Using Data to Execute and Control a Project, Part 2


Last week I talked about the role of data within project management. We looked at ways data is used to plan and initiate a project. The blog talked about using information to determine project requirements and the budget. Today I want to look at how data is used once a project has started to ensure the goals are achieved.

The University of Illinois in their project management toolkit defines the execution and monitoring portion of project management as consistently completing and managing work to meet project objectives. How is data a key component of tracking, getting updates and managing risks.  Let’s look at a case study of a World Bank project featured in a 2003 Harvard Business Review article to improve farmer productivity in Nicaragua by 30% in 16 years.

A large-scale project like this one traditionally involves lots of time and money. Two years after the project began, a new champion changed the future path of the project and shortened the timeline for achieving success. The World Bank team decided to pursue smaller scale goals that were part of the overall goal of “improving farmer productivity” that could be easily measured with data. Experts agreed that milk production, animal weight and sustainable technical support were all part of this overall goal of increasing productivity.

The three project goals were to 1) increase milk production by 100 gallons per day in 120 days in 60 producers; 2) increase pig weight by 30% on 30 farms and 3) secure technical support to 150 farmers within 100 days. These micro goals used data to track their progress. There was a team assigned to each one of the micro goals that used data to track progress and make changes where necessary. These results-oriented pilot mini projects helped test the success of the using different solutions on a smaller scale, get updates about what is working and what isn’t working and also help manage risks.

Data is so essential in executing a project that delivers great results. The case study we looked at today showed that deciding what to measure and gathering the right data helped make project monitoring go smoothly. The organization used information to keep their project on track and accomplish their mission. Next week, I will discuss how data is used when a project is coming to a close.

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