Project tracking is not only a useful way to share progress quickly and easily with outside stakeholders, more importantly it is also a primary method for monitoring the health of any particular project. It is like a hospital keeping track of the vital signs of a patient, a quick look from an experienced professional and they can spot any worrying trends or problems that may need closer attention.
This is where trend analysis in project management comes in, as a precise method of tracking a project’s expected progress versus its actual situation. A trend analysis will plot the course of your project, or even just specific metrics within the project, and compare them to where they should be. For milestone trend analysis, the expected and actual deliverable completion dates are tracked.
How a Milestone Trend Analysis Works
- Set the milestones
Gather your team and specific team members and ask them when they believe each of the deliverables will be completed. For the purpose of example, we will imagine eight deliverables and make them Milestones 1 – 8. The milestones will be interrelated and should follow sequentially. The milestones can be plotted on a simple graph (x = Milestones, y = Date). The line which is drawn through these points will become the Base Projection Line.
- Reassess after each milestone
Once the first milestone has been reached, mark its actual delivery date. Then gather the responsible team leads again to reassess the completion dates, the replotted line will be the M1 Projection Line. This can be done for each new milestone as it is reached. To avoid confusion only use the latest projection line, rather than having one for each of the previous milestones.
- Track your progress
The final line of importance is the Actual Delivery Line. This will go through each of the plot points for when the milestones were actually reached. The variation between the Base Projection Line and the Actual Delivery Line will immediately show you, or any other stakeholder, how close the project is aligning with its projected path.
- Read the nuances
The secret to great trend analysis in project management isn’t necessarily in focusing on the difference between the various lines but on the trends that are showing up. For example, a project might be showing that it is 30% off track by Milestone 3 but by Milestone 6 it is at 20%, this shows that the initial projections were at fault, but that progress is speeding up and overall it is actually going very well. On the other hand, a project might be 5% off track by Milestone 3 but is 20% off by Milestone 6, which is a worrying sign as problems would seem to be accumulating and the project is slowing down.
Trend analysis can be very useful, but it is also important to be skilled at reading the information properly and to have the right software to help. Clarizen provides some of the best tools and solutions for conducting trend analysis in project management. Talk to our experts today to find out how our cloud-based project management software can help you monitor your project’s health.