project managers will identify a set of major milestones, and in
progress reports will provide an updated forecast of the milestone
dates. (A major milestone, as distinct from a minor milestone, is
one that is a good representation of progress against the key project
is good, but more can be done, without the need to spend any more time
capturing additional data. All that is needed is to keep a history
of milestone updates, and present this history in the status
report. After several reporting periods you can start to spot trends very
easily, assuming that you have displayed the data in some form of
chart. Below, we show milestone data, and a simple chart that can
be created based on this data.
first column is the list of milestones. The next column is the
planned date for each milestone. Succeeding columns show the
revised forecast for the milestones at each reporting period. You
can see that when representing data in this format it can be difficult
to spot trends.
if you represent it in a chart like the following, trends can be spotted
at a glance. All you have to do is look to see how the lines are
progressing. Horizontal lines represent milestone dates that are
not changing. Upward movement indicates a delay in the
milestone. Of course you would want to make sure that the chart
can be easily read, on this page it may still appear cramped, although
the lines should be easily distinguishable.
you were reviewing a project which produced the above chart you could
conclude that one of three possible situations is occurring:
The project manager is managing near term events and not forecasting out to the end of the project.
The end date may be in jeopardy but the project manager is unaware of this.
The project manager knows that the end date cannot be met but does not want to say this!
The project manager understands the situation and believes that the end date is still achievable.
Armed with this simple chart
you can ask the project manager some pointed questions to determine which of the above three situations was
occurring, and then ensure that appropriate actions are taken if it was situation 1 or 2.
have not been able to find a simple commercial tool that produces this
chart in an easy to use format. However, we have been using these
charts for over 20 years, first using pen and paper, then an internally
developed tool (no longer available to us). However, you can
download the following Excel spreadsheet which contains the above
example data. This is not a robust implementation and might need
some revised formatting for your project, but it shows what can be done
to represent this data visually, and it was very easy to create.
trends chart Excel file