Join Bonnie Biafore for an in-depth discussion in this video Getting status updates, part of Managing Small Projects.
Once team members go off to work on their assignments, you'll want to find out what they get done, and what they still have left to do. Updates tell you where the project stands and whether you need to do anything to get it back on track. The updates you need depend on what's important to the customer. However, two measures almost always top the list. Most customers have a finish date in mind, whether it's getting the roof on a house before cold weather sets in, completing a user manual before a product launch, or opening the new gym location before the fall fitness rush.
Cost is the other given. For freelancers, contracts often have a budget or not to exceed amount. If you get paid by the hour, you either have to finish your work within the allotted number of hours or get approval for more time. If your project is in a large organization, you might have a corporate budget you have to stick to. You can keep people working on tasks by making the update process as easy as possible. Ask for only the information you really need.
Then, put together a simple form for your team members to fill out, and give to you; whatever is easiest, an email or a spreadsheet for example. If your team is really small, you might get all the info you need at a team meeting. The level of detail depends on the project. But, here's what you might need to know to figure out when the project will finish. First, find out when tasks start, because that usually affects when they finish.
Second, you need to know the progress that's been made, and more importantly, when the people working on the tasks think they will finish. That way, you'll know when the tasks on deck can get started. If your team members are employees and you don't need to account for their hours, you can stop there. But, if your project pays people by the hour or day, you need to know how many hours team members have worked on their tasks so far, so you can track the money that's been spent.
When hours matter, you need two estimates for the remainder of the work; how many hours team members think it will take to finish, and when they think they will finish. That's because people might work less or more in an 8 hour day. For example, the hire movers tasks started on time on July 3rd, and has 6 hours completed as of July 6th. July 4th was a holiday, so the person working on this task averaged about 2 hours each workday so far.
The team member estimates it's going to take another four hours of work, and she won't be done until July 8th; two hours over the estimated work, and two calendar days past the plan finish date. So, you will have to check the schedule to see if that delay affects other tasks. You might also check whether the extra hours affect your budget. When you start a project, think about what's important to the customer, and then see whether there are tracking tools for getting the information you need already available in your organization.
If not, identify an easy way to get data from your team members. If the team is very small, discuss what you need and find out how they would like to submit data. Regardless of what data you collect and how you collect it, status updates are the foundation for the next steps in managing your project; evaluating how the project is going and determining whether you need to make course corrections.
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- Defining the life cycle and scope of small projects
- Identifying the project customer and other stakeholders
- Determining the right level of management
- Scheduling work
- Managing risk
- Keeping things moving
- Evaluating the project
- Getting sign-off and tying up loose ends<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.