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What is a project health check, and why you need it

Paul Naybour Paul Naybour

Published: 16th September 2013

A project health check is a learning opportunity, a quick glance at the status of a project to see which areas need a little improvement and which are going according to plan.  Very often, those closest to a project are the ones that have difficulty in seeing the progress that a project is, or is not, making because they are so focused on the minutiae.
The main purpose of a health check is to determine how well the project is performing in terms of the objectives, its accordance with proper procedure and company standards.

Why do people even use health checks?

With any business, in any sector, the cost of fixing an issue is much higher than the cost of preventing it in the first place.  Upcoming problems can go unnoticed or even disregarded because a lot people have that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ mentality.  The belief that everything will be ok if you just stick to the plan is a false one, and it shouldn’t be fostered.  Conducting checks on projects can help with the development of future projects and programs, by identifying common problems and solutions and applying them to future projects.

Who should perform project health checks?

These checks are best undertaken by third party assessors, who can provide an unbiased and balanced view and opinion.  Another benefit of going with an independent, is that their recommendations are more likely to be actioned.  A professional assessor will take the nature of your organisation into account and apply a recognised project management methodology.

When should the checks be carried out?

There are two approaches to this that you can take:

  1. Perform a health when the project runs into trouble, to try and find out what went wrong and why.
  2. Perform checks at set intervals, in order to find any potential issues before they actually become a problem.

Both of these approaches have their place, depending on the project and the size of the organisation.

Warning signs: What should you be looking out for?

The following are five categories of warning signs that can be identified by using health checks.

  • Conformity

This about consistency, and making sure that every part of your project conforms to the practices applied to other projects and the organisation as a whole.  This not only helps improve communication but can also improve the effectiveness of your organisation and project.
 

  • Validating the case for your business

Projects are created for a variety of reasons, this check looks at the project’s objectives and goals, throughout the life of the project, making sure that the focus is still on the bigger picture.
 

  • Project finance control

This focuses on the costs that you expect to be incurred in the coming months, this is also known as your project’s Burn Rate.  You can use this data to estimate future costing and make decisions about resources.
 

  • Risk assessment

Project managers have been known to perform the required management exercise, and then leave it in a drawer until the conclusion of the project.  This check examines the risk management plan, and makes sure that any risks have been noted and addressed.  If they haven’t, recommendations can be made.
 

  • The human element

Successful project management is a team effort.  With this in mind, the project manager needs to make sure that productive relationships are maintained across the board.  Project health checks looks at how well teams work with each other, how satisfied clients are and any other human involvement that could have a negative impact on the project.
When the project managers have successfully identified what warning signs they should be looking for, the next thing to do is to perform the check and begin the task of turning the project around.
Scope, Time, Cost, Communication, Risk… The list goes on.  In fact, every aspect of project management is put under the spotlight and examined in detail.
By hiring an independent person to perform a project health check, organisations can not only avoid any potential risk, but they can also confirm that their project managers are on top of all the key elements ensuring the project’s success.

  1. elham says:

    hi
    I am so happy that I could find a suitable site for my question
    first of all I thanks you because of your useful text
    second I have a question that I will be really gled if u answer it.
    i am an project control expert. of course i’m a simple of it that I has started to do since 2 month ago.
    is it useful for me to pass this course or not?
    thanks again
    I’m forward to your answer.
    best regards

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