Webinar Recap: Project Performance Measurement – Part 2: What to Measure and How to Report

Please find below a transcription of the audio portion of Fletcher Hearn’s session, Project Performance Measurement – Part 2: What to Measure and How to Report, being provided by MPUG for the convenience of our members. You may wish to use this transcript for the purposes of self-paced learning, searching for specific information, and/or performing a quick review of webinar content. There may be exclusions, such as those steps included in product demonstrations. You may watch the live recording of this webinar at your convenience.

Kyle: And welcome to Part 2 of MPUG’s Project Performance Measurement course. This one covering, What to Measure and How to Report. My name is Kyle, and I’ll be the moderator today. And today’s session is eligible for 1 PMI PDU in the technical category and the activity for claiming that with PMI is on the screen now. Like all MPUG webinars, a recording of this session will be posted to mpug.com shortly after the live presentation ends, and all MPUG members can watch the recordings at any time and still be eligible to earn the PDU credit. All the sessions you watch on demand can be submitted to your webinar history and the live sessions you attend are automatically submitted within your history. You can print and download your transcript and certificates of completion, including the one for today. And you can access that by logging into mpug.com, click my account, and then click on the transcript link.

Kyle: Do you have any questions during today’s presentation? Please send those over at any time using the chat question box on the “go to webinar” control panel where we do plan to answer those questions for you throughout the session today. All right. We’ll go ahead and jump back in for session two here. I’m very happy to welcome back Fletcher Hearns today. And at this time, I’ll go ahead and pass it to you, Fletcher, to get us started with today’s presentation.

Fletcher Hearns: Great. Thank you. Kyle, I appreciate it. Let me just see if I can get technology to work this morning. Kyle, can you just give me heads up that we can see my screen, I’ll get started?

Kyle: Yep. That looks great.

Fletcher Hearns: Great. Well, thank you everyone and welcome. Again, my name is Fletcher Hearns. I am the… Well, I go to the next slide, so you can see who we’re with. I am with a company called Edwards Performance Solutions. We are a project management consulting company in the Baltimore Washington area. I’m the director of technology solutions and the CTO for the company. I thank those that are joining us for the second one. And I welcome those that are joining us if they didn’t make the first one and are just joining for the second one. Again, my name is Fletcher Hearns. Background myself, I’ve been doing project program, PMO management for going on, I guess, 30 years now. By education and training, I’m actually a software developer. I graduated with a degree in computer science back in the ’80s sometime when computers were much smaller and much less powerful. And then because I did not, I guess, mess up my last job, I was a team member then a team lead, then a section lead, then a project manager, then a program manager, then a director of engineering, and moved up the chain not by formal education, but more because I didn’t screw up my last job, so they figured they could keep putting me up there.

Fletcher Hearns: As I said, I’ve been using project management for 30 years using Microsoft Project since the first windows version of it came out. This series is all about how to measure project performance and how to report on it. We’re going to have a little bit of an intro, what we can measure, talk about some things that I think are important to measure, and then looking at reporting via dashboards and reports. Along the way if you have questions, please feel free to type those into the chat at any time. I will try and stop and ask for questions, but if not, put them in the chat and Kyle is free to interrupt me at any time with questions. We’re going to have a couple slides that repeat kind of from last week where we finished off on the intro to this week, and then we’ll start getting into measurement and then talk about good reporting and how good reporting can happen and then kind of tease you with what’s going to come next week with Microsoft Project and Reporting.

Fletcher Hearns: So, why should we measure? This was from last week. Well, because according to PMI, the Project Management Institute, 45% of projects experience scope expansion, 32% failed on their budgeting, and 16% were deemed complete failures. There was another study done that shows that 122 million wasted for every $1 billion invested due to poor project performance, a 12% increase over the previous years. Again, that comes out of PMI and their pulse of the profession.

Fletcher Hearns: What performance measurement is all about is getting the right information to the right people at the right time, so they can make an effective decision making around the project. Where are we going to be with the project? What should we do to correct the project? How can we recover the project? And there’s just a quote here from a consultant in the DC area that says, “Managing a project without metrics is like sailing a ship without a compass.” You really don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there.

Fletcher Hearns: I used this slide last week also because I need to reinforce this over and over again with all of my clients, all of my customers, every education I’m doing. To get started with any measurement, what must you do? And in project management terminology, we must set the baseline. We need to set a baseline, so we know what we’re measuring against. Without a baseline, you have nothing to measure. You don’t know when you started. You don’t know when you’re going to finish. It’s try running a race without knowing the start and finish. Try losing 20 pounds, which I’m still trying to do thanks to COVID, without knowing your starting weight. You need to put that stake in the ground to say, “Here’s what I’m measuring against. Here’s the start, here’s the end, and here’s how we’re getting from point A to point B. Great. Now, we can measure against all of those things.”

Fletcher Hearns: As I said last week, what you measured and what can be measured are two completely different things. There are hundreds of things you could measure. There are six or seven things you probably should measure. On the screen, it’s about 30 different items that I have over my career had to measure for project management and project performance reporting. I never had measured all of them at the same time. I’d spend more time doing that than I would actually managing the project or program, but you need to figure out of these which ones you’re going to use for your project. And it comes back to answering really two questions that most management wants to know about. It’s the [inaudible 00:06:18] now and the when. The now being, am I getting the stuff, whatever your stuff is for your project, your program, that I’m paying for? Is the stuff on time? Is it being delivered in the times spectrum we expected? Is this stuff costing me what I expected it to cost me? And then is the stuff usable? Just because I’m getting it, is the quality where it needs to be to make sure I can actually use it?

Fletcher Hearns: And those are the questions that normally people are asking. “Hey, am I getting the stuff? Good? Is it coming when I need it?” And then there’s always the “when” questions. Great. I know where you’ve just told me where I’m at, can you tell me how much more stuff there is to do? How much is the remaining stuff going to cost? And when will the remaining stuff be done? So, those are the two types of questions and there’s other questions in there, but usually there is the immediate. What’s happening now. And what do I have to look forward to, to the end of the project? Having spent half my life in the commercial space and half in the government space, the questions are always there. It’s how they’re done and what they do with the information, we as project managers, program managers, schedulers provide to our team.

Fletcher Hearns: What can be measured? One of the favorite and my most favorite ones is earned value management. It’s a great way to measure performance. It not only tells you how you’re doing, it predicts how you’re going to be doing in the future. It does, however, require a resource and cost loaded schedule. And we’re going to talk about that because usually when I say that, people get up out of the room and run away because they know I don’t have that information. I’m going to say, “Yeah, but I can make you have that information in a way that lets you put metrics together that accurately reflect how your project is doing.”

Fletcher Hearns: It’s been around since the ’60s. It was brought in, in the Department of Defense and the [inaudible 00:08:15] brought it together because they were spending billions of dollars on projects and couldn’t track the cost, but that doesn’t mean you only run it on large projects. You should run it on every size project you have. And, in fact, a lot of times when I was in the commercial space, we did it and it was early on when I’d heard about EVM in the governance space, but I was too junior to really put it into practice, went to the commercial space, and we tracked similar things. Didn’t call them earned value metrics necessarily, but we really did measure the same thing. And then I came back and started using it in larger government programs. And the question is, “Yeah, but Fletcher, I have a really good schedule. I got all of the tasks in there. The predecessors and successors are really built tight, but I don’t have resources. I don’t have work and I don’t have costing.”. And I’m like, “Yeah, we can figure that out.”

Fletcher Hearns: You can do EVM without knowing everything. Work does have to be known, but let’s say what you’re putting in your schedule is, “I know this task is going to take five days,” but you didn’t put work in there. You said, “No, it’s going to take a five day duration task.” You can easily convert that into some form of work. And I’ll tell you, you should not be using fixed duration task in scheduling because there are very few tasks that are pure fixed duration tasks. Almost every task that I talk to people about, if I work harder on it in a given day or less hard, it’s going to change the number of days it takes to complete the task. That’s just logical. If I have a task scheduled for five days and I don’t work on it all in the first day, it’s probably not going to be done in five days. It’s going to take an extra day to get it done.

Fletcher Hearns: So, in my world, I try and teach and I try and implement, “Oh, you tell me a task that’s going to take five days.” Okay. I’m going to put down that’s really 40 hours of work if I don’t know anything else. Why? Because eight times five is 40. Okay. I’m going to put it in as a 40 hours of work. Well, when you do this without knowing things, you can also use generic resources. Generic resources, it’s not Fletcher Hearns’ working, it’s the project manager, it’s the scheduler. And then you can also use cost and use what I call monopoly money. Do not use real money. Resources costs are relative to each other. And I’ll have a slide next. I’ll show you how I’ve done this in the past. And it allows you to still pull out three key indicators out of the earned value world.

Fletcher Hearns: And it’s the only three indicators that I say, “If you do that, will help you complete your project.” It’s the cost performance indicator. It’s the scheduled performance indicator, and it’s the TCPI, which is the total CPI for the thing of how well you’re going to do. I have a big note over here. I want to make sure everybody understands that. Do not show cost variance, schedule variance, any variance as a dollar figure if you’re not using real resources with real dollars. If you’re using generic resources with phony money, you can choose the CPI and the SPI and the TCPI, but you really can’t use the numbers because the numbers are fictitious.

Fletcher Hearns: And as an example, for resources, you don’t know resources name, you don’t know who’s going to be assigned to the project. Well, do you have some idea of the types of resources? I got junior software engineers, software engineers, senior software engineers. I have apprentice electricians, electricians, master electricians. If you know generically the types of resources you’re reusing, that’s all you need to know. You can use generic resources. And, in fact, on large projects and programs, if you do rolling wave, you normally will, for every wave except the one you’re currently working on, they will be resource loaded with a generic resource name. Why? I don’t know who’s going to be on this project in 12 months. I know I’m going to have a senior software engineer and I want him working on these tasks [inaudible 00:12:15] who that is. Is it Fletcher? Is it Eric? Is it Kyle? I don’t know yet.

Fletcher Hearns: So, it’s normal on large programs to use generic resources, A, in the beginning before they’re assigned and, B, in rolling wave for those waves you have not yet started. And then if you can do that and you can then also come up with costing using very, and I want to stress, very fictitious numbers. What you’re trying to do here is to say, “I need relativity between resources.” So, in this case, I see the junior software engineer is costing me $1.50 an hour. The senior software engineer is costing… I mean, a software engineer is $2 an hour, and the senior engineer is $2.40. So, I’m basically saying the middle ground is a software engineer. There’s about a 20% pay bump for using a senior engineer and a junior engineer is about 50% less in terms of relative pay.

Fletcher Hearns: If I get those intervals about correct, the CPI and the SPI numbers then work because it’s all the relationship between those. And the same for an electrician. And electrician is $4 an hour. It’s 50% less for an apprentice engineer at $3 and it is a… What is it? A 20% bump for a master electrician. If those ratios are right, then the CPI and SPI indicators will be close to what it would be if you had real numbers. In very large organizations, the government, you can sometimes find out what their pay grade is and say, “Oh, this pay grade starts at 37,000 and goes to 48,000.” And say, “I’m going to take the middle, the median, for everybody with that in that classification.” Again, if that’s okay, that will get your SPI and CPI numbers together.

Fletcher Hearns: Now, I’m going to give the three minutes EVM quick story. How to understand EDM in three minutes or less. If you want to come back sometime and I can do a whole hour on earned value management and how to use it, but I want to give the three minute version of that. So, you understand why EVM works and how you can use it as metrics for any size project, any size program without doing the overburdening of a full earned value management ANSI-748 standard system.

Fletcher Hearns: So, earned value basically tracks three things. The blue line here is the plan. So, we have an 18 month project. It’s going to cost us $4.9 million. The red line represents today and we’ll talk about that. So, if you look at that, that’s the blue line and it says as of the red line… I’m sorry the arrow is not correct. At the red line, the budget we should’ve spent was $3.8 million. So, that’s what our plan was. Over time, we’re going to spend $3.8 million in 12 months. We actually spent… That’s the red line. Every month, we got our actuals from our accounting department and that was $3.2 million. And that’s great, but does it tell the whole story? If you look at this, that makes us think, we’re what? More than $500,000 under budget? Because we’ve only spent $3.2 million in 12 months. So, that’s good until you see what’s called the earned value.

Fletcher Hearns: The earned value is how much work, how many tasks actually completed, and how much were they worth? Well, we only completed tasks or if you’re working in the Agile, well, really finish stories or features that were worth $2.7 million worth of value to our project, but we cost us $3.2 million and we should have been spending $3.8 million worth of value now. So, it’s those simple things that we’re looking at. And when we look at those, we then can start to put together what’s called… And as I said, I’m going to explain this and explain how you not to use this. In our world, A reflects what’s called the cost variance, which is, we got $2.7 million of value, but we spent $3.2 million to get there, which means actually we’re $500,000 over budget.

Fletcher Hearns: And we only did $2.7 million with a value at a time when we should have gotten to $3.8 million worth of value. So, that’s what’s called our schedule variance, which is in this case $1.1 million. And we talk schedule because I’m a scheduler from way back when I don’t think of schedule variance or scheduling in terms of dollars. I think of as a time. Well, if you looked at that and you look back, what we’re looking for is where did the earned value cross the plan value line? And you’ll see back here, it’s way back in month 5.5, so we’re 7.5 months late on this project.

Fletcher Hearns: Now, what you see is that that’s a great way, but there are two indicators down here and we’ll talk about… Oops. The CPI and the SPI. The CPI is our cost performance indicator. And I have the formulas on the next page and we’ll go back and forth. The highlighted ones are the only ones that you should show if you’re not using actual real money against real resources. The CPI is… The formula is to take the earned value divided by the actual cost. So, our earned value is 2.7 million, our actual cost is 3.2 million, and that would give you our CPI. And in that case, our CPI is 0.844. Easy way to remember that, cost performance indicator is how much are you getting back for every dollar you spent? So, in this case, for every dollar I’m spending, I’m getting 84 cents worth of work done. So, I am leaving basically 15 cents or 15% of every dollar I spend, I don’t get anything done for it. It’s thrown away, flushed down the toilet.

Fletcher Hearns: The schedule performance indicator takes the earned value against the plan value, which is the 2.7 divided by the 3.8. And in that case, it gives us a schedule performance indicator of 0.71, which means for every 10 hour or every 10 days of work, I’m only getting seven days of actual work done. So, for every two weeks of work, 10 business days of work, I’m only getting the equivalent of seven days of work. I’m basically doing nothing for three days. Those are the kinds of indicators that you can use. And then there’s the TCPI, which is the to complete performance, which is taking the budget at completion minus earned value, divide that by the estimated completion minus actual cost. And I don’t have it written here, but it’s actually 1.29. So, what it’s saying is, okay, moving forward, you basically have to have a CPI of 1.29 from now to the end of the project to meet the end of the project in the blue line, everything converges at that point. If I’m only doing 84 cents of work for every dollar spent, what’s the chances that between now and the end of the project, I can maintain basically $1.30 for every dollar spent. That’s what earned value gets you.

Fletcher Hearns: And once you can pull those numbers out, it’s easy to show people, “Okay, here’s where we are. We can plot those out and make determinations of when we should do corrective action.” So, that’s earned value in my three minutes. I stress earned value. Even if you don’t want to call it earned value, you grab the three metrics highlighted here. If you give those to your boss and show those to your boss and say, “Hey, listen. Here’s our CPI. And you’ll see here if the CPI is greater than one, it’s a good thing, which means you’re getting more value back than the dollars you’re inputting and the same with SPI. For every day you’re working, you’re getting more than one day’s worth of work back. That’s a good thing. If they’re less than zero, it’s not a good thing. If they’re actually 1.0, it’s perfect. Every dollar I spend, I’m getting a dollar’s worth of value back. For every day I spend working, I’m getting a full day’s worth of work out of the people.”

Fletcher Hearns: So, that is one of the premier metrics, I think, everybody should talk about. That does not exclude other things. That’s just saying, “If you can pull those three indicators, you’ll have a great grasp on how your project is doing currently and is a precursor and a forward-looking thing to say how you’re going to be doing in the future.” When you look at that number, you’ll see over time and you can see here over time, we can see that the numbers start to keep moving apart, and we should probably change those. Starting in month three or four, we started to diverge and this was a bad case. And in my world, in the commercial world, you would’ve got to about month four and the project would have been put on hold, so you could correct it. In the government space, they might let you go farther, but this project is in my mind right now, if I came in and saw this, I would tell them the project the way it’s currently done is unrecoverable. There is no way I’m going to meet the budget of $4.9 million of value done at 18 months. There’s just no way I can get this team to do that unless we retool something dramatically, but there are other measurements.

Fletcher Hearns: Agile has additional measurements. And you’ll see, I say additional. I don’t say get rid of EVM. I say, “In addition to that, here’s a whole bunch of other things that I look at when we’re doing Agile project development.” The velocity, how much work(story points) are completed per iteration. And we talked about that over the week, and you track that to see how the teams are producing. Are they maintaining a level state of the same type? And if not, why are things changing? The burndown rate? How quickly is work getting done? And there are two normal ones. There’s a sprint burndown, which is this chart here. How quickly are we going to get done? Are we going to get done everything we say we were going to get done in the 15 days this iteration? And we track it on a daily basis.

Fletcher Hearns: And then there’s usually a project backlog burndown, which is for all of the uncompleted stuff. And we know what our velocity is. Okay. I can tell you how many more iterations I need. And I can track that over time to see, is that growing? Is that reducing? Are we going to make our product release date, our MVP, which is minimum viable product release? Are we going to hit the release for 2.0? Whatever those are. You can measure those out as metrics as well. In Agile, we talk about lead time. The lead time is the time how long something from the time it’s put in our backlog of things we need to do, features we want to add till the time it’s actually planned to go to an iteration or a sprint. What is that lead time? And then the cycle time is usually the time from backlog until acceptance. So, that would include not only when it goes into the iteration, it also goes through the design, development and acceptance criteria.

Fletcher Hearns: And you can actually use some of those in traditional as well. And then one of the ones that I track, especially on software development projects is what’s called the escaped defects rate. That is how many undocumented features, software anomalies, anything you want to call them, bugs happened to make it out of the iteration and made it into the next level, whether it’s systems integration testing, user acceptance testing, whatever the next testing might be [inaudible 00:24:24] to make it all the way up to production and was never caught. That’s what we call the escaped defects. And we track those because we want to know is the scrum teams, are they maintaining a quality product? And in Agile, the scrum team’s response for testing it before release and how many [inaudible 00:24:41] made it through that version of testing. We use that to figure out how to do better test coverage, but those are all things you can measure in an Agile environment in addition. And I’m always going to say, in addition.

Fletcher Hearns: In addition, traditional project manager. Sometimes you look at what’s called the percent complete. This is the overall amount of work complete. And it’s basically taking the total amount of work and saying we’re 50% done, we’re 38% done, we’re 70% done. There’s the percent duration complete. This is how much total duration is complete. So, if your project is a 12-month project or an 18-month project as was our case, and we’re 12 months into it, we’re 66% done in terms of duration. And even Microsoft Project keeps those as two different cells because the percent work complete and the percent duration complete are not the same thing. You can have a lot of work done upfront and a little work done at the end, so you could be 80% done in work and only 65% done in duration because of how it works out.

Fletcher Hearns: There’s also what is called the baseline execution index or BEI. It is the percentage of tasks that met their baseline finished date, or you can flip it over and say, “I want to actually track. My BEI is based on my baseline start date.” So, it’s looking at how many tasks [inaudible 00:26:02] have been started or finished by now according to our baseline which we set versus how many are actually done by that date. And as I said, if you can’t get to the EVM, you can do this. Again, it requires the baseline to be set. All these measurements require baselines to be set, but it’s a way of saying, “Okay, how we’re doing.” And I have a screenshot of something I will show you next week of a macro that we’ve written the [inaudible 00:26:28], calculates our baseline execution index. And it’s saying for this case, BEI is 50%, which is not great. It’s saying only half the task that should have been completed by now are actually completed by now.

Fletcher Hearns: And I explained last week. I want to go over this again. I think it’s one of the key elements of when you’re trying to find things to measure or metrics is finding the leading indicators. The leading indicator is tasks finishing late. The lagging indicators would be me just looking at how many missed milestones I had, how many resources are coming to me saying, “Now, I’m over allocated because of schedule slip, because everything’s slipped, because we missed something or it’s taking longer, and resource allocations are now a problem.” Or late delivery of actual products or whatever we’re [inaudible 00:27:17]. Where the leading indicator is the task finishing late. That is the one. If I started seeing that happening a lot, which is what the BEI will track, then I know these other things are probably going to happen if I don’t make changes to the project now. So, that’s finding the leading indicators that [inaudible 00:27:34] to do that. And SPI, CPI, TCPI are great leading indicators. Based on history, they’re going to tell you how you will perform in the future if you make no changes. So, if I have a BEI of 50%, I know that if I don’t change something, there is no way I’m going to finish this project on time. 50% of the tasks are not completing on time. Why do I think that’s going to change if I don’t make a change to how things are happening?

Fletcher Hearns: So, now we’ve talked about the indicators, the things we want to measure, the metrics we want to obtain. We now need to spend some time talking about, how do I get these out to people? How do I make this information available to people that it’s quick and easy to digest because in today’s world, we’re all rushed. We don’t have lots of time to necessarily spend digging through pages and pages of reports to find the information we need. We need it up front and center. And that’s where reporting and dashboarding comes in. And this is talking about how to build dashboards and reports and what to do, not the mechanics of it. We’ll talk about that some next week using Microsoft Project. This is just talking generically about dashboard and reporting. And there are some rules.

Fletcher Hearns: Simple yet informative. Simple key performance indicators with drill down capabilities. A familiar tool for your users. Don’t start going out and saying, “Oh, I found this great tool online and I can do the dashboarding.” And then people don’t know how to use it in your organization. Make sure it’s something they can use. They’re familiar with, they’re comfortable with. If not, they won’t use it. And please, always keep your car dashboard in mind when you’re building dashboards. Why? Because your car dashboard is actually a pretty good dashboard, and it’s a way you can get information quickly. When you look at your car dashboard, you can pick out several things very quickly. How fast am I going? Usually, what’s my gas gauge telling me? I got a half a tank, a quarter of a tank. Is the engine light on? Those are the three things that all dashboards have because that’s what we need to drive down the road.

Fletcher Hearns: Use the KISS model, keep it simple. Auto dashboard has speed, may have RPMs, gas. Is anything hot or cold? That’s usually what the dashboard show. You could show a whole bunch of things. You could show the oil temp, the oil level, the cooling temperature, the coolant level, the tire pressures on each tire. That can all be on one dashboard. You would then have… What we talk about here is, more is not always better. That becomes information overload. Every time I look at the dashboard, I take my eyes off the road. What I’m doing, what’s really important, which is safely driving the road. If I have too much stuff, I’m going to spend more time looking down and less time looking at the road and what I’m supposed to be doing. So, you get what’s called information overload and there are studies done.

Fletcher Hearns: It became a real problem in the aviation world. As they could figure out how to collect more data about how safely the aircraft is running, they decided to give it all to the pilots. And it was information overload. They would have so many things to look at. This happened in both the military service and in the commercial airspace service. They had so much information that was blasted them on screens, they actually would be heads down instead of looking out. And the first rule of flying an aircraft is you aviate, you navigate, and you communicate in that order, which means the first thing you’re doing is you should be flying the plane, not looking down to see how all these… And they’re not trivial, but they’re unimportant unless something is wrong. I don’t need to know how hot the oil temperature is in my car to the degree. What I need to know, is it above or below acceptable boundaries? And in a car, what happens is if it goes above the acceptable boundaries, usually a little red light pops on and say, “It’s above what’s normal.” And then I can look and find that information. So, more is not always better. Information overload is something you need to avoid, but you have to be able to give them the information if they request it.

Fletcher Hearns: [inaudible 00:31:54] thing is also one page or screen per dashboard. People still like to hit the print button, and you don’t want them to have to scroll around. When you’re developing KPIs, it’s like doing requirements gathering. They should be SMART; specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Keep that in line when you’re figuring out what metrics to grab. I want to give some examples now of good dashboards and poor dashboards. This is a phenomenal dashboard that I found for the Virginia Department of Transportation. This is their homepage for their Department of Transportation. What it’s showing is, it’s showing several key performance indicators. The first one is performance is 86% of congestion free travel on interstate daily updates. The one down in the bottom right-hand corner is the projects. They are currently saying that 96% of all their projects are on time. Quality of road services is 81%. It’s in the yellow. Citizen survey results is right up front. So, this is their homepage [inaudible 00:33:11]. If you went to their site, you could click on any of these gauges and there would be a drill down to give you more information. And I didn’t pull those screenshots, but if you go there, just type in “VDOT Virginia”. It’ll show you the site and you can see how they’ve done it.

Fletcher Hearns: Here’s another fairly good example. This not only shows you indicators for a given time. It also shows you across time. So, this was for an airline company that shows them key metrics for a set of years, but I can look at this and it not only shows me the individual metrics for an individual year, it also shows me some of the trend lines and how they’re performing. Are the trends going up, are the trends going down? And, again, it’s one page that has the information that I have it. They have certain gauges that total airlines are this. It shows us industry load factors where they are.

Fletcher Hearns: Here’s another one that is good within exception. It’s not great. It’s not bad. It’s got a bunch of things. SLA trends. It has year to date versus budgets. Again, IT spend by supplier, but it’s a scrollable one. They want you to scroll down and go down two or three pages to get it. What they should do is break those into three separate pages and either have an intro page that says, “If you want this dashboard, go here. You want this dashboard, go here.” Or it has a next page. People, historically, studies have shown people do hate scrolling left to right. They don’t like doing that. I don’t know why, but people do not want to scroll left and right. They don’t mind scrolling up and down, but they really rather have a next button and click on next to get the next page, the next page, the next page. That’s what they really would rather do in terms of the human factors. So, that’s why I kind of discounted this one a bit is that it shows all the information, but I’d have to scroll through it.

Fletcher Hearns: I think the next one is, the not good example. Imagine this is what you’d be looking at on your dashboard in your car. And you have to figure out, how fast am I going? How much more mile? How much gas do I have in the car? Is the oil temperature high or low? You’d be scratching your head for days trying to figure this out. This is just not in terms of dashboarding a great dashboard. Information overload does not specifically point out problem areas that I should focus on. And as I said, would this work in your car? And most people go, “That is way too much information.” It should be taken down and it should go back to using things that are bright colored, wholly towards it. If I see an arrow in the green, I don’t even know what it means, and I don’t have to care. This is year to date actual versus budget for an IT. I don’t know. It’s in the middle. It’s in green. I’m done. I don’t have to look at that anymore. Versus the arrow is pointing to the yellow or the red. “Okay. Maybe it’s something I should pay attention to.”

Fletcher Hearns: This one, I can’t tell. I’m believing that the red little dots here may mean something and I’d have to figure out what it means because if you look at project major milestones, it says here, but now you’re going to say, “What does that red mean?” “Oh, it means it’s 29 days late.” It doesn’t say it upfront and in your face.

Fletcher Hearns: Here’s a project dashboard overview that pretty much tells me where I am and what I’m doing. The project is 7% complete. I’m 31% into the initiation phase. I haven’t done any of the other phases. Here is the cost by phase. You can see that the close out phase is $3,600. The most money I’m going to spend is in the planning phase. Here’s how the initiation phase looks in terms of work. It’s a pretty good dashboard to show me how my project is doing. And it’s something you can look at quickly and understand your project.

Fletcher Hearns: Actually, I want to talk… Actually, I’m going to go to the next slide [inaudible 00:37:16] slides out of order. Here’s an example of Microsoft Project again that shows critical tasks. It’s just showing my critical tasks over time. It’s saying, “Okay. Of all your critical tasks, the blues are the complete, the yellows are the one on future tasks, the orange ones are on task, and the late ones are in gray.” So, I can see I have several. So, those are examples of great dashboarding. These two came out of Microsoft Project. And so, we’ll look at those.

Fletcher Hearns: One of the things you have to do as an organization is you have to figure out what tool you want to use. We were in a Zoom meeting and talking to a client, and one of the problems we were talking about reporting and dashboarding and portfolio performance was they did not have a organizational tool. Some people were using one tool, some people were using another tool. Another organization in Atlanta was using a third tool. We were like, “You need to standardize that so that you can standardize reporting, the looks, the feels, how the data’s pulled together.” So, you have to figure out what tool it is that works for your organization. Microsoft Project can be your tool. It has built in reporting engines. It does good, not great. It does good dashboarding and reports. You can build custom reports. Its major drawback in my mind is it doesn’t do great on exporting or save this report as a PowerPoint file or save it as an Excel file. Probably doesn’t have that built in. And I say [inaudible 00:38:54]. It’s on the list of things I keep complaining to Microsoft about.

Fletcher Hearns: There are some great dashboarding and reporting tools, and they’re usually categorized in the BI field where in the business intelligence field, there’s Microsoft Power BI, there’s Tableau, there’s DOMO. They are not designed specifically for doing dashboarding and reporting. And then we can always go back to Microsoft Excel. We have several customers that we work with that were still using Excel. We’re pulling information from project server, other systems and we’re bringing together, and their common tool is still Excel. Why? Everybody knows Excel. Everybody knows how to open an Excel file and get around Excel file. You can create dashboards and reports in Excel. They’ve enhanced it. They now have… And I forget what it’s called now. It used to be called Power Query. It’s now called something and transform. And if somebody remembers what it is, you can type it in the chat. Kyle, let me know and then I will be able to tell you what it’s actually called, but it was Power Query before it turned to something else. It was like a miniature engine that Power BI uses.

Fletcher Hearns: You can create dashboards and reports. You can do some limited drill downs within them if you’re a little more sophisticated. And the great thing about Excel as the end point is, almost every system on the planet can export something that can be read into Excel. I have not run into many systems that you can’t say, “Oh, can you please save this data as a text file, a CSV file or a pure Excel file?” And if you can do that, you can then read that data into Excel to then create the dashboards and the reports you need. And then you can do some automation around that to have Excel do things with macro and say, “Oh. Yes, every time I open, go look for this Excel file. If you find it, go ahead and bring that data in and reuse that data for all of my graphs, my charts, my reports.” Are there any questions?

Kyle: Fletcher, no questions in the queue just yet, but just to remind everyone, you can chat us your questions and we’ll answer those for you live at the end of the session today.

Fletcher Hearns: We already talked about that. That’s an example I had of Microsoft Project. This is a Power BI diagram that I’ve redacted some information because it’s actually from a live client customer of ours. This was in their test bed. But again, this is for a program dashboard. So, this program is made up of basically 39 individual projects and it shows across all of their projects… There’s a total of 39 projects. Their baseline budget, all 39 projects is 182 million. They have 1.5 tasks at risk being they’re going to be late if somebody doesn’t do a thing. Their current SPI… SPI is scheduled performance indicator is 0.82, meaning basically for every 10 days of work, they’re getting a little over eight days of actual work done. Their CPI is 1.43, which says that for every dollar they’re spending, they’re getting $1.43 worth of value out of it.

Fletcher Hearns: If [inaudible 00:42:16] earned value management, they have a green here. It would actually probably be in an earned value world, it’d be red because it’s way too good. Especially when you’re running a scheduled performance indicator of 0.82, how you have a CPI of 1.43 is something that I would come in and question and go, “You can’t be running that far behind in schedule, and that far ahead in your cost. Those two numbers, you’re going to have to explain that to me.”

Fletcher Hearns: And then they have a financial risk, which is basically what’s our financial risk based on our risk. And what is not seen on this screen is they have a whole bunch of tabs that make up this dashboard. This is one of the ones that they were having an issue with and so we helped them put together was they had overloaded… They weren’t tracking by project manager how many projects that individual is responsible for. So, you can see this first person was in charge of 43 projects. And Matt over here was only in charge of nine projects. So, one of the things they were trying to make sure at a program level is that they started to flatten this curve out and say, “Wait a minute. We need to flatten this out.” Donald who’s got 43 projects is killing himself and Nat over here has got nine projects. He’s probably spending half his day doing other things. I’m not saying [inaudible 00:43:30], but it’s things they want to measure.

Fletcher Hearns: And then as we said, here that 60% of all their projects are RTO projects. We have SO projects, we have RPS projects, and we have what they call disaster projects, which doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a disaster. Disaster is, it’s unexpected. It was not a project we were planning to do, and it dropped in. And currently it’s zero, but they might get a drop in project of, “Oh, we have to do this because Microsoft says we have to get rid of Skype by the end of July.”

Fletcher Hearns: So, again, that is just the power of dashboarding. This is one they requested. We’re still pushing and working with them to say, “Listen, that stuff at the bottom, this stuff here is a little… The whole chart with all the costs, it’s great, but, A, you have to scroll it. B, is it something you want on the front page?” And we’re working with that to then help them enhance it, but it’s how we’re using Power BI with them to do that.

Fletcher Hearns: I want to close with a… It’s just my… I think everybody saw this last week, but it’s my Dogbert because I’ve also worked on projects and programs like this is, “You need a dashboard application to track all your metrics.” You track all the metrics. You give everybody the information and they still make decisions based on other things in the world. And that’s okay whether you’re a scheduler, a project manager, a program manager, you have control over what you have control over. You can’t worry that you give them all this information and they use it for whatever they want to use it for.

Fletcher Hearns: I’ve seen too many times when numbers are bad, but we keep the project going because in the government space, it’s not uncommon that you have numbers that are out of whacking. They necessarily won’t do what I say we do, which is, “Okay, stop the project. Let’s spend 60 days retooling the project. Let’s figure out what we can do.” Especially if you get back to the earned value slides we were at, where… Oops. You get to here, this project should not go on. This project should be stopped right now in my mind. There is no way to recover it. I talked about that earlier, and you should have seen back in here when things were trending badly, starting in really in month five, this project was on life support back then. We should be talking about how we’re going to retool it, redo it, what are we going to do before we keep spending money that we’re never going to be able to recover? And that’s what I said. When you look at CPIs and SPIs like we see down here in the bottom right-hand corner, somebody should be talking and somebody going, “Boss. We need to work on this. If we keep on this trend, we’re never going to complete on time or on cost. What do we want to do?”

Fletcher Hearns: And I said, you can present this to everybody every month and then you’ll have to understand that people are going to make decisions based on what they want to do, not necessarily the numbers which from a project program management is very frustrating, but it’s what the world is. I know I’m a little bit early. I was hoping for some more questions. I do want to open the floor up for questions about this or something from last week. I’d be glad to talk about that. Next week, I will be talking about using Microsoft Project as the scheduling project performance tool and how you take data from there, and you create dashboard reports within project as well as let’s get this data out to Excel, or if we’re using Project Server, how can you connect things to Project Server whether it’s Power BI or Excel and extract across projects and programs or portfolios, how we can do reporting on that. So, that’s what we’ll be talking about next week is a little plug for my own thing. I hope that’s not wrong that I’m plugging my own talk. So, Kyle, do we have any questions?

Kyle: That’s great. We don’t have any questions in the queue. Just a reminder. We do have a few minutes if anyone does have a question. We’re happy to take that now for you. In the meantime, while we wait to see if anything else comes in, I’d just like to post the upcoming session. I chatted over a link so you can register for next week’s session, which is part three. I’ll get that on the screen for you now. So, that’ll be on May 19th at noon Eastern for one hour. And that’s what Fletcher just mentioned using Project to track and report on performance.

Kyle: The following week on June 9th, a couple of weeks later. June 9th, Nenad Trajkovski will join us for a session on Project-Accelerator’s Powerful Instance of Power Apps. Supporting Project Management with Project for the web. So, that session is also available for registration along with many others. We hope that you’ll register and we’ll see you there. For those of you claiming the session with PMI, the activity code is xxxxx. That’s eligible for one technical PDU. Fletcher, no questions have come in. So, I definitely want to thank you for your time today for sharing this session with the MPUG community and look forward to part three coming up next week. Anything else before we close out today?

Fletcher Hearns: I don’t think so. I am going to just invite anybody. [inaudible 00:48:50] it was on the slides. [inaudible 00:48:52]. If you have questions, please feel free to send me an email. I’m glad to answer questions about any of this stuff for project management because I know I covered a lot, but if you have specific questions or generic questions, please feel free to send them along.

Kyle: Okay, great. And, actually, if you’d like to share your screen, I can put your contact information back up if you’d like.

Fletcher Hearns: Sure. Oops. I’m not sure which-

Kyle: Perfect. That works. We can see it now.

Fletcher Hearns: Okay.

Kyle: [inaudible 00:49:23]. There’s Fletcher’s email. If you hit the screenshot button at the top of the viewer window, that’ll take a screenshot of what you see now and you can save that right to your computer.

Fletcher Hearns: Great. [crosstalk 00:49:32].

Kyle: Thank you so much, Fletcher. We appreciate it. And we’ll see everyone back next week for part three of this course. And thanks again.

Fletcher Hearns: Great. Thank you very much, Kyle. We’ll see you next week.

Kyle: Yes.

Fletcher Hearns: Bye.


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Written by Fletcher Hearns
Fletcher Hearns is the Director of Technology Solutions with Edwards Performance Solutions (www.EdwPS.com). He is responsible for the implementation, of Enterprise Project Management (EPM) solutions for Edwards’ clients, as well as overseeing as well as overseeing the custom application development performed at Edwards around enterprise solutions and Microsoft Project (Desktop & Server) and SharePoint. Fletcher is also one of the leading trainers at Edwards in various aspects of Project Management and the use of project management tools.
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