Project execution is the third phase of project management, the other 3 being project initiation, project planning, and project closure. In the real world, all the ideas and planning are great but if not executed efficiently then of no use. So here we start with project execution and look at all the aspects of running a successful project.
Content of the Article
It all starts with -
Tracking and Measurement
Tracking, by definition, is a method of following the progress of a project's activities.
A deviation is anything that alters your original course of action. Deviations from the project plan can be positive or negative.
Transparency is essential for accurate decision-making.
Tracking is also crucial for recognizing risks and issues that can derail your progress.
Tracking helps build confidence that the project is set to
Be delivered on time
The following states the commonly tracked items;
Status of action items, key tasks, and activities
Progress toward milestones
Key decisions, changes, dependencies, and risks to the project
Popular Tracking Methods
In the following section we will list and discuss the most popular tracking methods employed in project management;
For a brief note on the Gantt chart, you can go through this article, below are the essential points to consider while using the chart
Helping a team stay on schedule
Projects with lots of tasks, dependencies, and milestones
Projects with large teams, because ownership and responsibilities are explicitly laid out visually
Roadmaps are great for tracking big milestones and conveying a sense of the big picture to stakeholders. Following are a few points to ponder while selecting a roadmap;
High-level tracking of large milestones.
Roadmaps outline the project as a whole and provide an overall snapshot of key points—just like an actual roadmap containing points of interest and mile markers.
Illustrating to your team or key stakeholders how a project should evolve over time
Burndown charts reveal how quickly your team is working by displaying how much work is left and how much time remains to complete the work. Considered this if;
Projects that require a detailed review of tasks
Projects where finishing on time is the top priority
Project status reports
Why a project status report is extremely essential? The reasons;
Improve and simplify communication across the team.
Keep everyone, including key stakeholders, informed.
Request more resources and support (if needed).
Create structure and transparency by recording the project status in a centralized place.
How status report be formatted? The following states the important parameters
In project management, a common way to depict this is through RAG (red, amber, green), or Red-Yellow-Green, status reporting. RAG follows a traffic light pattern to indicate progress and status.
Milestones and tasks
use key accomplishments to detail what has happened, and upcoming to detail what big milestones you will accomplish next
Conduct a ROAM analysis
Your status report reveals ongoing issues with product and service quality. To help your team stay organized, you’ll categorize them as resolved, owned, accepted, or mitigated.
Risk & ROAM Analysis
A risk is a potential event that might occur and could impact your project.
A change is anything that alters or impacts the tasks, structures, or processes within a project. The following states the type of Change;
New or changing dependencies.
Capacity and people
Limitations on budget or resources
The change request form states the following input;
An in-depth proposal for the necessary changes
A short description of the current situation
The expected outcome of the discussion
Dependencies are the links that connect one project task to another and are often the greatest source of risk to a project. The following list of the major types of dependencies;
Internal dependency: This describes the relationship between two tasks within the same project.
External dependencies: Refers to tasks that are reliant on outside factors, like regulatory agencies or other projects.
Mandatory dependencies: are tasks that are legally or contractually required.
Discretionary dependencies: are defined by the project team. These are dependencies that could occur on their own, but the team saw a need to make those dependencies reliant on one another.
Dependency management is the process of managing all of these interrelated tasks and resources within the project to ensure that your overall project is completed successfully on time and within budget.
Four essential steps that a project manager can take in dependency management:
Continuous monitoring and control
A risk register is a table or chart that contains a list of risks and dependencies.
Risk management is the process of identifying potential risks and issues that could impact a project and then evaluating and applying steps to address the effects of the identified risks and issues.
Techniques to identify potential risks and address their effects, including creating risk registers and building mitigation plans.
If the dependencies are met on time, the team is less likely to fall behind schedule. If the scope is tightly managed, you're less likely to incur changes to the budget or be forced to extend the timeline.
Risk exposure is a way to measure the potential future loss resulting from a specific activity or event.
The ROAM technique—which stands for resolved, owned, accepted, and mitigated—is used to help manage actions after risks arise.
Resolved - The issue has been eliminated and no longer poses a problem.
Owned - The issue has been assigned to a team member who will monitor it through to completion.
Accepted - The issue is minor or unresolved, so the team chooses to accept and work around it.
Mitigated - The team has taken action to reduce the impact of the issue (or reduce the likelihood of a risk that has not yet materialized).
While the term mitigation plan is used more often in project management, you may also hear the term contingency plan. These terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences.
A mitigation plan is a planned risk response strategy. If a project manager is able to identify the potential known risks that impact any of the key project parameters (schedule, cost, or scope), they should make a plan to mitigate those risks early in the project.
A contingency plan, on the other hand, is mostly related to funds the project manager keeps aside (outside of the planned project budget ) to support any of these known risk response plans if they go beyond the planned amount or to manage any unforeseen risks during execution.
Escalation is the process of enlisting the help of higher-level project leadership or management to remove an obstacle, clarify or reinforce priorities, and validate the next steps;
Act as a checks and balances
Escalations encourage participation.
Before starting work on a project, the project manager, the team, and the project sponsor should establish escalation standards and practices.
A project manager should escalate an issue at the first sign of critical problems in the project.
Cause a delay to a major project milestone
Issues that cause budget overruns
Issues that can result in the loss of a customer
Issues that push back the estimated project completion date
Trench wars occur when two peers or groups can't seem to come to an agreement, and neither party is willing to give in.
A bad compromise occurs when two parties settle on a so-called solution, but the end product still suffers. In order to handle these sensitive situations, the following input should be kept in mind;
When communicating a small change that will affect an individual, it's a good idea to send an email.
When there's a big change within your project that impacts more than one person and is likely to change the budget, deadline, or scope of the project, you'll probably want to have a team meeting.
A timeout means taking a moment away from the project in order to take a breath, regroup, and adjust the game plan
A retrospective focuses on identifying the contributing causes of an incident or pattern of incidents without blaming one individual.
Email is a very effective communication mode in modern-day corporations. An escalation email is an important tool to be used to notify all the relevant stakeholders;
Maintain a friendly tone
State your connection to the project
Explain the problem
Explain the consequences
Make a request
The following is a reference to an escalation email that takes into consideration all the above-stated inputs;
Quality is when you fulfill the outlined requirements for the deliverable and meet or exceed the needs or expectations of your customers.
Quality management comprises the following essential concepts;
Quality standards provide requirements, specifications, or guidelines that can be used to ensure that products, processes, or services are fit for achieving the desired outcome. Few important quality standards are
Quality planning refers specifically to the actions of a project manager or the team to establish and conduct a process for identifying and determining exactly which standards of quality are relevant to the project as a whole, and how to satisfy them.
The following questions entail quality planning thinking;
What outcome do my customers want at the end of this project?
What does quality look like for them?
How can I meet their expectations?
How will I determine if the quality measures will lead to project success?
Quality assurance (QA)
QA is all about evaluating if your project is moving towards delivering a high-quality service or product.
Quality control (QC)
QC involves monitoring project results and delivery to determine if they are meeting desired results or not.
As you read through any article related to project execution and planning, soft skills inherently plays a major role as real people are the one who will get the work done. To handle them following soft skills plays an important role;
Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to understand the customer's current state versus their desired state.
Set clear expectations about when they'll communicate certain things to their customers.
Communicate the issue to them calmly and with empathy.
Exhibiting empathy is an important soft skill with the following inputs help you serve better;
Understanding their frustrations
Finding a solution that's beneficial for both of you
Be it as easy as it sounds but people tend to forget it as
Get feedback from customers
User Testing and Feedback
Feedback Survey - Feedback surveys are a survey in which users provide feedback on features of your product that they like or dislike.
A user acceptance test, or a UAT, is a test that helps a business make sure that a product or solution works for its users.
The main objectives of UAT are to;
Demonstrate that the product, service, or process is behaving in expected ways in real-world scenarios.
Show that the product, service, or process is working as intended.
Identify issues that need to be addressed before considering the project as done.
The following stated the typical UAT setting as;
Welcome the users and thank them for participating.
Present the product to them.
Start the UAT test cases.
The walk through a demonstration
Identity edge cases
Recap the findings, identify bugs or issues, and prioritize which issues need to be addressed first
A critical user journey is a sequence of steps a user follows to accomplish tasks in the product.
Edge cases are rare—outliers that the original requirements didn't account for. They deal with the extreme maximums and minimums of parameters.
Best practices for effective UAT
Define and write down your acceptance criteria.
Create the test cases for each item that you are testing
Select your users carefully
Write the UAT scripts based on user stories
A user story is an informal, general explanation of a feature written from the end user's perspective.
Communicate with users and let them know what to expect.
Prepare the testing environment for UAT
Provide a step-by-step plan to help guide users through the testing process
Compile notes in a single document and record any issues that are discovered
Managing UAT feedback
Bugs or Issues
User acceptance testing is a powerful tool to ensure that your project outcome is desirable and successful. Be sure to leave time in the schedule for proper testing and issue resolution.
Accessibility during feedback
This is often overlooked but plays an important role in diversified feedback;
Offer to provide accommodations
Examine the space with an accessibility lens
Check that the systems you are using are fully accessible.
Make accessibility part of the conversation from the beginning
Refer to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG.
Think about accessibility early and often, and encourage others on the project team to do so, too.
Continuous and Process improvement
Continuous improvement comprises the following aspects;
Optimize your processes
Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products or services. Continuous improvement begins with recognizing when processes and tasks need to be
Process improvement is the practice of identifying, analyzing, and improving existing processes to enhance the performance of the team and to develop best practices, or to optimize consumer experiences.
A control is an experiment or observation designed to minimize the effects of variables. Data-driven improvement frameworks are techniques used to make decisions based on actual data.
DMAIC (D-M-A-I-C) is an important concept in process improvement and stands for,
PDCA is a four-step process that focuses on identifying a problem, fixing that issue, assessing whether the fix was successful, and fine-tuning the final fix.
Plan - Identify the issue and root cause and brainstorm solutions to the problem.
Do - Fix the problem
Check - Compare your results to the goal to find out if the problem is fixed
Act - fine-tune the fix to ensure continuous improvement.
Project, Program & Portfolio
A project is one single-focused endeavor, a program is a collection of projects, and a portfolio is a collection of projects and programs across the whole organization.
A program manager supervises groups of projects—and even other project managers—and focuses on long-term business objectives. Program managers are tasked with continuously improving their assigned collection of projects.
A retrospective is a workshop or meeting that gives project teams time to reflect on a project.
Retrospectives serve three main purposes
Encourage team building
Facilitate improved collaboration on future projects
They promote positive changes in future procedures and processes
The emphasis in retrospectives is on continuous improvement and change, instead of recycling old— and potentially bad—habits, procedures, and processes.
Reasons that you might want to conduct a retrospective
Missed deadlines or expectations
Miscommunications between stakeholders.
The end of a sprint
After product launches and landings.
The way project manager choose to structure the retrospective will depend on the team and workplace
Retrospective best practices
The following states a few important points for the best practices will conducting a retrospective;
Retrospectives to be blameless.
Switching from "you" language to "we" language.
Reflecting on the positive aspects of projects
Maintain a positive tone throughout the process.
the retrospective should be considered a positive experience where team members feel comfortable sharing their feedback.
Be considerate of teams outside of your own
Value of Data
Data is a collection of facts or information.
Data by itself won’t help make data-informed decisions. A project manager must analyze the data to draw conclusions and make predictions.
Project managers can use data on a daily basis to;
Make better decisions - Whether it’s creating a product or executing a service, data can help a project manager make better decisions.
Solve problems - When a project manager is facing a problem, they can rely on data to make an informed decision.
Understand performance - A project manager can use data to better understand how a product or service performs for customers.
Improve processes - A project manager can use data to improve the speed or quality of a process.
Understand your users.
A metric is a quantifiable measurement that is used to track and assess a business objective.
Type of metrics
Productivity metrics allow you to track the effectiveness and efficiency of your project and include metrics like
Milestones - A milestone is a productivity metric. Milestones are important points within the project schedule that indicate progress and often signify when a team completes a deliverable or phase of the project.
Tasks - A task is a productivity metric. Project managers assign tasks to project team members for them to accomplish within a set period of time.
Projections - A projection is how you predict an outcome based on the information you have now.
Duration - A project’s duration is the total time it takes to complete a project from start to finish. Duration can also be used for tasks.
Quality metrics relate to achieving acceptable outcomes and can include metrics such as
The number of changes - Changes show any inconsistencies from the initial requirements of the project. A change log is a record of all of the notable changes on a project.
Issues - An issue is a quality metric and is known as a real problem that may affect the ability to complete a task.
Cost variance - It illustrates the difference between the actual cost and the budget cost.
Happiness and satisfaction
Happiness metrics also relate to quality.
These are metrics that relate to different aspects of the user's overall satisfaction with a product or service, like visual appeal, how likely they are to recommend, and ease of use.
Happiness metrics can generally be captured with a well-designed survey or by tracking revenue generated, customer retention, or product returns.
Customer satisfaction scores reflect user attitudes, satisfaction, or perceived ease of use. These scores measure how well the project delivered what it set out to do and how well it satisfies customer and stakeholder needs.
Adoption and engagement
Adoption refers to whether or not a product, service, or process is accepted and used. Engagement refers to the degree to which it is used—the frequency of use, the amount of time spent using it, and the range of use.
Each project will need to define its own set of successful adoption metrics, such as:
Time to value (TTV)
Onboarding completion rates
Frequency of purchases
Providing feedback (rating the product or service)
Completing a profile
Engagement metrics tell you to what degree a product, service, or process is being used.
Prioritizing and analyzing data
A signal is an observable change, and it can help you to determine the overall health of your project and identify early signs that something isn't quite right. It helps in;
Identify which tasks contribute most to the overall goal.
Prioritize the data or metrics that are most valuable to stakeholders
Stakeholders can look to the project plan for a high-level overview of answers to important questions, success criteria, artifacts, and the overall health of your project.
Data ethics is the study and evaluation of moral challenges related to data collection and analysis. This includes generating, recording, curating, processing, sharing, and using data in order to come up with ethical solutions.
Businesses apply data ethics practices so they can:
Comply with regulations
Show that they are trustworthy
Ensure fair and reasonable data usage
Develop a positive public perception
The two most important principles of data ethics are;
Increasing data privacy awareness
Using security tools
Data anonymization refers to one or more techniques such as blanking, hashing, or masking personal and identifying information to protect the identities of people included in the data.
The most common types of data bias are;
Sampling bias is when a sample is not representative of the population as a whole.
Observer bias is the tendency for different people to observe things differently
Interpretation bias is the tendency to always interpret situations that don’t have obvious answers in a strictly positive or negative way, when, in fact, there is more than one way to understand the data.
Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms pre-existing beliefs.
Data analysis is the process of collecting and organizing information to help draw conclusions.
Types of data:
Qualitative: which describes the subjective qualities or things that can't be measured with numerical data
Quantitative: Quantitative data includes statistical and numerical facts
The six steps of data analysis
Prepare - This is where you collect and store the data you will use for the upcoming analysis process.
Share - use data visualization to organize your data in a format that is clear and digestible for your audience.
Presenting and Visualizing Data
Storytelling is the process of turning facts into narratives to communicate something to your audience.
Six main steps to storytelling
Define your audience
What would my audience want to know about the project?
What are their most urgent concerns?
Which key data points influence the story and project outcome?
Collect the data
Filter and analyze the data
Choose a visual representation
Visualizations are a great way to help people remember the information you're presenting and are an essential piece of storytelling.
Shape the story
To shape the story, you need to think about what you're hoping to achieve, the points you want to make, and the questions and concerns you want to address. This is when you tie everything together into a cohesive narrative.
Gather your feedback.
Data visualization is the graphical representation of information to facilitate understanding.
Filter information by focusing the audience on the most important data points and insights.
Condense long ideas and facts into a single image or representation
Make sense of and remember the information being presented.
Before translating your data into a chart or graph, you should be clear on what you want to show your audience. The type of data you have, and the information you want to show or understand, will help you figure out the right data visualization to use.
Show relationships - Scatter Plot -
uses dots to represent values for two different variables.
Comparing values - Bar graphs use size contrast to compare two or more values
Demonstrating composition —the pie chart - shows us the composition of something.
Analyzing trends and behaviors - Tracking trends can help us understand shifts or changes in our data - Line graphs are a great tool for visually showing change over time.
A dashboard is a type of user interface, typically a graph or summary chart, that provides a snapshot view of your project's progress or performance.
A KPI is a measurable value or metric that demonstrates how effective an organization is at achieving key objectives.
Infographics are visual representations of information, such as data or facts, and are typically in the form of a "one-pager" or a "one-sheeter."
The following points are an important consideration for an effective presentation;
Identify the problem you're solving for your audience
Remove any content that dilutes your narrative.
The audience should be able to understand a slide within five seconds
Consider the approach you'd take if you had to shorten your presentation unexpectedly
Practice helps you avoid small mistakes that can potentially distract from your narrative
Identify and come up with answers to the types of questions your audience might have about your presentation.
Prepare for possible objections your audience might have
Use stories or include repetition to help your audience remember the information moving forward.
Maintain an upright posture and rest your hands at your side.
When making a point, try elevating your tone of voice for emphasis.
facial expressions - warm and friendly
An air of confidence
Preparing an effective presentation
Get clear on your goals and the purpose of your presentation.
Seek input and set expectations.
Create a delivery plan
Be mindful of your audience’s time
Develop a strategy for making your presentation memorable
Guide your audience through your presentation
Do a mock presentation with your team.
Schedule time to practice
Be prepared for surprises
Presentation and pace
Get right to the point
Check your pace
If appropriate, send a follow up email with summary notes, action items, and time frames.
Debrief with your manager or key audience members on what they heard from the presentation. Ask them what went well and what could have gone better.
Review the next steps.
Making presentations accessible
Create clear, simple slides
Add "alt text," for any images, drawings, or diagrams.
Use text for critical information
Provide captions for all audio or video recordings
For contrast and text size, more is better (The Ideal contrast ratio is 7:1)
Share your content in advance
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