Project Managers and Activity Managers – A Two Step Task Status Review Process

When delivering projects with small or medium-sized teams, the Project Manager is often in direct contact and continually communicating with the resources on the team.  The PM may be directly involved in the work being delivered, and able to validate, first-hand, the “I’m done my task” status updates provided by the resources. Of course, Project Online facilitates this collaboration, and with the task status or timesheet functionality in place, Project Managers receive project task assignment status updates directly from the resources.

Sometimes, however, these updates might be questionable, especially for larger or distributed teams where the PM has no direct contact or interface to the work being completed. Is the task really done? Has the resource provided an accurate update and is truly 100% complete? Worse yet is the rapid progression to 80% complete, and then the long delay before the task is finally set to 100% – we’ve all witnessed this.

For more accurate assessment of task progress and status, Project Managers often rely on input from Team Leads or Activity Managers who act as a “middle-man” to interact with the resources on the project. When the resource reports that they are done, the Activity Manager reviews the work and approves the task status for the Project Manager. Many organizations rely on this two-step approach, with an Activity Manager involved in the review process, for everything from quality control to delivery status.

Project Online also facilitates this collaboration, using the Status Manager functionality as described in this Office support article. Using this Status Manager feature exposes some challenges with the functionality:

  • By default, the Project Manager can only set themselves as a task status manager. To select other users or ‘Activity Managers’ as the task Status Manager involves some cumbersome workarounds, and is not very practical for most Project Managers.
  • Naming someone else as the Status Manager relinquishes control over the schedule to this person. They can accept task updates from resources, and the schedule gets updated, without the Project Manager’s final approval.

 

Here’s an easy to implement workaround for these Status Manager issues: require an Activity Manager’s “approval” to complete a task before the task is set to 100% complete. Assign the task’s resources as usual, and then also assign an Activity Manager to tasks setting their Work or Units to 0. Microsoft Project displays an unusual behavior when a resource is set to 0 hours on a task – the task will never be marked as 100% complete and will show 99% complete until the Activity Manager, with 0 hours of work, submits Mark Complete task status update from Project Online.

In the following view, I have added an Activity Manager field, and an AM Review Status indicator, showing different visual indicators for tasks which are complete and have been reviewed, ready for review, in progress or not started. Note the Task Form showing the Resource (Matt) and the Activity Manager (Doug Welsby) both assigned to the task.

The Activity Manager, having noted that the task is at 99% complete and ready for review – signifying that the assigned resources are 100% complete and the Project Manager has accepted the status updates – is now able to give the final review and stamp of approval to the task. Review the resources work, then 1) select the task(s), 2) mark them complete, and 3) send the status to the Project Manager. The PM gets one last chance for review before the task is 100% complete.

Interested in implementing this process? Our Wicresoft Services team can help put this Activity Management framework into place, complete with automated tools for maintaining the project schedule and keeping the Activity Manager assigned and active on tasks requiring status management. Contact us to learn more!