Plan Monitor Control Cycle in Project Management

  • Post last modified:18 March 2023
  • Reading time:16 mins read
  • Post category:Project Management
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Plan Monitor Control Cycle (PMC Cycle)

The Plan-Monitor-Control (PMC) cycle is a fundamental process in project management that enables teams to plan, execute, monitor, control, and improve their projects. It is a continuous improvement cycle that allows project managers to assess the progress of their project against the project plan, make adjustments, and take corrective actions to ensure the project stays on track.

Before we learn about these three vital steps to guide a project through its initial stages to the destination in IT project management, let us first define the terms plan, monitor and control separately and understand how they find important in the management of IT projects.

What is Plan?

The term plan refers to determining the path, means, and mechanism to reach an aspired place in the future. Planning means visualizing the future elements and tasks at present to analyze problems and risks arising from them.

Let us understand ‘plan’ with an example. When we start serious planning over a project, what we do is bring the future into the present. How? We want to finish the project within a deadline of, say, 6 months. Once the deadline is fixed, we turn to devise the best means including resource requirements and quality assurance requirements, software requirements, hardware requirements, etc., for meeting this deadline. This way, we have already determined that the project will be completed in six months.

What is Monitor?

The term monitor refers to keeping a tab on the application and working of the means and mechanisms that were planned to be used for the project. In other words, to monitor is to oversee the associated resources, schedules, cost implications, etc.

What is Control?

Control, in simple words, means ensuring that the project is going forward according to the plan. If there is a deviation, the software professionals will deploy workable measures that will get it back on track, i.e., in the path as defined in the plan.

For example, suppose during the execution of an IT project, it is seen that the schedule for the development of a module is late by 1.5 months; so the controlling measures may include the induction of more resources so that the delay can be covered.

Designing a Project Control System in Project Management

Every project is required to be controlled efficiently. This is more crucial in the case of IT projects because they are carried out to create technical products. In a technical piece, even if one part does not function well or is missing, the overall work will be affected.

Hence, adequate controlling tools must be deployed to ensure that no error or negligence goes unnoticed in the project. Designing a project control system is a big activity in itself, which every project manager must conduct right at the beginning of the project plan.

The following are the basic steps of designing a project control system:

Setting Objectives

By setting the objectives of a project control system, the management specifically fixes the direction concerning the requirements of the project as well as of the organization. Note that these objectives must be aligned with the business objectives of the organization. If this alignment is not there, the whole purpose of developing a project control system would be ineffective.

For example, if an IT company develops software by using .NET technology, the objectives must be set concerning the .NET system.

On the other hand, if the company sets the objective of the project control system in the PRO-IV environment (a business rule engine to deliver complex and critical software projects quickly and securely through a varied range of environments), which is not much in demand, this will defeat business objectives as the main operations of the company are in the .Net environment. Another example could be a reduction of software testing defects by 10% of the previous year at an overall organizational level.

Identifying Key Control Parameters

This step involves the identification of key control parameters. Continuing with the example from the previous step, one of the key control parameters is a 10% reduction in the fatal defects in the software of the company. By establishing this parameter, project managers know their requirement that is to be controlled exactly. The classification of the defects such as fatal, minor, or major is done according to the definitions as accepted by the organizational decision-makers.

In the absence of this classification system, managers may wrongly classify a fatal defect as minor and may not take the level of action that is appropriate or required. For example, during the testing of software, a defect is observed, and the software cannot run unless this defect is removed.

Now, as per the classification criteria drafted by experts, it is a fatal defect, but the project manager classifies this defect on his/her judgment and labels it as a major defect. Will it not disrupt the smooth progress of the project and cause unwarranted delays and arguments? Hence, along with objectives, an IT project must also have its key parameters defined beforehand.

Formulating Processes for the Controlling System

This is another important step that formulates processes required for implementing the controlling system. The process so formed must follow the Entry, Task, Verification, and Exit (ETVX) model that is widely used in the IT industry. ETVX is a framework for the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) processes or phases. Entry refers to the point at which a process comes into existence.

Task refers to a job to be executed in a sequence. Verification refers to the method of checking whether all tasks of the process have been executed. Exit refers to the stage where the process moves out of the system.

Deploying Metrics in Processes

During the formulation of processes, metrics must be incorporated. Metrics refer to data that assist in the controlling of processes, and thereby, the project also. For example, in the case of project management, schedule variance is a metric that enables the project manager to take additional measures such as instructing employees to work overtime to finish the project on time.

Implementing Processes

Here, the project enters the execution mode, and the processes formulated in the previous steps are put into practice. Various metrics generated are collected and analyzed systematically, and control measures are deployed in the project execution mode.

Suppose a project that has just commenced is at the requirements stage. Hence, requirements gathering and analysis take place at this stage, and the metrics documented in the process are gathered as per the steps in the process. These metrics are analyzed, and control measures are taken in case the project is going slow or fast.

Project Control Through Metrics in Project Management

Metric is a measurement standard that helps in measuring the quality or performance of a deliverable project. Something that can be measured can be controlled. Thus, metrics are used for controlling purposes.

The importance of metrics can be listed through the following advantages:

They Provide Direction to the Project Manager

Through metrics, the project manager can easily know whether the project is behind schedule or ahead of it.

They Can Be Used for Comparison

This means that the project manager will be able to compare and conclude who has efficiently done the job and who has not. For example, the manager can compare whether Joe is a good tester or Dean, as both have tested the software and the data about the number of defects of each tester is available.

They Help in Taking Decisions

With the help of metrics, taking decisions is easier, and the decisions made are more effective, as they provide objective evidence of the progress status of project execution. For example, the project manager can decide whether to continue with smoke testing or any other testing technique not as the timeline for project delivery is approaching fast.

They Help With Proactive Measures

With metrics in hand, the project manager can take proactive measures. For example, suppose the root cause analysis of reviewed defects has indicated that a lack of experience in gathering requirements is the main cause of the defects; therefore an experienced person should be deployed for this purpose now.

Project Metrics

The following project metrics are widely used in IT projects:

  • Effort Overrun: This is used as a control measure to monitor effort variance in the ongoing project.

  • Size Variance: This is used to determine a variance in terms of the project size concerning the initial and final estimates of the project. The size estimate can be in the form of several function points, objects, screens, reports, etc., depending on the project.

  • Productivity: This is used to measure the productivity of the appointed software professionals. The productivity output can be in terms of the number of functions developed per day or the number of defects per line of code.

  • Resource Utilization: This is used to measure the rate of utilization of resources employed in the project. This can be in terms of percentage also; for example, resource utilization can be 90% over a given period.

  • Schedule Compliance: This is used to measure how well the planned schedule was adhered to by those for whom it was meant. For example, schedule compliance of 90% means that the project is behind 10 days assuming 100 days as the time for completion.

  • Defect Density: This is used to measure the defect density of the code. For example, defect density can be in the form of 5 defects/fp.

  • Test Efficiency: This is used to measure the efficiency of the testing process. It is generally 70% as per the industry, which means the testing process can detect 70% of the defects only.

  • Review Effectiveness: This is used to determine the effectiveness of the review process. An efficient review process can detect and remove 80% of the defects before implementation

  • .Test Coverage: This is used to determine the adequacy of the testing process. Testing is an endless process, and its adequacy can be measured only by covering a limited part of the process.

  • Turnaround Time: This is used to determine the time taken to clear or rectify the reported issue or defect.

Article Source
  • Schwalbe K. (2016). Information Technology Project Management (Eight Ed). USA: Cengage Learning.

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