Managing the project boundaries is the process of making sense of a project’s progress (or lack of progress) in order to consider the merits of continuing the project and allocating the required resources or bringing a project to an early close. As part of this process the project manager should set up mechanisms whereby the team regularly reviews what tasks have been completed/delayed and what the impact is on the rest of the plan.
Having such a mechanism in place will make it easy to produce status reports as required.
The diagram below shows a typical review loop indicating activities that occur once only, daily, weekly and at the end of each stage. There may be many such loops in a project that has multiple phases and stages.
The project board will meet at stage boundaries and will keep up to date with progress at other times by means of regular highlight reports from the project manager.
Any variance against the plan will be managed by the project manager within tolerance, if possible, or will be raised as an issue and escalated to the project board by means of an exception report.
The role of the project sponsor and the project board is to give ad hoc advice or decisions to proceed with an issue or change request.
The most formal and very necessary duty of the project board (but one that is often ignored) is the authorising of continuance to the next stage. This will either occur at a planned meeting at a stage boundary or at an extraordinary meeting to consider and authorise an exception plan once it has been forecast that a stage (and possibly the project) will go outside-tolerance.
If the meeting is to consider an exception plan then the rest of the current stage, from the start of the exception plan to the end of the stage is considered as a stage in its own right. The tasks of the project board are therefore the same whether the meeting is deemed to be ordinary or extraordinary.
The object of the exercise is to decide whether to commit any more resource to the project by authorising the next stage.
In order for this decision to be made the project manager will have provided the following information (preferably in good time for the board members to have read and digested it):
- An up-to-date copy of the stage plan, showing completion or progress of tasks and a forecast of end of project end date
- A financial account showing expenditure at the stage end in relation to the agreed tolerance and with a current forecast showing end of project costs
- A list of all new risks identified during the stage
- A list of any issues arising (from identified risks or otherwise) during the stage with a brief report of how they were dealt with and how much they cost in terms of money and time (whether positive or negative)
- An assessment of whether the project business case requires updating
- An assessment of whether the business case is still achievable and the probability of achieving the expected benefits
- A draft plan and costings for the next stage
- A recommendation for the board’s decision