Project Management for HR Projects – the Monitoring and Controlling process
With your project well underway, now is the time to monitor and track progress and control the schedule, costs, and project scope. We’ve touched on this briefly in the other webinars, but remember that the project cycle can be a continuous flow of initiating, planning, executing and closing different phases of the project. Very rarely do you see a project that goes from initiating to planning, to executing to close with very concrete starts and stops between each process.
The monitoring and controlling process covers all aspects including monitoring where we are (whether we are creating the project plan, or completing the 3rd milestone) and controlling the things that can impact project success. This process really is a gray area in your project because of its continuous and constant presence of tracking, reviewing and regulating the project progress, performance and changes.
Let’s turn our performance evaluation example into a multi-phase project and you’ll see that while we might be closing down test Phase 1, we are ramping up test Phase 2. And what will happen, is we will use the processes and procedures, best practices and guidelines developed in Phase 1 to streamline Phase 2 and Phase 3. This is one of the reasons why the documentation role of the project manager is so critical to the project success. Ideally what will happen is the next ramp up phase will require less time, resources, and money because you know what needs to be done – you’ve already identified what are key success factors for the project.
This is one of the many benefits of using project management methods in your recurring HR projects – not just the one-time projects. You’ve established a successful baseline and can lead the recurring project again and again – more efficiently each time.
What are we Monitoring & Controlling?
Let’s look at the purpose of the monitoring and controlling process. At this point, your project is well underway. The project team knows who does what when, and now we must make sure we are staying on schedule, and within scope and budget. The areas of the project you will want to continuously monitor include:
- Work – the work of your internal employees and that of your contractors – and are they doing what needs to be done according to the plan?
- Changes – what has been approved? Was the change a corrective action, or was it meant to repair or prevent a problem that came up?
- Scope and Customer Acceptance – making sure your customer is aware of the completed tasks, and that they sign off that they meet their expectations.
- Costs – are you where you thought you would be? Are you continually tracking costs and can you demonstrate and break down the costs of the project?
- Quality – is the quality of the work acceptable so your customer can sign off and you can move on to the next step, is it free from errors, how are you monitoring quality and are you doing so as determined in the quality control plan?
- Risks – risks associated with changes mentioned above, stakeholder satisfaction.
- Schedule – is the project on schedule – have the tasks been completed that need to be completed at this point in the project?
- Performance – communicating the performance and progress with stakeholders is also part of the process so that they are kept informed of changes or other factors that could impact the project.
Bottom line, you want to make sure the project is progressing as expected – based on the project plan and by the customer’s expectations.
In addition, the monitoring process also includes scanning the environment – both inside and outside the organization – for things that might impact your schedule, your resources, costs, quality of implementation or service.
What happens if…
We’ve talked about the purpose of the monitoring and controlling process – but let’s get real – truth is, changes are going to happen, resources will leave, schedule will get pushed, costs will change. Your project doesn’t happen in a vacuum – where everything that is planned, happens, and everything happens as planned.
1. My key resource leaves:
- Increases contractor costs
- Increases or adds training/mentoring costs
- Impacts the schedule
- Quality of work
Imagine you are just beginning to ramp up Phase 3 of your performance evaluation project. You are about to launch the evaluation across the organization – and your key internal resource, your key internal expert – gives you two weeks’ notice. We’ve seen it happen, and it can totally derail your project if you aren’t careful. Having an internal, expert resource leave impacts the project on many levels.
Let’s consider cost – your contractor costs now increase because they have to pick up the internal work that employee was doing or you end up over-burdening internal staff. Now, you have to find a replacement. And the chances of finding someone with the EXACT skill and experience of the person that left is slim to none. The new employee will have a learning curve which will require time and money to train them on the system being implemented AND on the process you are using. It could be a few months. In relation to the schedule, now you have one less person to do the work, so we need to be mindful not to over-burden already busy internal employees and contractors so you’ll have to balance the schedule, meaning push out deadlines or decrease the scope. But of course, talk to the team first about this and see if they have ideas of how to stay on track and mitigate possible increased costs and schedule changes.
2. We are behind schedule:
- Decreased quality
- Increased risks
- Decreased stakeholder satisfaction
Accurate planning and scheduling of your project is critical because again, your project isn’t happening in a vacuum. Chances are it is linked to the initiation or planning of another project. For example, our performance evaluation project has a direct impact on the compensation planning and implementation for our employees. So, we have to get the evaluations completed and debriefed before we can implement compensation changes. Let’s say last year, employees received their raise based on the seniority system in May, and the performance evaluations are scheduled to be completed in April of this year to give your team time to review and prepare for compensation changes.
But for whatever reason, the project is behind schedule. Someone didn’t get their work done on time, or the quality wasn’t good so the work needed to be re-done, or another project with a higher organizational priority came up and pulled key resources from your project to the other project – so the evaluation got put on hold. These things happen!
The impact could be decreased quality as team members are playing catch – up and aren’t paying as close attention to details to stay on schedule. Being behind also increases the risk of having angry employees because you are negatively impacting their pay. This impacts the reputation of the company, and now with social media playing such a prevalent role in building (or breaking) for that matter a company’s reputation, if you have an angry employee there are many opportunities for them to publically share their frustrations.
So in this instance, you have the choice to communicate the delay well in advance as opposed to not saying anything and your employees find out at the last minute their pay increase will be delayed. That will give them time to ask YOU questions, and also, perhaps give you a chance to reorganize tasks and deadlines to get the project back on track.
3. We are WAY over budget:
- Monitor contractor work
- Project changes
- Scope creep
In last week’s Lunch Break, Kristie talked about the direct and indirect costs of an HR technology implementation and talked about how often times the LOWEST part of your project implementation will actually be the cost of your software. Consultant time, while required for 99% of implementations, will be one of your highest costs.
So, the first place to look is at the contractors, or those who charge on an hourly basis. Is there anything they are doing that can be redistributed to perhaps an internal employee – or do you have another contractor that costs less per hour that can manage the work with the same quality?
Another place to look is project scope. Have there been a lot of changes? Were these changes approved? For our performance management example, let’s say we are launching this evaluation system out to 10 different sites throughout the US. 5 sites focus on manufacturing the products, one site is headquarters, and the other 4 are retail shops in major cities. The purpose of each of these sites varies as do the tasks of the employees. So, one site might request language changes or additions to the evaluations. We have to go through the validation process again for each new question or re-configure the system to accommodate their request. Getting approval for these changes – along with approval of how much these changes will cost (or financial accountability) – is essential to be able to track WHY you are over budget and it provides accountability to the site.
While approved changes can contribute to scope creep, the thing you have to be very mindful of is changes and additional project tasks that aren’t approved. It could be a little “5-minute” task here and there, but those things add up. Not only does that impact the costs because your contractors are spending time on things that weren’t planned, but it also could take the project off course if the ad-hoc items are not in-line with the original purpose of the project.
Revisit the HR Project Management Rules of the Road
- You are already doing HR projects every day!
- Your project needs will vary, so be flexible and open-minded
- You don’t have use every tool out there, but it helps to know what is available to you
- Start out small and simple
- Phases are your phriend (misspelling fully intended for humor sake)
Project Monitoring and Controlling Checklist
- I keep a regular schedule of communicating performance with the customer.
- I have a detailed plan of how to mitigate risks and changes as they come up during the project.
- I have tracked project costs with enough detail that I can track the most expensive part of the project.
- For requested changes, I communicate clearly in writing the impact the project will have on the budget and schedule and hold team accountable for changes.
- The project team is involved in the monitoring process to ensure performance matches expectations.
Our next HRL Lunch Break is Thursday, March 8th, 2012 – same time – 1:15 – 1:45 ET and our topic is “Building Your Strategic Business Case for HR Technology” .
*This webinar will be offered as a pre-conference workshop at this year’s IHRIM International Conference!! Join us for a sneak peak!
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Thanks for reading – hope to see you next time.