How to Set Proper Milestones to Track Project Delivery?
Project Tracking, a part of Project Management helps you with recognizing all the required tasks, detecting potential threats, implementing the corrective actions and all that it takes to complete a project successfully on time with expected quality. It is always recommended to deploy project tracking early in the project to control and regulate the granted resources. Here, the overall aim is to compare the project plan with the project’s actual advance and thereby identifying variances in a timely manner.
Such practice of regularly measuring project performance forms crucial for the companies with a track record of time and cost overruns. Using the project management tools, it provides you with a highly-standardized, evaluation of financial assets, fully automated monitoring and planning management across a varying group of activities.
Why should you implement Project Tracking?
There could be so many reasons to kick start a project tracking. It could be to set a project in the success path, to stay informed about the project’s status, to create a unified team, to resolve critical issues, to keep the team and stakeholders in touch with deadlines and objectives, to take preventive actions to bring the project in compliance with a project management plan and so forth. Apart from these reasons, there are two main mechanisms that generally make every business implement project tracking; they are contracts and integrators (aka project barons).
The contracts provide you with a set of legally binding rules and norms along with sanctions and penalties to be followed and fulfilled in every project. The other one is the integrators that work to achieve the project’s objectives. Depending on the company, project and objectives, these two mechanisms can operate as substitutes or complement each other. Of all, the following are the basic three things that every project tracking helps you with.
- Tracking builds a successful project reporting plan.
- It analysis - the work done, resource spent and earned value.
- Brings transparency and oversight into a project’s performance.
How to set up the project tracking milestones?
Milestones are what helps you to represent the achievements and accomplishments in your project. It serves as a visual guide for your project via automating progress tracking on the basis of work done. When it comes to setting up your project milestones, the mostly opted methodologies like Agile not only act as a driving force for your project but also to achieve those milestones throughout your work process. To speak about Agile methodology, it is an iterative approach to project management that builds software incrementally throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC).
It primarily focuses on the process adaptability and customer satisfaction by prioritizing the deliverables of the project within two weeks, known as Sprints. It comes with strikingly several benefits which cannot be possible in the traditional Waterfall Development Method such as delivering high-quality features within short delivery cycles, improves the level of customer satisfaction and much more. Let’s explore how to set milestones for tracking your project delivery using Agile methodology.
1. Using the Scrum framework
Scrum is a lightweight, Agile project management framework that can be used primarily to manage iterative and incremental projects of all types. It is a process more of reviewing and adapting along the way. With Scrum, you will write fewer plans and the product is developed in sprints (within two weeks). Instead of working in silos, you work as a dedicated single team. Further, instead of working on distant deadlines, you continuously deliver high-quality products throughout the development cycle.
In contrast to the traditional Waterfall method, Scrum does not wait until the final review; instead, it keeps receiving continuous feedback from the customers. Based on the customer's feedback, the Scrum team works on the improvisation thing and no wonder, Scrum is rightly referred to as “more of reviewing and adapting along the way process”.
Known for flexibility and customer satisfaction, Scrum is the widely chosen project management framework by most of the IT companies across the world. Over the years, Scrum has been opted by a wide range of sectors such as automotive industries, universities, military, construction, marketing agencies, and so much more. Overall the Scrum framework has been divided into three core rules, namely;
- Product Owner - responsible for the work that a team has to complete.
- Scrum Master - responsible for assisting the team to follow Scrum rules, theory and practice.
- Development team - people will be working as a unified team to deliver quality products.
Apart from the above three leads, you have other significant elements or artifacts in Scrum methodology. They are,
- Product Backlog - In Scrum methodology, the product backlog is a list of tasks and requirements needed to deliver the final quality product.
- Sprint Backlog - Right from the product backlog, it is a list of all the items that must be completed during each sprint.
- Burndown Charts - It is used to provide a graphical representation of the amount of estimated remaining work that will be needed to deliver the project.
- Product Increments: It is the sum of work completed in a sprint combined with all other work that is completed during the previous sprints.
2. Using Kanban Board
It is yet another popular framework that is used to implement the Agile methodology. Regardless of the methodology you use, it offers you with a visual representation of your work using columns, cards and specific commitment and delivery points. According to David Anderson, the one who popularized the Kanban method, the primary role of the Kanban method is to take Kanban from a manufacturing process into the software. He also defines the major five key elements of a Kanban board, they are,
- Visual signals (cards or stickies)
- Commitment point
- Delivery point
- WIP limits
These five elements play a significant role in recognizing your project milestones. At first, the cards (also referred to as tickets) - it is onto the cards, the Kanban team writes all of their work items, generally one item or user story per card. It helps the team and stakeholders to get to know what everyone is working on at one time. Secondly, it is the columns that define a specific activity that together forms a workflow - the one which governs the cards’ flow until the completion and takes us to the third and fourth elements.
The two components of the workflow are the commitment point and the delivery point. The instance where the team picks up one of those projects and work begins, whereas the delivery point is when the Kanban workflow ends (product launch). The time that it takes to get from the commitment point to the delivery point is what is known as the lead time. Last but not least, it is then the WIP (Work-In-Progress) limits. It is used to limit the number of cards at any column at any time and believed to help limit the work in progress in a more timely manner.
Have you heard of “personal kanban”? For those who don’t know what personal kanban is all about - it is a great fit for the boards where only you contribute or for a small team with a simple workflow. In simple words, it is a way you organize your own things to work on and a visualization of your work process, which adds tangibility. Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry, co-authors of “Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life” have proposed two simple rules for personal kanban, namely;
- Visualize your work - as discussed in the general Kanban method, visualizing the workflow; to do, in progress, work done or postponed.
- Limit work in progress - to regulate, however, you see fit.
Difference between Scrum and Kanban:
- The team of Scrum work in a series of Sprints, i.e. most commonly 1 to 2 weeks or for 3 to 4 weeks.
- The one who takes care of the whole team - Product Owner and Development team to practice Scrum rules is referred to as the “Scrum Master”.
- To start with each Sprint, you have a Sprint Standup Planning Meeting. It is facilitated by the Scrum Master and attended by the Product Owner and the Development Team and other Stakeholders (optional).
- From the Sprint Standup meeting, they select some of the highly-prioritized items known as Sprint Backlog. It is those specific Sprint Backlogs the development team must target to deliver in each Sprint.
- The development team works on items in the Sprint Backlog only for the duration of the Sprint. Any other new issues must wait for the next Sprint.
- A demo for every new feature (more like a review for every Sprint) will be presented to the Stakeholders.
- To make each Sprint more efficient and effective than the last, an examination of what could be done will be discussed.
- Kanban is a continuous process, and it has no duration limit such as sprints in Scrum.
- The Kanban team also follows a regular standup meeting, but the time and date will be adjusted as per the team’s convenience.
- It is the job of the “Agile Coach”(not necessary for every Kanban team) to help the Product Owner and the Development Team to follow Agile methodology.
- There are no such rituals to be followed in the Kanban method; the items are directly pulled from the Product Backlog.
- An empty column is a signal to the previous column to send another item. This is the “pull” system in action.
- Each item is packaged for release as soon as it is done and ready to deploy.
- To have a look and improve the overall process, a demonstration of new functionality will be shown to the Stakeholders.
3. Using Project Tracking tools
The project management tools are designed with all the essential things in one place in real-time so as to keep the project visible across the team and stakeholders. There is an umpteen number of project management software in the market; let’s see what the top-most factors that must be considered in choosing a project tracking tool for your company are.
- Must deliver real-time information
- Obviously, should track problems
- Should encourage team collaboration and motivation
- Have to provide quick and detailed reporting
Some of the popular and widely-used project management tools are as follows.
GitHub: One of the most popular among the developers worldwide is GitHub and it comes very useful for bringing in transparency and schedules across all the team members. It is on GitHub, the developers, product owner, project managers and others coordinate, track and update (push) their work at one place.
Jira: Offered by Atlassian, Jira is an issue and project tracking software. It is centralized and highly customizable project management software that assists you to stay ahead on the deadlines and statuses. Jira can be used for bug tracking, issue management and much more. The projects managed in a central database goes through a number of workflows which in turn controls the projects’ statuses.
Asana: offered as a SaaS (software-as-a-service) product, Asana helps you with improving work management and team collaboration. Right from creating projects, assigning tasks to the teammates and other communications, everything can be done in this one tool.
Trello: Unlike other tools, Trello is a collaboration tool that can be used to organize your project’s workflow into boards. It is used for managing tasks for business as well as personal use. Much like a Kanban board, Trello provides you with the data regarding - to do, in progress, under review, done all at one glance. As Jira, it is offered by Atlassian.
Some of the general best practices for effective implementation of project tracking are as follows. Firstly, you must prioritize tasks - to work on planned tasks and detect the unplanned tasks that are hidden along your way. Secondly, it is all about setting measurable targets that include milestones, review and introspection. Thirdly, you must ensure certain things which help you to deliver quality products within short cycles such as the proper usage of the dashboard, timely reports to stakeholders and other concerned members and recommending actions for improvements (and follow-up).
Most important of all is that upon fulfilling all these steps, keep repeating it as Agile methodology is all about an iterative process.
New to Agile methodology or confused about which best suits for your business - Scrum or Kanban? Reach out to us to make your project management planning smooth and seamless.