Efficient project planning is an important skill for project managers. It helps you get things done on time, make iterations, and develop contingency plans for emergencies. Efficient project planning also helps you analyze risks; set and convey to stakeholders clear, realistic, and achievable goals within a given sprint; proactively assess threats that can disrupt your original schedule; make a case for additional resources or support; suggest a suitable course correction; and, most importantly, help manage stress and anxiety levels within the team.
Despite all the benefits of proper planning, organizations still lose about 12 percent of their investments every year due to poor project performance. The reason? Poor project planning. As organizations take on bigger, more complex projects, they adopt newer project management tools, technologies, and applications to help with project planning. However, they seldom pause to assess how effective their project plans really are. As a result, they commit too much or little work, which greatly impacts the overall project performance.
Clearly, it’s time to evaluate the game plan. Using advanced analytics, not only can you track and monitor your projects, you can also gauge the effectiveness of your project plans. Here are three reports that can be easily built using data from your project management solution.
Schedule estimation variance
We’ve all worked on projects that start out with a well-defined deadline but take forever to complete. Several factors can derail a project, including underestimated task durations, incorrect dependencies, recurring defects, departing team members, or shortages of resources. The resulting impact of non-completion on time can be huge, both for the team as well as the organization as a whole.
Schedule estimation variance is a measure of the number of days that a sprint was delayed. Consider a project with six consecutive sprints, in which each sprint starts one day after the previous sprint ends. If any sprint is delayed by even a day, it spills over onto the next sprint, delaying not only that initial sprint, but every sprint that follows after it.
Now, if each sprint is delayed by one day, it has a cascading effect where unfinished work from the previous sprints spills over into the next one. As a result, an agile project with six sprints will end-up looking like a waterfall project.
Often, there are several options for handling slipping sprints when they’re noticed at the beginning of a project; however, towards the end, these options dwindle, and users might be forced to do overtime, compress critical tasks, or make last-minute scope changes in a race to complete projects within the deadline.
Effort estimation variance
Accurately estimating the effort required to complete a project can help project managers save costs, time, and effort as well as ensure delivery schedules are met. By overestimating sprints, managers miss the opportunity to take up additional work; and by underestimating sprints, they inadvertently push teams to complete more tasks in a pinch leading to burnout.
Effort estimation variance, measured in hours, determines the accuracy of effort estimates. It is a measure of the actual hours spent against the estimated hours for the various tasks in a sprint.
The Effort estimation variance report is a visual representation of how accurate your estimates were in the past and gives you the insight to predict the effort required for similar projects in the future.
A positive effort variance indicates that you overestimated the effort required for that sprint, while a negative effort indicates that you underestimated the effort required for that sprint. Keep in mind that it’s normal to have a higher degree of deviation in the first few sprints in a given project, because you’re just getting started with the project. But in due course, this should stabilize, and you should be able to complete your sprints on time.
You can also define ranges for acceptable deviations from planned effort, as shown in the chart above.
Daily story points variance
While the previous reports enable you to measure variance in effort and schedules, the daily story point variance report enables you to track variation in story points achieved on a daily basis. The benefit of using this report is that you can add more story points to your daily tasks if your team has consistently achieved more story points than originally planned. However, if your team is unable to achieve the planned story points, it might be time to revisit your plan, and evaluate if you’re expecting too much out of your team.
These reports are built using Analytics Plus, ManageEngine’s IT analytics solution that offers out-of-the-box integrations with several popular IT applications such as ServiceNow, Jira Software, Zendesk, and ManageEngine’s umbrella of IT products. If you’re looking for an IT analytics solution, start your free, 30-day trial of Analytics Plus now.
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