Reviewing PRINCE2 Progress
Two types of progress controls are used, and these are event-driven and time-driven controls.
Event-driven controls are triggered when a particular event occurs, for example, at the end of the stage or completion of a significant deliverable. The creation of an exception report also starts with them. Such triggers may occur outside the project through important milestone events such as an organizational audit.
By way of contrast, Time-driven controls occur at predefined periodic intervals, and examples of these are the highlight report being produced during a stage for the project board, or regular checkpoint reports giving the project manager who is reviewing the progress of a particular work package and the products being created within it.
There is typically a sequence of actions the project manager would want to take when considering the progress within the stage and project. Using the stage plan as an example, this can be referred to at a given time to ascertain planned progress on creating the products. This is then compared against actual progress.
If there is a variation between the two, corrective action must be taken. Considering such corrective action is given by acknowledging what work has yet to be done and the availability of resources to carry that out.
Reviewing Progress – Project Plan.
The PRINCE2 project plan includes the performance targets (typically time, cost, quality, and risks) and tolerances set at the project level. Any forecast deviation of such tolerances must be escalated to the project board via an exception report. This will then need to be escalated by seeking corporate or programme management advice for corrective action.
Reviewing Progress -Stage Plans.
The project manager uses these for the day-to-day control of the stage and will contain the activities, their timescales, and the resources to carry them out. The project manager will use the information within the stage plan to carry out any corrective action should that be necessary or to escalate to the project board via an exception report if stage tolerances are under threat.
Reviewing Progress -Exception Plan.
The project board may request this, which has been considered based on an exception report, and, if authorized, will replace the plan that would have no longer delivered within its tolerances. The directing a project process will be used by the project board to carry out such authorization was it they believe it necessary.
Reviewing Progress -Work packages.
The control here is that work can only commence during this stage once the project manager has authorized a work package covering that work. The team manager or a specialist team member must accept this work package before work commences.
Optionally, tolerances may be set at the work package level. A work package may be carried out formally or informally and given to internal staff or third parties such as contractors. Progress against each work package is reported to the project manager via the regular checkpoint reports.
Reviewing progress at project and stage level
The Controlling A Stage process is used here, and the project manager will review the work package progress regularly via the regular checkpoint reports. In addition, the project manager will have various registers and logs to help ascertain and control progress.
The project manager will also want to monitor trends to ensure that the future forecast for the remainder of the stage will complete within tolerance bounds.
Here is the list of the registers and logs that the project manager will use:
Reviewing Progress – Daily Log.
This records any small action and can be marked off when completed. Sources for these actions may include checkpoint reports, quality review outcomes, or any ad hoc conversations. Small and seemingly inconsequential actions may be missed and could become issues or risks if allowed to continue unheeded. The daily log will help stop this from occurring.
The daily log can also be used to record issues and any other concerns, observations, or notes. Any significant actions, however, should be entered into the stage plan, and a reminder of this should be entered in the daily log if that was the source of such actions.
Reviewing Progress – Issue Register.
This is used whenever any issues must be treated formally and would be a request for a change of specifications, or problems/concerns. Again, trends in raising such issues can provide evidence of progress problems.
Reviewing Progress – Risk Register.
The project manager will want to regularly review the risk register as part of reviewing stage status, as it is a record of all identified risks. As the project progresses through the various stages, risks should gradually decrease as uncertainty within a project will naturally diminish. Particular attention should be paid to the aggregated level of risks as this may cause problems for future progress within the stage and project.
Reviewing Progress – Quality Register.
The quality register is a record of all plan’s quality activities and should be regularly reviewed to determine that the outstanding quality activities are progressing to plan. An example here is that if products are failing their quality reviews or considerable rework is being undertaken; then this can lead to progress problems.
Reviewing Progress – Product Status Account.
This is a report and typically can be requested by the project manager, project assurance, or project board members. It provides a snapshot of the status of products within the project, a management stage or a particular aspect of the project.
The product status account shows planned and actual dates for crucial points within the creation, review and approval of products within the plan. It is derived from the configuration item records.
Many techniques are available to measure project progress, but three are particularly useful and worth mentioning.
Reviewing Progress – Milestone chart.
As the name suggests, this is a graphical chart showing that he planned actual milestones within a stage and plotted against an appropriate time scale. There are variations, such as the waterfall chart plotting planned and actual milestones against a time frame.
Reviewing Progress – The ‘S’ curve.
This plots the plan’s cumulative cost or work effort against a time frame. Actual progress can be added to the graph to compare progress against the plan. It takes its name from the fact that fewer resources will be used at the start and end of a project and that most of the work will occur during the middle and hence follows a shallow curve somewhat similar to the letter S.
Reviewing Progress – Earned value management.
PRINCE2 has the product-based technique as a starting point for all plans, and the use of critical points where each product is completed, this ties in nicely with the method of earned value management (EVM). The technique is powerful because it avoids the ambiguity of merely measuring, for example, actual cost against planned cost, as any variances are open to interpretation as to whether the project is overspending all behind schedule, for example.
Reviewing Progress – The Lessons Log.
One of the seven PRINCE2 principles is that the project management team learns from experience, which means that lessons are proactively sorted out, recorded and actioned throughout the project. Indeed, by the very act of reviewing progress, valuable lessons may be identified and hence learned. Such lessons may be obtained from any aspects, including issues, roles and responsibilities, tailoring, quality statistics or performance measurements.
Reviewing Progress – Lessons Report.
Lessons may learn from any errors during the project. Learning from them means that action must be taken to implement such improvements, either to the current project to implement immediately or to future projects.
When reporting progress, the frequency and level of detail should reflect the amount of control required. The progress information may be less frequent during design stages, all for highly experienced teams, then less regular reporting may be appropriate.
There are four reports which help in progress control by communicating essential information upwards and at important control points throughout the project:
Reviewing Progress – Checkpoint Report.
This gives progress of the product creation within a work package, and the frequency of such a report will be laid down within the work package itself. When the project manager receives such reports, they will use these as part of the progress assessment room reviewing the current stage status.
Reviewing Progress – Highlight Report.
At each end-stage assessment, the project board will determine the frequency of highlight reports for the following stage or the remainder of the project. This should be documented within the communication management approach document.
The Highlight Report is part of the management by-exception process, allowing the project board to manage by exception by understanding the tolerances that have been set and our remaining.
Therefore the highlight report should confirm the confidence of the project board that progress is being made within such tolerances or make decisions by providing early warning of possible problems that may need their involvement to resolve.
Reviewing Progress – The Communication Management Approach.
This will determine which other key stakeholders should receive copies of a highlight report. The project board may also issue the hall all summaries of highlight reports up to corporate or programme management.
Reviewing Progress – End Stage Report.
The project board needs information on the progress to date; then, the project manager will produce the end-stage report at the end of each management stage to provide this information.
The End Stage Report should include information on the current stage and the overall project situation. Still, the next stage plan should provide sufficient information for the project board to make an informed choice on what to do next with the project.
Reviewing Progress – End Project Report.
When the final work package has been approved within the final stage, the project manager will use the closing a-project process to provide the management products to put before the project board so that they can evaluate the project and authorize closure or otherwise.
As part of reviewing the progress at any point within the project, the management by exception process must be mentioned. This will typically be set via tolerances at the project plan, stage plan, and, optionally, work package levels. Whenever any of these are forecast to exceed tolerances, they must be escalated to the next management level.
Reviewing Progress – Work package level exceptions.
If tolerances are optionally set at the work package level, then the team manager must inform the project manager of progress via regular checkpoint reports.
If Work Package tolerances are forecast to be exceeded, then the team manager must notify the project manager via an issue. After receiving this, the project manager will advise what corrective actions must occur.
Reviewing Progress – Stage level exceptions.
Whenever a stage is forecast to exceed its tolerances, the project manager will enter this on the issue register and raise an issue report, these will analyze the details of such a deviation, and the project manager will provide an exception report for the project board.
The project board will consider such a report and may request that the project manager produces an exception plan or prematurely close the project. Assuming the former, the project manager will update the relevant information and present the facts to the project board at an exception assessment. The project board will either approve this, request some rework, or prematurely close the project.
Other actions that the project board may take are to remove the cause of the problem, accept it and adjust tolerance levels, or request more time to consider or reject the recommendations contained within the issue report.
Reviewing Progress – Project level exceptions.
Suppose the project is forecast to exceed its project tolerances. In that case, the project board no longer has the authority to manage the project and must therefore refer the matter upwards to buy the corporate or programme management for them to decide. In such a case, the project board may request the project manager to produce an exception plan for the entire project.
Fully compliant with the current PRINCE2 2023 Syllabus
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