Performing a Project Health Check
February 1, 2015 Leave a comment
As the project begins to gain traction and move along briskly, there is often a tendency by the project managers and the sponsors to just assume that things are progressing well. This complacency is not unusual, especially in situations where the team has demonstrated an aptitude to deliver in the past. Metrics and dashboards that are being leveraged by the project manager could also further reinforce the notion that ‘all is well’.
Regardless of outward appearance, subtle and underlying problems in the project could exist that are not easily discernable from a simple review of the metrics or discussions with the team. As such, it is often advantageous for the project manager to perform a rudimentary health check of the project at one or more times during its lifecyle.
With that being said, what are the key particulars of an effective project health check and how should it be performed?
Review the Business Case
Every project, as part of its overall project plan, should have some business case associated with it. Usually, this will become part of the project charter and will often be in the form of a Business Requirements Document. (Note: for additional reference, please read the post: The Project Charter – What is it and Why is it Needed?)
At its core, the business case and the high level business requirements document should give a holistic view of the project’s primary reason for being. By reviewing the business case with the stakeholders and sponsor, one can ensure that the current project progress and the deliverables being produced match up with the expectations as dictated by the business case and the Business Requirements Document. Deviations that manifest or are realized by the team should be addressed as soon as possible to ensure the project does not begin to move tangentially from its original goal.
Review the Project History
A quick refresher on the history of the project is also warranted as part of the overall health check. In many cases, an idea is pitched to the upper brass prior to the inception of the project which is eventually morphed into the business case for the project. However, as with any game of telephone, things can get lost in translation. So it is often a good idea to revisit the various things that brought the project to fruition and ensure that the orignal reasons for engaging the project align with the project’s current implementation.
Research and Discovery
This stage is often part in parcel with the Monitoring and Controlling process group. To a certain degree, some of these discovery items will already be heavily monitored by the project manager to ensure that the project is on track. As a rule of thumb, from the standpoint of the health check, the following items should be reviewed:
- Performance against baselines
- Ability to meet forecasts and key milestones
- Benefits analysis
- Overall project governance
- Level of stakeholder involvement and engagement
- Risk mitigation strategies
- Contingency plans
Additional criteria can also be added by the project manager at their own discretion.
Health Check Report
The final step in the overall health check is to draft a full report based on the findings yielded from examining the aforementioned criteria. The health check report should include at a minimum, the following key items:
- A list and summary of all key issues that were discovered
- A root cause analysis with causal indicators listed
- A Gap analysis
- Key suggestions and ideas on corrective actions, if any are needed
- A fix-it strategy with mitigation ideas provided
The health check report should be made available to the project stakeholders and sponsor once it is drafted. Any more severe issues discovered should be addressed immediately in a forum to ensure they are not left to simmer without resolution.