Projects revolve around their project data—information on task durations, workforce productivity, and details about expenditure levels, just to name a few. Once the effort is complete, additional metrics will be gathered and examined. This could include compiling data on the project’s actual impact on manufacturing yield, for example, and comparing it against the initial projections. Not only do most efforts produce copious amounts of data, they also rely on existing metrics and historical knowledge to accomplish all sorts of things, from developing a workable scope and timeline to streamlining processes so that future projects are more efficient and effective.
Project data is something teams can’t avoid and in most instances it’s tremendously useful. There are, however, times when all of that information can have a negative effect on the people involved in an initiative. Unless data is carefully managed and well understood, it has the potential to be demotivating and even demoralizing. If your team seems stressed out by your project’s data, consider a few ways to help make the information more digestible.
Offer search and sort capabilities.One glaring obstacle people often encounter is the sheer volume of data that’s available. Unfortunately, so many details are gathered, stored, and analyzed that your team members run the risk of becoming overwhelmed by all of it. They can get lost in spreadsheets and pivot tables, making them not only less productive in the near term but also confused about which data points actually matter and which they should be focused on throughout the initiative’s lifecycle and from one project to the next. Look for technology that allow them to find the information they need quickly so they aren’t buried under a disorganized pile of details.
Filter metrics when appropriate.Just as searching and sorting can help make project data easier to process and comprehend, PMs should also consider ways to filter the information before it goes out to team members. In some cases it may be better to present only a limited amount of data during meetings or as part of status updates so people can put their attention to the items that are most important in the near term. This avoids the risk that they’ll get sidetracked with a landslide of facts and figures that can be more effectively addressed later. In addition, look for opportunities to filter out metrics that aren’t relevant, perhaps when working with functional groups and sub-teams that have only limited project responsibilities.
Identify high-visibility metrics. PMs should put an emphasis on data that’s most important to the team, of course, but they also need to understand which information the organization’s executive group wants to see. Whether the leadership of the company is primarily focused on budget figures or schedule deviations, the project’s workers should know that and have good visibility into those datasets on an ongoing basis. This helps prevent frustration about having too much data to review, because everyone knows how the project’s success will be measured and which information is being scrutinized most closely along the way.
Know how different data points are related to each other.Project tasks are often connected, through dependencies or other relationships. Much of the information tracked by project teams is similarly linked, such as line-item expenditures that are rolled up to higher-level budget reports. When people understand how granular data fits into the larger picture, they can maintain a more useful and accurate knowledge base of the information they should be monitoring. They’ll also have greater confidence that they won’t be surprised by what they see when summaries of the project’s progress and performance are distributed for review.