In the old days, before there was gunpowder or drone aircraft, God, as Napoleon Bonaparte so shrewdly observed, was on the side of the heaviest battalions. This meant that the larger your army, the more likely you were to defeat your opponents on the field of battle. This was a problem, because a general was unable to direct every one of his thousands of troops individually. So this is where the idea of a management hierarchy and command and control came from. Julius Caesar did not guide each legionary – that was the job of the Decurions. These in turn were commanded by Centurions and so on up to the great man himself.
For a Decurion, the troops he commanded provided a lot of insight into the situation on the ground. They could highlight a lack of equipment; a weakness in the opposition’s fighting style or simply overall weariness. The Decurion needed to summarize all these data and present only the parts relevant to the overall century to his Centurion. If we take the Project Manager as the Decurion, we can see how that tradition of reporting persists through to today.
Managing a project team involves monitoring and controlling the project work and interpreting raw data from measurements that are being taken in order to convey to your stakeholders where the project is at the moment.
For students preparing for the Project Management Professional (PMP)® exam, details of the work performance fly from process to process in a bewildering fashion. So it is helpful, when studying for the PMP® exam, to have a clear understanding of the difference between data, information and reports.
According to the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), Work Performance Data are the “raw observations and measurements identified during activities performed to carry out the project work”. These interact between eleven project management processes. They are generated by (i.e. they are outputs of) the Direct and Manage Project Work process only and then consumed by the various monitoring and controlling processes. So you will see Work Performance Data being used by Validate and Control Scope, Control Schedule, Control Cost, Control Quality, Control Resources, Monitor Communications, Monitor Risks, Control Procurements and Monitor Stakeholder Engagement.
Raw data could be “10 tonnes of cement consumed this week”; “kitchen furniture installed between Tuesday and Friday” or “1% of the manufactured goods are failing inspection”. Taken on their own raw data are not very helpful. What the Project Manager needs to do is to put these into context. In other words, they need to be converted from data to information. According to the PMBOK® Guide, Work Performance Information is the “performance data collected from various controlling processes, analysed in context and integrated based on relationships across areas”
There are also eleven instances of Work Performance Information. As a rule of thumb, any control process that has Work Performance Data as an Input will have Work Performance Information as an output. All this information is then used by Monitor and Control Project Work.
All that remains now to discuss is Work Performance Reports. The PMBOK® Guide defines these as the “physical or electronic representation of work performance information compiled in project documents, which is intended to generate decisions or raise issues, actions, or awareness”. So, while information is processed data, reports provide context for that information. For instance, the Project Manager may record estimated and actual times for each activity. S/he will then use those data to calculate Schedule Variances (remember Earned Value Management from your PMP® course?). The Schedule Variance information can then be reported to flag a delay in the project and, perhaps a need to re-plan.
The good news for PMP® exam preparation students is that there are only five instances of Work Performance Report to worry about. They are only generated by Monitor and Control Project Work and provide inputs for Perform Integrated Change Control (we need to understand the current state of the project before authorizing a change), Manage Team (to assess if we need more staff and to judge if team members should be rewarded for their efforts), Manage Communication (these reports need to be distributed to our stakeholders) and Monitor Risks (events that happen in the course of the project can result in new risks).
A clear understanding of data, information and reports will help to tackle questions relating to these inputs and outputs during the PMP® exam. Unlike some other PMP® exam topics, they are reasonably intuitive.
Velopi’s PMP® Exam Preparation courses cover all the processes, along with all their inputs and outputs. Please visit our training page or contact us directly if you are interested in this, or any of the other project and program management courses we offer. Velopi is a Registered Education Provider for the Project Management Institute so these courses will give you the best opportunity of succeeding in the PMP® exam.