Now that the baseline estimate has been created, and stakeholders feel their inputs and concerns have been addressed, we as purveyors of the estimate have done our job. In the world of IT project measurement, many organizations will deservedly feel accomplished that they have armed their development staff with an empirically based roadmap from which to navigate the next x number of months toward delivering a product. Now let the construction and testing begin! But wait, there’s more!
It’s always wise to have a sound estimate, but for added assurance of hitting the budget, schedule, staffing and risk targets, organizations have the option of tracking the project mid-flight. Just as estimating is conflated with planning, tracking can be equally confused with other one-dimensional monitoring of projects underway. So many things can change from the time an estimate is created to the time the first iterations are built. It’s likely that our estimate assumptions will change after some time has passed into the construction process, unless we have reacted to inevitable unforeseen forces. For example, requirement changes, staff turnover, management demanding the project x weeks/months earlier, but still expecting all the original functionality. These are all very real events that are thrown at the PM after the project is underway. We at QSM have provided a solution for this since the mid-80’s in SLIM-Control, a module in our SLIM Suite.
In the scenario above, the blue represents our estimate for schedule by phase, the red is the actual schedule to date, and the black is the schedule forecast to completion. This chart is telling us our delivery will be late by 3-4 weeks. However, we’re finding out months in advance that the schedule we committed to the client is in jeopardy, but we’re discovering this with time to correct its course. What if we reduce functionality? What if we increase headcount? Will either of those actions carry their own set of risks that would put our budget and quality in jeopardy while allowing us to save the schedule? We are equipped to inform our client of those risks, opposed to hoping for the best via heroic efforts from the development team that will likely fall short by no fault of their own. The same analysis can be performed on cost, quality, staffing and size as well.
While estimating is a logical starting point, tracking the project throughout the build will save the team much stress by knowing where they stand the entire time, through delivery.