During QSM’s 40 years in business we have often been asked to help with software projects that are out of control and riddled with unrealistic goals and soaring costs. Project managers often ask, "where is the light at the end of the tunnel?" In honor of Larry Putnam, Sr., who started QSM back in 1978, here are 10 tips for better project tracking and oversight.
- Capture historical data and keep it simple. Start with a handful of projects and go from there. This will improve your position when negotiating project goals.
- Run a top-down, macro level estimate before your project starts and then keep estimating throughout the project lifecycle. This will enable you to start with the right release level cost and duration targets and will provide the ability to update your plan based on requirements changes.
- Streamline your tracking process. It’s great to capture detailed metrics but it’s also great to focus on tracking the primary release level metrics; size, duration, effort, productivity, and quality. Just the totals once a month can go a long way in helping you better predict when your project will end and how well the system will work at delivery.
- Use an empirically-based model that can curve fit and run forecasts from the actuals that you are capturing. This will enable you to manage uncertainty and predict a reliable budget and schedule.
- Leverage industry analytics to assess your ongoing project performance. Seeing how you compare to industry is helpful for re-baselining the project plan, ongoing negotiations, and process improvement.
- Include a dashboard assessment of plans versus actuals so you can see early in the project lifecycle if your project is getting into trouble. The earlier you see the trouble spots, the better chance you will have of steering the ship back on course.
- Track agile development at the sprint level and at the release level too! Agile development methods often provide good sizing information which can be leveraged when making important re-planning decisions throughout the development lifecycle.
- Track your vendors. The best tracking tools and methods allow you to see when your vendor is going to be late and over budget and when productivity and quality are falling outside of your goals.
- Stay positive. Use these methods as a positive communication vehicle to bring the customer, vendor, stakeholders, and management on the same page.
- Provide good training for your project analysts. This will help bring reliability and consistency to your tracking and oversight process.
What tips would you recommend to keep software projects on track?