e-commerce platform. While reviewing
the project governance documentation,
Mr. Walton found that the project
manager had kept all status indicators
“This was despite a mutinous team,
constantly missed deadlines, a poor-
performing supplier and a constantly
changing scope,” he says.
It’s common for executives to focus
only on projects with obvious warning
signs while ignoring the others. But
there’s a growing trend among executives to carefully review all projects,
even those with excellent status reports,
Mr. Samman says.
A savvy executive will also ask project teams to track the time spent on
high-level tasks. It’s a good indicator of
where trouble areas may be occurring,
says Joan Bever, managing director of
the technology PMO at media conglomerate Tribune Company, Chicago,
“For instance, in some of our inter-
active development projects, we noticed
there was not enough time spent in
quality assurance testing,” she says. “As
a result, some of the product releases
were experiencing a lot of bugs or
didn’t perform properly when faced
with high-volume activity.”
On the flip side, if the hours spent
in a particular iteration are high, it may
hint that the project is running behind
schedule or is about to go over budget,
Ms. Bever adds.
Other indicators of impending trouble can include the number of scope
changes, budget variance and amount
of labor spent managing the project,
Mr. Warter says.
It’s essential to look beyond those
metrics, too, though. When tracking
the progress of projects, a common
error executives make is “getting lost
in the numbers,” Mr. Warter says. “It
is more important to engage in a conversation with your project management team on how the project is going
and what outcomes you are trying to
>>WHEN YOU’RE THE CLIENT
Consultants can play a vital role by complementing the
internal project management team with their knowledge
and support. But that outside help can add complexity to
the project management process.
“There will be a lot of internal politics that an outside
consultant would not be able to understand and manage,”
says Bassam Samman, CMCS, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
To help monitor project performance, here are some tips
for working effectively with project managers outside your
n Create a detailed communication plan. It should spell out
the type and frequency of information the consultant must
provide to the organization.
n Have a well-defined list of deliverables in the contract—
and make sure the consultants know their performance
assessment will be based on that list, Mr. Samman says.
n When you draft a statement of work, don’t make it
too rigid, says Joan Bever, Tribune Company, Chicago,
Illinois, USA. “Be mindful to add flexibility for both the
vendor and you as scope, deadlines, resources or budget
changes,” she says. “Be clear as to what is in scope for
the project, but also what is not in scope for the project.”
n Always have a representative from your project team
or organization dedicated to oversee the consultants’
activities. “The consultants need to know that the com-
pany is serious about their deliverables,” Ms. Bever says.
“If possible, have them work on site to ensure high com-
munication and collaboration. This will keep consultants
in alignment with the project team’s and company’s
expectations as they change or evolve.”
He advocates that executives conduct
regular “360-degree reviews” of projects. Look beyond the triple constraints
to external threats, strategic alignment
and business readiness trends.
By analyzing that broader organizational context, executives can get a
clearer indication of how a project is
truly progressing, Mr. Warter says.
His company has gone through this
exercise with many of its healthcare
and financial services clients who are
implementing core IT systems. In one
case, the review allowed a CFO to