in there somewhere.

So, back to the whole inputs and outputs thing. If you take a look at the highlight report template (which is aligned with Prince 2) you'll notice there's quite a bit on work packages and products. Check back to previous posts and you'll have all all you need to cut and paste into the highlight report.

In fact I'll paste in the contents page from the highlight report template and append it with where you derive the content from each section from.

1. This reporting period

Not much going on in here

1.1 Work Packages

...Or here

1.1.1 Pending authorisation

If you need them, you'll have been writing them and you'll know which ones are outstanding authorisation

1.1.2 Completed in this period

From the project plan, paste in relevant sections of WBS

1.2 Products completed in this period

From the project plan, paste in relevant sections of WBS

1.3 Products planned but not started

From the project plan, paste in relevant sections of WBS

1.4 Corrective actions taken during the period

Issue log or other sources as appropriate

2 Next reporting period

Not much going on in here

2.1 Work Packages

...Or here

2.1.1 To be authorised

From the project plan, paste in relevant sections of WBS

 2.1.2 To be completed in the next period

From the project plan, paste in relevant sections of WBS

2.2 Products to be completed in the next period

From the project plan, paste in relevant sections of WBS

2.3 Corrective actions to be completed in the next period

Could be anything - use your judgement to include what you feel is appropriate

3 Product and stage tolerance status

SPI / CPI figures as appropriate (this will have to wait for another day for detailed coverage).

4 Requests for change

From the ACRID log so long as you raise all your changes as issues

5 Key Risks

From the ACRID log

6 Issues

From the ACRID log

7 Lessons Report

From the ACRID log


Some points to bear in mind.
  1. Truncate (i.e. hide a few columns) on the product descriptions, WBS elements, risks etc as you'll not fit them all on a single landscape A4 and the detail is probably more than your audience will want
  2. I'll cover off a bit on the cost performance index (CPI) and schedule performance index (SPI) another day.
  3. Corrective action could mean almost anything - include what you think is appropriate
  4. Some stakeholders will want detailed information about resource burn, budget status or other detailed information not included above - this is a good sign and shows that the sponsor is 'on board' and giving the project focus.
And, to wrap up the topic of the highlight report I conlude with the following key points which I hope will impress upon you the benefit of producing it, even if your stakeholders are sanguine on the topic.
  • It is an excellent tool of communication to all stakeholders, both to relay issues and status concerns but also to keep all parties abreast of progress. It is a principal tool by which the project manager can relay, escalate and communicate issues and anxieties which require board / sponsor input.
  • I find it amongst the best ways of structuring a project board meeting, particularly for stakeholders less experienced in sitting on project boards
  • If (like me) you keep all your WBS elements, product descriptions and logs up to date, with practice, you can produce one of these in about 20 minutes.

No comments:

Post a Comment