Gathering data – OPEN

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Topic 12.8: Gathering data

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There are two stages to data collection; however, they are not necessarily consecutive.

The first stage involves gathering and reviewing all the relevant project planning documentation, including (but not necessarily limited to) the baseline and subsequent versions of the project:

Scope (WBS)

Schedule

Budget

Stakeholder register

Communications plan

Risk register

Human resource plan, and

Finance plan

You should also review any and all project:

Contracts

Status reports

Meeting agendas and minutes

Change requests

Change and issue logs, and

General correspondence

From this data, you will begin to get a sense of what the project did well, and where the performing organisation may have opportunities to improve the future delivery of similar projects.

You might also draw important conclusions from the poor record keeping in (or even absence of) any or all of these documents.

These first impressions should then inform and guide your key stakeholder interviews and other primary data collection (stage two).

As you are also likely to discover more relevant documents as part of this process, you should continually update your secondary (document) sources and the relationships that exist therein.

Importantly, you should be looking to ensure that the information you gather at all stages is:

By valid, we mean that the data should be an authentic representation of what occurred throughout the project. 

You should also ensure that the data you are looking at relates specifically to the project being reviewed, and that you are not collecting or using information outside your terms of reference.

Reliable data is information that can be looked at by a number of different people who would all understand it in the same way (even though they might draw different conclusions from it). 

For example, earned value management is a reliable technique that tracks project performance, ensuring that the team have a common understanding of what 10 or 20 per cent behind schedule means. 

We all might take different actions based on that information; however, the data itself is not in dispute.

Current means that the information you gather reflects the most up-to-date impressions or understanding of the project. 

Reviewing different configurations of the project plan ensures currency of the data; whereas, a project that has not adequately tracked delivery could be said to have a non-current understanding of its performance.

Finally, sufficiency means that you should gather data until you have enough information to draw reliable conclusions and make high quality recommendations. 

Quite often, multiple data sets will throw up conflicting information. 

For example, two stakeholders might have very different impressions of project success, while the project plan tells a different story again.

The skill of the forensic reviewer lies in triangulating these multiple points of data to arrive at the ‘true’ picture of what went on in the project.