A few years ago, Sweden was in the headlines for experimenting with a six-hour workday.
In this new series from Replicon, we cover every step in project management from A to Z. In our third segment, we discuss step number three: executing a project.
You’ve made it this far in the project management cycle, and now it’s time to take action. Typically consuming the most time, energy, and resources, the Execution Phase is demanding but crucial. This is where all your hard work comes into fruition – with a carefully selected team, defined scope, estimated costs, and more.
And here is your project’s raison d’être – building the actual product or deliverable for your client. The why, what, who, when, and where have already been determined in the Planning Phase, and the success of your project relies on the strength of the foundation you built. Resources have been allocated to specific tasks with start and end dates to move the project forward effectively, with no one working ahead or behind schedule – the previous phase having been designed to enable task assignment, communication, and collaboration now. The focus has now switched to following processes, meeting objectives, and maintaining quality.
Monitor And Control
At the same time your team is implementing all of the above, project managers will begin to reconcile the actuals with the estimates. Any discrepancies will soon become clear, and teams can leap into action to prevent any disruption before it throws the project off course. There are multiple sub-phases to keep track of here:
Examine Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
Key performance indicators are the metrics you track to measure your team’s progress and performance. Are all milestones staying within budget? Are resources distributed evenly, or is there a shortage – or perhaps even overstaffing? Are all the client’s standards for quality being met? By reviewing KPIs in reports or on dashboards, these concerns can be assessed at a glance:
- Project Schedule and Status: In the Planning Phase, you and your team developed a detailed timeline to guide your progress. Now, you can see in real-time exactly how on-track your deliverables are, and whether they will be completed on time. You can also reference this KPI as a litmus test for how effectively scope was defined.
- Resources Utilization: Are your team members being productive? If so, what are they working on? Here, you can visualize whether resources are maximizing their time on billable tasks, or burning precious energy on administrative work. And even the best team members can burn out – take a look and ensure no one is under or over-utilized.
- Costs: At the same time, be sure to keep a keen eye on costs. What did you forecast, and where are you ending up, based on work done? Any inconsistencies will become clear using a visual representation of your KPIs, and can be tackled as they occur.
- Billing: With the project underway, cash flows will start coming in. Work in progress must be managed effectively, as well as keeping an eye on billing status. It is here that project managers must collaborate with finance teams closely to keep clients up-to-date, and ultimately understand what the success of this project means in terms of project business metrics and profitability.
Communicate with Stakeholders
Both internal and external stakeholders require regular updates on project status. Don’t leave them to seek out information for themselves; provide all the detailed data they’re looking for in meetings or use accessible software to provide better context into workflows, KPIs, and progress. It’s also a good time to refer back to the project charter and determine if scope has changed – for instance, clients requesting changes that result in modifications to costs or schedule.
As discussed in the Planning Phase, risk assessment allows teams to identify potential problems that could arise, analyze their likelihood of occurring, take action to prevent avoidable risks, and minimize the ones that you can’t. Risk management is where you actually walk the talk. Identify risks in the budget, timeline, or beyond, and ensure you have the right tools already in place to handle issues when they come up; for example, a solution that can reliably provide real-time visibility into financial health, resource availability, and more.
Time to take a deep breath, exhale, and relax. Once you’ve gotten through the Execution Phase, you and your team deserve it. It’s a lot of hard work, but when you’ve taken the time to learn what to expect – and how to handle it – your clients will be thrilled with the output.
Stay tuned for the last post in our series: Closing Out A Project.