Saturday, June 30, 2007

Evaluating an IT Project

To ensure your IT project is on track, and to prevent serious performance issues, you should evaluate the project at the end of each of the six project stages. Usually, the end of a stage is identified by the completion of a project deliverable. An evaluation process can help your team determine whether changes need to be made to the process or plan before moving to the next stage.

After working diligently to reach the end of each stage of the project, it is important for all team members to meet to discuss the negative and positive aspects encountered up to this point. The focus of this meeting is to evaluate the activities and variables for each particular stage in the current project's development.

For example, during the evaluation, the team may determine that the project scope has changed, the team has not been as productive as planned, or necessary tasks have been left out. These are all variables that can lead to missed deadlines.

During the evaluation of an IT project's development, it is essential to consider two main business activities. The two business activities that should be the focus of the project evaluation are described below.

1. Estimate schedule performance.
Processes that should work harmoniously together sometimes do not. Your team may find that these unforeseen circumstances can dramatically slow down development. You then have to stop and reevaluate the process. This can sometimes be very time consuming.

Your team can estimate schedule performance by comparing the schedule estimates with the actual work completed. A formula for measuring schedule efficiency is the schedule performance index (SPI).

SPI is the schedule efficiency ratio of earned value (EV) accomplished against planned value (PV). The formula is SPI = EV ÷ PV x 100. In this formula, EV answers the question, "How much work has actually been completed at this point?" PV answers the question, "How much work was scheduled to be completed by now?" To round the SPI, look at the digit to the right of the place to which you are rounding. If that digit is less than 5, round down (6.45 = 6). If that digit is equal to or more than 5, round up (6.51 = 7).

When analyzing SPI for a project, you must consider the results from the calculation. A result equal to 100 indicates that the project is performing as estimated. A result that is greater than 100 indicates that the project is performing ahead of estimates. A result of less than 100 indicates the project is behind estimates.

Managers prefer to see the schedule hit within an acceptable range, where 85 or 90 out of 100 is considered acceptable. When the result varies significantly below 100, risk analysis will be necessary.

2. Evaluate team member performance.
Another business activity to evaluate is team member performance. The wrap-up at each stage of the project is an ideal time to evaluate whether the team has met the goals of the project plan.
It's important to evaluate the performance of team members to ensure they meet completion dates for each task, as documented in the project plan. Valuable time can be lost when even one member of the team does not meet individual goals. With each task set up to flow smoothly into another, a deviance from the established plan can cause major problems.

How can you determine whether team members have met project goals? You can establish a performance expectation for each task prior to beginning the project. The completion time for each task is normally estimated using an average work week of an eight-hour day and 40 hours. The equation you can use to determine completion time for a task is: number of estimated hours for completion ÷ 8-hour day = time allowance in days.

For example, if the task is estimated at 20 hours, then it should be completed in 2.5 days (20 ÷ 8 = 2.5) to be on schedule. If a task is estimated to take 2.5 days and it actually takes three days to complete, then the task has missed the deadline. If the task is completed in less than 2.5 days, it is ahead of schedule.

Do not underestimate the importance of evaluating your project's development. An evaluation at the end of each stage of your project can prevent serious performance issues as the project progresses.

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