Sunday, July 22, 2012

Never Underestimate The Power Of A Project Dashboard

In 2003, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) introduced a web based Dashboard for their construction projects. 

This Dashboard became a powerful tool for VDOT Executive and Project Managers, showing instantly whether projects were on track, falling behind schedule or going over budget.

The Dashboard was soon made public, and citizens were invited to view the Dashboard online and share their comments.  The performance improvement achieved by all VDOT projects was dramatic.

Prior to the introduction of the Dashboard in 2003, less than 20% of all projects were on time. By 2005, this number had improved to 75% and currently, as you can see from the VDOT Dashboard above, 97% of all projects are on time - an outstanding improvement in a very complex and challenging construction project environment.  Similar improvements were achieved in the other areas measured by the Dashboard.

As you can see from the VDOT example, a Project Dashboard can indeed be a very powerful and effective project management tool.

To be effective, a Project Dashboard should follow these following eight principles:
  • Use a standard dashboard format across all projects - in this way, the performance for all projects can be fairly and effectively compared.
    Information displayed should include the Project Schedule, Project Budget, Client Satisfaction Index, Project Resourcing Index and Project Health Check Index metrics.  A summary of the key Project Milestones and Project Risks and Issues should also be displayed.  (See the sample AlphaPM Project Dashboard tool layout above)
  • Ensure the dashboard is easy to understand - it should be easy to determine the performance of the project by using Green/Yellow/Red icons to show the performance of the project through the various key metrics.  Avoid clutter, and keep metrics and information displayed to the minimum useful set.
  • Ensure the dashboard is easy to complete - the metrics on the dashboard should be easy to measure, collect and present
  • Provide background information through a "drill down" capability - detailed information (such as the project schedule, risk register, project health check detailed results, project repository, status reports and change requests) should be linked to the dashboard, so that they can be referenced as needed. 
  • Make sure all information is timely and updated at least weekly - if it is not, it will be ignored.
  • Provide maximum visibility of the dashboard to all stakeholders - this will motivate the project team to keep on track and also ensure that the Executive and all other project stakeholders know if a project is in trouble, so that they can promptly assist in addressing problem areas. 
  • Show the project's business goals and objectives -  add a short section with a few bullets on the business goals and objectives for the project.  This helps to reinforce the importance and value of the project and keep all stakeholders focused on meeting the project's business goals. 
  • The organization must have a supportive culture
    Now here's the most challenging part of ensuring that Project Dashboards are indeed successful.  The organization culture (starting with your Executive and Client Management) must be proactive and constructive in their support of projects who show red or yellow metrics on the dashboard.

    For example, say your Executive meets you in the hallway and has noticed that your project has some red metrics on your Project Dashboard.
    Bad:  Executive says to you "Why is your project in such a mess and when are you going to have it fixed?"
    Good:  Executive says to you "I see you are having some challenges on your project.  Is there anything I or my management team can do to help you get back on track?"

    Without a supportive and collaborative executive and organization culture, project managers will resent having visible dashboards, and start to fudge metrics and cover up issues and problems, thus making them even more difficult to eventually solve.

Let us know your experiences and best practices with Project Dashboards.

Webinar:  APM13 Project Dashboards
If you are interested in learning more about Project Dashboards, and would like the AlphaPM Excel based Project Dashboard tool, sign up for our one hour APM13 "Project Dashboards" webinar at

For further information on Client Satisfaction metrics and Project Dashboards, please see these previous posts:
Client Satisfaction Surveys the Easy Way
Six Best Practices For Managing Multiple Projects

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