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Progress and Performance Monitoring
With any project that's intricate, involved and worth completing, the progress and performance need to be consistently monitored. Proper project monitoring allows all stakeholders in the project to determine if the project is on course or not.
One method of monitoring the success and development of a project is via performance indicators. These indicators are flags which provide proper image of a project's impact, outcomes, outputs, and inputs as a means of evaluating the overall progress of the project toward its objectives (Alexander, 1996). Such indicators are also used to evaluate the success of the project and how closely the project is reaching its desired end result or outcome. "Indicators organize information in a way that clari-es the relationships between a project's impacts, outcomes, outputs, and inputs and help to identify problems along the way that can impede the achievement of project objectives" (Alexander, 1996).
There are many uses and factors which are directly related to performance indicators, though more than anything, performance indicators help to provide an accurate snapshot of how well a project is evolving while demonstrating if there's anything that needs to be tweaked or adjusted along the way. Other factors and main ideas which are directly connected to project progress and performance monitoring are strategic planning, performance accounting, forecasting and early warning during program implementation, measuring program results, program marketing and public relations, benchmarking and quality management (Alexander, 1996). Furthermore, from an outside perspective, it can be too easy to forget that with any project, there's a tremendous amount of money and time at stake. Thus, monitoring and assessing becomes something that absolutely crucial to the success of the project, and to ensure that the project is on due course and that the money is not being badly spent, over or under-spent, or otherwise frittered away. "A project represents a set of promises that are made to stakeholders about what will be achieved with a set of resources in a given timeframe. Monitoring provides crucial information about how the project is performing, which helps decision makers and other stakeholders track how well the 'promises' are being kept" (iucn.org, 2004). This is a truly insightful and accurate assessment of what any given project is: a series of promises that absolutely need to be kept to all parties involved, particularly the ones who are bank-rolling the project. Monitoring offers all leaders and managers a powerful tool to track implementation so that they can pinpoint all obstacles which are negatively affecting the project's success, as early as possible (iucn.org, 2004). This truly acts as a form of information for green-lighting any changes in management. In fact, when it's well-used, it can help to justify all changes in management and to zero-in on necessary interventions which could help in avoiding problems or targeting necessary solutions.
One of the lesser-known powers of monitoring is that it was be a powerful motivator for all stakeholders in that it helps in generating a communal understanding of the project and the contexts of the project (iucn.org, 2004). The information can offer a greater level of accountability, credibility and overall confidence in the endeavour being undertaken (iucn.org, 2004). There are two overwhelmingly crucial aspects of monitoring: projects operation and results.
Discuss how they are applied in a project environment as suggested in the literature (30%)
While it's important to have a truly comprehensive understanding of all these aspects of project management, it's even more crucial to be able to implement them effectively when the project is mid-way. One of the most fundamental aspects of this revolves around the issue of strategic planning. "For any program or activity, from a development project to a sales plan, incorporating performance measurement into the design forces greater consideration of the critical assumptions that underlie that program's relationships and causal paths. Thus performance indicators help clarify the objectives and logic of the program" (Alexander, 1996). It's quite common with many projects that the course, plan or path will need to be adjusted mid-way. Performance indicators are thus crucial in allowing the strategic planning to adjust and to be adjusted. A similar tool which can be applied in a project environment that can offer a clear view of whether a project is on the right path is via performance accounting. Performance accounting can help one determine if resource allocations decisions are being made well and if they are being properly utilized to help guide resources to the most successful activities, thus pushing for the most efficient and effective use of the budget (Alexander, 1996). This factor should absolutely not be underestimated. Performance monitoring is one of the most influential tools that can be harnessed in order to offer an accurate snapshot of a project's progress. For example, looking at the budget can give one the most accurate look as to whether a project, at its mid-point, is on schedule, depending on whether it is over-budget or under-budget. If a project is over-budget, this could be highly indicative of the fact that it is being mis-managed, rushed or otherwise off track. If a project is under-budget, this could indicate that the project is sluggish, behind schedule and that there simply isn't enough momentum to keep pushing it forward. Performanace monitoring through accounting, if used correctly, can "direct resources to the most successful activities and thereby promote the most ef-cient use of resources" (Alexander, 1996).
As these activities are occurring, there still needs to be forecasting and early warning while the project is developing. The project still needs to be measured against common indicators which will demonstrate if a project is pointing towards a future performance, offering feedback that can be harnessed for pinpointing and identifying components that need to be aggressively bettered, and to suggest what needs to be done (Alexander, 1996). Measuring and assessing program results will help in determining if a program has achieved goals that are directly connected to its objectives, not simply what it has done thus far: this is a truly powerful and important means for fostering an environment of accountability (Alexander, 1996). Other tools, such as benchmarking will help in generating data where points in the program can be measured against other aspects: "They also provide a way to improve programs by learning from success, identifying good performers, and learning from their experience to improve the performance of others (Alexander, 1996).
During the journey that the project undergoes, there needs to be constant and consistent quality management, completed by a quality manager and a corresponding team. This team can consistently assess not simply the progress or stage of the project, but whether the project is living up to all expectations and what can be done about that if not. The quality management team needs to be the individuals who are constantly making clear diagnostics about the project and constantly assessing and re-assessing if anything needs to be done or done differently.
At some point, the leaders of the entire program need to determine how and where program marketing and public relations will fit in. "Performance indicators can be used to demonstrate program results to satisfy an external audience. Performance data can be used to communicate the value of a program or project to elected officials and the public" (Alexander, 1996). Even if a program is absolutely top secret and there is the argument that the public will either have no interest in it, or should have no knowledge of it, certain amounts of marketing will need to be done, even if it's just with the programs stakeholders or internal to the company. Such marketing will help to give everyone not only a feeling of achievement and value, but the marketing will also help in giving everyone a clear picture on what has been accomplished and why it's important.
Using earned value is a truly vital means of monitoring the project performance. "Earned Value Management (EVM) is a technique that measures project performance against the project baseline. The Earned Value calculations are studied and memorized by all project managers seeking PMP certification. However, their use in practice is inconsistent. EVM is considered by Cardinal to be one of the 'critical few' best practice areas for monitoring project performance from both a cost and schedule perspective" (Jang, 2013). Earned value can thus be such an important tool for any project really, because it's so common to consider projects with the most binary form of thinking: ahead of schedule vs. behind schedule or over budget vs. under-budget (Jang, 2013). While all these factors have a considerable aspect on the overall project cost, real project monitoring is still far more nuanced than these binary modes of thinking.
For example, earned values and their related calculations can force a project manager to think about things like Planned Value (PV),Actual Cost (AC), Schedule Variance (SV) = EV -- PV, Schedule Performance Index (SPI) = EV / PV, Cost Variance (CV) = EV -- AC, Cost Performance Index (CPI) = EV / AC Estimated at Completion (EAC)…[continue]
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