Sunday, June 10, 2012

Keep Your Project Healthy With A Project Health Check

A Project Health Check is a very simple and effective tool that will help you predict whether your project will be healthy (come in on time and within budget).

Just as your doctor can check your health through various tests and diagnostics, so too can you determine if your project is healthy, and likely to remain so, through a variety of checks on your project.

It is very easy to build a Project Health Check tool, using a spreadsheet.  

First, establish the key areas you would like to check on your projects, and then list the processes and best practices that should be applied in each of those areas.

For example (please note that this is not a complete list):
Business Case and Project Initiation
- The project is fully aligned with the business strategies and goals  of the company
-  Business measures of success have been identified and measurement processes established
-  A Project Charter has been produced and approved, authorizing the project.
Project Planning
-  A Scope Statement has been produced
-  A detailed Project Budget has been produced and approved to cover all phases of the project
-  A Project Contingency reserve has been allocated for the project
-  A Risk Management Plan has been produced.
Project Execution and Control
-  Personnel resources are available on time to execute project activities
-  Project Deliverables are formally reviewed and accepted by the appropriate parties
-  Project Quality is controlled through the implementation of a Quality Management Plan.
Project Team Organization
-  The Project Sponsor is fully committed and available to support the project
-  A facilitative Project Management Office supports the project
-  A Project Kickoff Meeting has been/will be held for all key stakeholders at the start of the project
Project Methodology
-  A formal, documented, scalable and adaptable Project Methodology is followed by the project  team.
-  A Project Repository/Extranet is used to maintain all project documentation
-  Lessons Learned are reviewed, documented, disseminated and acted on accordingly.  
Project Performance
-  The project is on schedule
-  The project is within budget
-  The Project Sponsor is satisfied with the project and project team performance
Project Risk Management
- A Risk Management Plan has been produced
-  A Risk Register is maintained for all significant project risks, with appropriate actions, target dates and owners for each risk.

Once you have built your Project Health Check tool, you should check it at the following key points in your project:
-  Project Initiation (quick scan to confirm that you will be implementing all the best practices listed)
-  Project Planning (formally complete the Health Check before your project is baselined, so that you can ensure all best practices are incorporated in your project).
-  Project Execution (re-visit with your PMO as a Project Audit, if your project "goes red"; i.e. more than say 10% over budget or behind schedule). 

Use a simple scoring system for measuring project compliance with each best practice in the tool:
For example:
Score 5 (Green) if you are (or will be) following the best practice
Score 3 (Yellow) if there is some improvement needed
Score 1 (Red) if that best practice is not being followed at all.

A Radar Chart (like the one shown at the beginning of this post) can be produced as a summary and posted on your Project Dashboard.  The blue line in the chart represents the average score for each area, so the health of your project can be seen at a glance.

The Project Health Check is a great tool for project managers to facilitate the success of their projects by embracing the complete spectrum of project management best practices.  As noted earlier, it can also be used by the PMO to work with project managers when their projects are in trouble, to pinpoint and improve the processes that are determined to be the root causes of their problems. In this case, a joint presentation should be presented to executive management identifying the findings from the Project Health Check and the proposed actions needed to address any problems identified.

An ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure!

Let us know about your own experiences with Project Health Checks.

Webinar:  APM09 Project Health Check Workshop
If you are interested in learning more about Project Health Checks, and would like an Excel based Project Health Check tool that checks against over fifty project management best practices for your project, sign up for our four hour APM09 "Project Health Check Workshop" at  In addition to the Project Health Check tool, you will get practical guidance and all the tools and templates you might need for each best practice.

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