Going beyond collecting and reporting project data

In project management,  software such as Microsoft Project and Basecamp made  collecting, saving and reporting project data much easier. Now all the job elements and timelines can be stored, called up in an instant, presented in a clear form and shared. It was such a big improvement that some people began to think of the software itself project management.

But project management is not about gathering data. Project management is about making day-to-day decisions and avoid problems. PM decisions are centered around three constraints:

  1. Budget
  2. Time
  3. Features (or project objectives)

Now, the big question : IS YOUR PROJECT DATA RELIABLE ? Can you make the right decision at the right time ? I say yes if your data collection and reporting respect acknowledged project best practices. If your project plan is sound, project control will be based on correct assumptions. You cannot wait for an end of project audit to tell you your plan was not following best practices. You need to know right away to remove project process risk from the equation.

A PM identifies all risks related to these three constraints and makes decision accordingly. A good PM doesn’t sit in front of a computer all day. A good PM emails and calls and has face-to-face contact with project resources and stakeholders. A PM makes decisions with data that must be reliable. I would compare it to Command and Control in the military (…Command and control functions are performed through an arrangement of personnel, equipment, communications, facilities, and procedures employed by a commander in planning, directing, coordinating, and controlling forces and operations in the accomplishment of the mission… – Wikipedia). These are analogies I can use since I spent more than ten years in the Army.

In the Army, good intelligence is the key to winning wars. In project management, sound project data is the key to project success.