A Guide to Work Orders & Work Order Management (Template Included)

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

Work orders help organizations manage their maintenance work. They act as the paper trail defining what needs to be done, by when and for what period of time within an organization. Work order management is critical in industries such as manufacturing, construction and others that rely on the use of heavy equipment and machinery.

What Is a Work Order?

A work order is a document that describes how maintenance work will be performed. A work order should include a description of the maintenance activities and information such as who requested and approved the work order, the maintenance technician responsible for executing the work as well as the associated due dates, costs and resources.

Work orders can be either executed by an internal maintenance team, or if your organization doesn’t have one, you can hire a third-party maintenance contractor.

What Is Work Order Management?

The term work management simply refers to the tools and strategies that are used to plan, schedule and manage work orders efficiently so that you can solve critical maintenance problems, keep equipment in optimal conditions and make sure asset downtime is minimized.

Traditionally work orders used to be issued and managed as physical documents. However, managing physical work orders is a thing of the past. Today most organizations use software to manage their work orders and their maintenance staff.

ProjectManager has planning tools such as Gantt charts, kanban boards and task lists to create online work orders that help you save time. Easily create tasks, assign work to team members, set due dates and control costs with online timesheets. Get started for free.

 ProjectManager’s planning tools are ideal for work order management ProjectManager’s planning tools are ideal for work order management
ProjectManager’s planning tools let you assign, schedule and track work orders without paperwork. Learn more

The Work Order Process

To create a work order, organizations usually go through this basic 3-step work order process.

1. Create a Work Request

Work orders can’t be created without submitting a work request first. Work requests are created once a maintenance issue is identified. They can be submitted under a different number of cases such as a customer request, a safety inspection, a preventive maintenance audit or an internal request.

2. Evaluate the Work Request

Work requests are submitted to the maintenance manager, who evaluates them and turns them into a work order. To do so, he must first determine if it’s feasible to execute the requested maintenance work and then allocate resources such as materials, equipment and personnel in order to create a work order.

3. Create a Work Order

Once the maintenance manager has identified the necessary resources to execute a work request, he can turn that work request into a work order. As stated above, the work order includes all of the information about the maintenance activities to be performed such as the due dates, job description and requirements, among other details.

Related: Free Work Order Template for Excel

What Are Work Orders Used For?

Work orders standardize workflow and create a simple and fast process for scheduling, assigning and tracking maintenance work while documenting resources and tracking performance.

Work orders are primarily used in the construction industry for service requests, but can also be used for products, inspections and audits. Work orders may not always be referred to as such. For example, in manufacturing, a work order is often called a sales order when a build or engineering is to take place.

Regardless of what industry a work order is used in, it’s used to track and monitor the status of the job to make sure it is finished on time and within budget. This is true when work orders are used in field service or within an industry that’s tasked with regular inspection. In that regard, they act almost like a project status report.

Work Order Types

There are different types of work orders that are part of the maintenance schedule of an organization. Here are the most common types of maintenance work and the types of work orders that are created for maintenance teams.

  • General work order: A general work order describes activities that can’t be classified as preventive, inspection, emergency or corrective maintenance work. An example of a general work order could be setting up new equipment in a production facility.
  • Preventive maintenance work order: Preventive maintenance work orders are used to schedule routine maintenance work that needs to be done to keep equipment working at optimal conditions.
  • Inspection work order: Inspection work orders, as the name suggests, are issued whenever an organization wants to inspect its assets. These are usually recurring maintenance tasks similar to preventive maintenance work orders, however, maintenance technicians are focused on identifying risks and problems.
  • Emergency work order: Emergency work orders are issued whenever an asset breaks down, and this requires immediate action from the maintenance team. These are also known as reactive maintenance work orders and have a high priority level.
  • Corrective maintenance work order: A corrective maintenance work is employed whenever a maintenance technician identifies a maintenance issue, problem or potential risk. Corrective maintenance differs from emergency maintenance because in this case, the problem or issue is diagnosed before it becomes an emergency that causes equipment to fail.

How to Write a Work Order

Now that we’ve learned the basics of work orders and work order management, let’s learn what a work order should include. Here are some steps you can follow to write a work order. Then, use our work order template to create your own work orders.

1. Contact and Internal Information

Our free work order template can be customized to fit the perimeters of your business, but it’s fully loaded with the basics. At the top is where much of the pertinent information is captured, such as company name, address and contact.

There’s also a place to add the work order number, which is key to keeping track of the job and finding the work order quickly. Dates are included for when the work order is issued, when the work is expected to start, finish and when it’s completed.

A priority level can be set. The person who requested the work order is identified and a customer ID for internal use is given. For larger organizations, the department can be specified.

2. Job Description

The meat of the work order is the job and its related labor and materials. Here, the work is described, who is billed is identified, and, if necessary, where the work will be shipped is identified.

Following this is a detailed description of the work to be done and how many hours it will take to do each maintenance activity, as well as the rate of the worker tasked with the job. This is then totaled.

3. Required Materials

The next section in our work order sample lists the materials needed to complete the work order, how much of each, the cost and any applicable tax. This is added to the above total for a subtotal. Any additional charges are added to this subtotal to reach the total price of the work order.

Finally, there’s space to add additional information before the signature and dateline. Again, these are just 3 basic steps to create a work order, but with these steps and a few tweaks to our free work order template, you can create any type of work order.

Work Order Template

You may be wondering what should be on a work order to yield the most effective outcome. To get a better general idea of work orders and what they entail, let’s look at a work order sample. ProjectManager has a number of free project management templates, and pictured below is a full version of our work order template. We will outline the different elements of the work order and how to use them.

Work order template in ProjectManagerWork order template in ProjectManager

ProjectManager Helps With Work Order Management

ProjectManager is award-winning software that helps organize work and drive efficiency. Generating, tracking and paying for work orders is enhanced by our online tool that gives you real-time data to always know if you’re keeping on schedule.

Our kanban boards let you create digital work orders and manage them online. Simply use our kanban cards to enter the information about your work order, assign it to a team member, set due dates and track its progress across the kanban board. ProjectManager’s kanban boards also allow you to schedule recurring tasks, which are ideal to schedule preventive, inspection and corrective work orders.

ProjectManager's kanban boards are ideal to manage tasks while executing work ordersProjectManager's kanban boards are ideal to manage tasks while executing work orders

Track Work Orders With Online Dashboards

Keep track of the progress of your work orders on cloud-based dashboards that automatically reflect status updates and calculate metrics such as time, percent complete, costs and more. For example, if you’re putting together a mechanic work order and your maintenance crew is in the field, they can still collaborate online with the rest of the team.

real-time dashboard monitors progress and performance of work ordersreal-time dashboard monitors progress and performance of work orders

Control Costs With Cloud-Based Timesheets

Time logged on work can also be tracked with timesheets that streamline payroll as well. They’re secure and easy to use. Our unlimited file storage means you can use the tool as a centralized hub to manage all your work orders.

ProjectManager is an online tool that organizes work and workers for greater productivity. Manage your work orders and keep your team working wherever they are or whenever they’re working. Try ProjectManager today by taking this free 30-day trial.

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An Intro to the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

Scheduling a project can be daunting. Fortunately, there are tools and techniques such as the precedence diagramming method to help organize activities and get them all done on time.

Precedence diagrams are used to visualize the tasks in a project from start to finish. If you’re not familiar with the precedence diagramming method, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s take a close look at this technique and how it assists project managers when scheduling their projects.

What Is the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)?

The precedence diagramming method is a project planning technique that allows project managers to map out all the tasks in a project to plan the order in which they will be executed. This is done by using precedence diagrams, which are project network diagrams that show tasks, their duration and dependencies.

The precedence diagramming method (PDM) is similar to the program evaluation and review technique (PERT), activity-on-node diagramming and the critical path method (CPM), because those techniques also use project network diagrams, but each has its key differences.

What Is a Precedence Diagram?

A precedence diagram is a project management chart that represents project tasks, shows their durations and the task dependencies between them. Precedence diagrams consist of nodes, which represent tasks, and arrows that connect them to show the task dependencies.

However, precedence diagrams can be labor-intensive and time-consuming. You’ll need to manually adjust them every time changes are made to your project plan.

With robust project management software such as ProjectManager, you can create Gantt charts, a much more powerful alternative to precedence diagrams. Our online Gantt charts allow you to assign tasks, set task dependencies, identify the critical path and much more with just one click.

A screenshot of a status report generation screen in ProjectManager, with different filter settings that affect the generated reportA screenshot of a status report generation screen in ProjectManager, with different filter settings that affect the generated report
ProjectManager’s Gantt charts are the perfect complement to precedence diagrams. Learn more

Now that we’ve defined what precedence diagrams are, let’s see how task dependencies work in the PDM.

What Are the Four Types of Precedence Diagramming Dependencies?

The precedence diagramming method uses the four types of task dependencies commonly used in task management. However, when implemented with PDM, these task dependencies are also called precedence relationships or PDM relationships.

  • Finish to Start (FS): The activity cannot start until its preceding task has finished.
  • Finish to Finish (FF): The activity cannot finish until its preceding task has finished.
  • Start to Start (SS): The activity cannot start until its preceding task has started.
  • Start to Finish (SF): The activity cannot finish until its preceding task has started.

Why Use the Precedence Diagramming Method?

A precedence diagram is a great tool to more accurately develop the project schedule, keep the work on track and meet the deadline. It does this by visually representing the whole project, making it easier for project managers to plan, schedule and track tasks.

Of course, the greatest asset to using the precedence diagramming method is that it exposes task dependencies in the schedule. This helps prevent bottlenecks later in the project—and if there are changes in the schedule, the precedence diagram helps to show how those changes.

As the precedence diagram illustrates the activities and dependencies in a project, it can help show what the critical processes and activities are in the schedule. This helps to determine the critical path, which is essential for project planning and scheduling.

How to Draw a Precedence Diagram

1. Create a Task List

Now it’s time to draw your own precedence diagram. The first thing to do is gather tasks, list them and identify preceding tasks. At a minimum, your table should list activities and their predecessor.

2. Identify Task Dependencies

Now that you’ve identified your project tasks, it’s important to analyze them all and identify the potential task dependencies that might exist in your project. This is one of the most important steps in PDM, as failing to address any task dependency could affect the precedence diagram as a whole. It could result in task, time and schedule management consequences.

3. Put the Information Into a Diagram

Now it’s time to lay out each task or activity as a node represented by a box. Each box should have an arrow that connects it to the next step. The first task or activity will start on the left followed by the second, which will be connected by an arrow.

If the next couple of tasks or activities has the same predecessor, they will be stacked on top of one another with two arrows originating from the predecessor. When a task has two predecessors, the arrows from those predecessors both connect to the task.

4. Add Task Information to The Nodes

The final step is to indicate the activity and the duration in the node. This is done by breaking the box in half, with one half indicating the activity and the other representing the duration. Of course, it can get more complicated. Nodes can include:

  • Float or slack time
  • Earliest start time
  • Earliest finish time
  • Latest start time
  • Latest finish time

Different Types of Project Network Diagrams

The precedence diagramming method is only one of many project network diagram techniques that assist with scheduling. Not all are the same, but each stems from a similar visual representation of a project schedule. More types are introduced below.

Arrow Diagramming Method (AOA Diagram)

For this diagramming method, arrows represent activities when scheduling the project. The relationships between the activities are shown by circles that connect one or more of the arrows. The arrow’s length is used to define the duration of the activity. This method only shows finish-to-start relationships. It’s also referred to as the activity-on-arrow (AOA) method.

Project Network Diagram (AON Diagram)

A project network diagram is used to show the order in which activities in a project are done. It comes from data collected in a work breakdown structure (WBS). It is usually drawn left to right in chronological order. A network diagram is also referred to as the AON diagram.

Critical Path Method

The critical path scheduling algorithm is often used with the program evaluation and review technique (PERT) to show the longest path of dependent activities and the time it will take to get them done.

Gantt Chart

The Gantt chart is a bar chart used in project scheduling. It creates a project timeline where activities are lines of varying lengths according to the duration of the task laid out in chronological order.

Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT)

As mentioned above, the PERT chart is used in conjunction with the critical path method, using statistics to analyze tasks in a project. It shows the time needed to complete the project; specifically, the time required for each of the project’s tasks, which will inform the project schedule.

How ProjectManager Helps You Schedule Projects

ProjectManager is project management software that works hand-in-hand with your precedence diagram by offering advanced scheduling and resource management features. Create dependencies, find the critical path and execute your project schedule with ease.

Plan on Gantt Charts

Once the groundwork for the precedence diagram is completed, begin inputting your tasks into our Gantt chart. You can then add the start and end dates. We automatically populate a project timeline showing a full overview of the project visually laid out for you.

Adding precedence diagramming info to ProjectManager's Gantt chart

Adding precedence diagramming info to ProjectManager's Gantt chart
Our Gantt makes it easy for you to link dependent tasks. Drag and drop one task to the other, but our tool also defines which of the four dependencies it is, allowing you to know when this work is coming up in the project so you can allocate the necessary resources to keep the team from getting blocked.

Onboard Your Team

When you’re ready to onboard the team, invite them to the software and start assigning them tasks. Add attachments, descriptions, tags and set priorities and deadlines. Monitor their progress from a high level with our real-time dashboard and report back to stakeholders with easy-to-share and filterable reports.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a projectProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project

ProjectManager is online software that gives you live data to make better decisions as you execute your schedule. It allows you to easily plan, monitor and report on projects while giving teams a collaborative platform that gives them the tools to work better together. Use ProjectManager for your next project by taking this free 30-day trial today.

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How to Make a RACI Chart for a Project (With Example)

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

The better team members know their roles and responsibilities, the better a project will run. The last thing you want on a project is confusion, so communicating role distinctions early on in the project is crucial.

A RACI chart allows project managers to do exactly that. It’s an efficient way to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands what they have to do.

What Is a RACI Chart?

A RACI chart is a visual tool that shows the roles and responsibilities of team members for project tasks and deliverables. This makes it clear who is doing what in the project and avoids any confusion that could slow down production and eat into costs.

Project management software with team management and reporting tools makes it easy to define the roles and responsibilities of your team members while keeping stakeholders informed. ProjectManager, for instance, has online team collaboration tools that allow you to assign work, track and collaborate with your team in real time. Unlike lightweight products, there’s no setup required. Get started for free.

Workload chart in ProjectManagerWorkload chart in ProjectManager
ProjectManager’s team management tools go beyond RACI charts. Learn more

Let’s take a closer look at what RACI stands for and the significance of each of those categories in the responsibility assignment matrix.

What Does RACI Stand For?

RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. Each letter is a category that’s used on the RACI matrix to define team members’ roles in a project.

Responsible

Each task must have at least one responsible team member who does the work to complete the task. There can be, however, more than one responsible party assigned on the RACI matrix.

Accountable

This team member is in charge of delegating work and approving deliverables before they can be deemed complete. Sometimes the responsible team member is also the accountable one on the RACI chart. But every task must have one accountable person attached to it, and it’s not always the project manager.

Consulted

This team member will review a deliverable, providing feedback that puts the deliverable in context to the whole project or just within its own expectations.

Informed

These are the team members who must know what’s happening with the execution of tasks but don’t have the same level of responsibility as those listed above. They can be given a general report on progress rather than digging into the details.

RACI Chart Example

Now that we’ve learned about the responsible, accountable, consulted and informed roles and their responsibilities, let’s look at a RACI chart example.

The RACI template below shows the project tasks in the left column, while the team members are shown in the top row. We can see that the RACI model allows assigning each person a different role for each task.

RACI chart example in ProjectManagerRACI chart example in ProjectManager

Let’s focus on the financial analyst’s roles and responsibilities. We can see that he’s responsible for the financial study and the financial plan while the design director is accountable for the design UI and informed about creating mockups.

Now we’re ready to learn how to create a RACI matrix.

How to Create a RACI Chart

All projects can benefit from the clear expectations provided by using a RACI chart, but it’s especially helpful when managing multiple resources or having task dependencies.

To fully flesh out the process of making a RACI chart, let’s create a project using a RACI matrix example. Let’s say you’re building an addition to your home. These three steps will outline how you create a RACI matrix.

1. Identify Roles & Responsibilities

Across the top of your RACI chart template, list the people involved in the project including the client or homeowner who is having the construction done. Then there’s the architect, who is responsible for drawing the plans. The project manager is overseeing the whole project from start to finish. There’s a contractor, who, with their team, is responsible for the actual build. There are likely to be many more subcontractors, such as electricians, roofers, et al., but we’ll keep our RACI model simple.

2. List Tasks, Deliverables and Milestones

Next, you want to have a thorough list of the tasks, including milestones, and any decision-making processes to be listed in the far-left column. This includes tasks like reviewing the plans by the architect, estimating the budget, getting permits, preparing the site and doing any excavation that’s necessary. You might have to lay a foundation, add plinth beam and slab, masonry, flooring or roofing, doors and windows, electrical and plumbing, fixtures, etc.

3. Assign Tasks, Roles and Responsibilities

Under each person on the project team add the R (Responsible), A (Accountable), C (Consulted) or I (Informed), depending on their relation to the tasks on the left column. For example, the architect would be the responsible team member for delivering the completed project plan, while the project manager would be accountable for making sure that plan is compliant with any regulatory issues. The client or homeowner would be consulted to make sure the plans meet their specifications, but for much of the actual build would only be informed of the progress.

RACI Chart Template

Now that you understand how RACI charts work, and the process to make them, you can use our free RACI chart template to help you get started.

When to Use a RACI Chart

RACI charts are an effective project planning tool that facilitates managing teams’ and stakeholders’ expectations. While they’re versatile and simple to use, they might not be the best fit for some projects. Here are some of the best scenarios to use a RACI chart.

  • When tasks require collaboration: There are projects that involve more cross-functional teamwork than others. RACI charts are useful for project tasks that involve the input of multiple parties.
  • When there are lots of task dependencies: Knowing who’s responsible, accountable, consulted and informed for a task is very useful when managing task dependencies.
  • When projects require lots of decision-making: Some projects such as product development projects involve constant customer feedback and decision-making when deciding what product features to launch next. RACI charts are a great way to assign roles and responsibilities for both team members and stakeholders so that the decision-making process is as smooth as possible and only involves the right people.
  • When starting projects: Defining roles and responsibilities is a need of any project team. Using a RACI chart at the beginning, during your ideation and planning stages is always advisable.
  • When onboarding new team members: RACI charts are simple to understand. Their simplicity makes them a great new team member onboarding tool, as it allows new members to quickly understand how they fit into the team with just one quick look.

Advantages of Using a RACI Chart

The more structure, direction and clear definition you can give your project team, the better suited they will be to get their work done on time and without wasting valuable resources. Here are some of the top benefits of using a RACI chart.

  • A RACI chart is setting expectations and accountability as everyone is aware of what they and the rest of the team do.
  • RACI charts are simple to read and use for both team members and stakeholders.
  • RACI charts are a great way to avoid having too many resources allocated to one task.
  • By helping team members understand each other’s roles, RACI charts can foster team collaboration.
  • RACI charts help avoid having “too many cooks” for certain tasks and decisions.

As an added bonus, these definitions remove many of the personality issues and office politics that hinder productivity. You’ve given your team a RACI framework, so they know where they stand and where other team members stand. Teams are happier this way, and it streamlines communications. Team members can look back at the RACI chart at any time during the project and know who is responsible for what, instead of having to pull everyone away from what they’re doing.

Disadvantages of Using a RACI Chart

There are pros and cons to using the RACI model to manage your project teams. Here are some of the most common disadvantages of using a RACI matrix.

  • RACI charts can become obsolete if changes are made to the project plan and team roles.
  • RACI charts can become hard to read for large teams.
  • The RACI model roles might not exactly reflect what your team members and stakeholders do.
  • The RACI model might slow down certain tasks and deliverables, as they require the involvement of multiple people.

RACI Chart Alternatives

  • RASCI Matrix: As the name suggests, this is very similar to a RACI chart. The only difference is that this model adds another letter, which stands for “supportive.” Supportive team members will help “responsible” team members with their tasks.
  • DACI Chart: A DACI chart, like a RACI chart, is a responsibility assignment matrix. DACI stands for Driver, Approver, Contributor and Informed. It can be a great alternative to RACI charts, as these roles are the best fit for some teams.
  • RAPID Responsibility Matrix: Another responsibility assignment model that’s especially good for projects with intensive decision-making. RAPID stands for Recommend, Agree, Perform, Input and Decide. The RAPID matrix clearly defines authority and accountability, reducing conflicts.

ProjectManager Is Better than RACI Charts

With ProjectManager, you can achieve much more than by only using RACI charts and other static documents. Everyone on the team can keep track of their own tasks and can check them off as completed. The project and due date are also listed. Just click on an individual task for even more details. Team members can add their own to-do list to the task to manage their work and keep them on track.

Project managers can keep up on the team’s progress with the real-time dashboard, which follows six project metrics that are updated instantly when team members update their work. For more in-depth analysis, ProjectManager has one-click reporting that provides detailed data on task progress, costs and workload, among others.

responsibility assignment task list dashboard screenshotresponsibility assignment task list dashboard screenshot

There’s a workload page that allows project managers to make sure that no one team member is under or over-allocated. ProjectManager goes beyond a responsibility assignment matrix and helps you better manage your teams, make data-driven decisions and optimize your project resources in real-time.

ProjectManager is a cloud-based project management software that takes the roles and responsibilities defined on your RACI chart and turns them into a dynamic tool to manage teams and workload. Project managers get transparency into the project to monitor progress and reallocate resources to keep team members from getting blocked. See how ProjectManager can keep your team members accountable and productive by taking this free 30-day trial today.

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How to Create a Performance Measurement Baseline for Your Projects

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

Projects are planned and then life happens. Ideally, project managers know better than to execute their project plans without a performance measurement baseline. They need to know immediately if their team is on track or falling behind.

Without that knowledge, the project is running blindly, and anyone who’s tried this knows the dangers. A performance measurement baseline provides a window into the project that allows project managers to see roadblocks and resolve them before the project hits a dead end.

What Is a Performance Measurement Baseline?

The performance measurement baseline (often abbreviated as PMB) is part of the project plan that sets the scope, budget and schedule. The performance measurement baseline captures these parts of the project plan to measure them against the actual progress of the project.

This is one tool project managers use to see where they are versus where they planned to be. If that doesn’t align, the project manager can reallocate resources to get the project back on track. A performance measurement baseline is also a great tool for updating clients, stakeholders and executives.

The whole project is part of a performance measurement baseline, but it’s broken up by project scope, project schedule and project cost baselines. The scope baseline is created by combing the scope statement and the defined work on the work breakdown structure (WBS). The schedule baseline is made up of project activities and the cost baseline is the budget allocated to those activities.

Performance measurement baseline can mean all of these baselines or each individually. However, the performance measurement baseline is a tool for the project manager to guide the project, controlling its progress and performance and providing transparency for stakeholders and the use of project resources.

In order to get the most out of your performance measurement baseline, you need real-time data. ProjectManager is online project management software that captures live data for more insightful decision-making. It’s easy to set a baseline with a simple click on our Gantt chart, which allows you to track project variance as it happens. This means you can respond fast when costs, scope or time don’t match your project plan so your project stays on track. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

Gantt chart in projectmanagerGantt chart in projectmanager
ProjectManager’s Gantt chart sets the performance measurement baseline and tracks it in real time. Learn more

What’s the Purpose of a Performance Measurement Baseline?

As explained above, a performance measurement baseline is a way to control your project scope, schedule and costs. The performance measurement baseline captures your project plan so when you execute it, you have something to compare against your actual progress.

The baseline then reflects where you should be at any point in the project while your actual performance shows how far you progressed. The gap between those two points exposes how far behind (or possibly ahead) of your project plan that you are. This can include milestones, percentage of work completed or budget consumed.

This valuable data allows the project manager to monitor and track the project. If the performance measurement baseline indicates the project is delayed, the project manager can find out why and reallocate resources to right the project. Naturally, the more accurate your data, the better the performance measurement baseline works. You want a tool that collects real-time data or you’re always going to be a step behind.

How to Create a Performance Measurement Baseline

The importance of a performance measurement baseline to track your project and keep stakeholders updated is clear, but we haven’t explored how to make one. The process should be part of every project manager’s planning phase as the project plan develops.

It begins in planning but specifically focuses on the project scope, schedule and cost. Capturing these three distinct aspects of the project when they’re finalized in the project plan is the performance measurement baseline, acting as the project’s north star ensuring that you’re always on track.

To build a performance measurement baseline, follow these five steps.

1. Create a Scope Baseline

The scope of the project is the work that must be completed in order to receive the final deliverable. To determine those activities, you’ll first need to develop a scope statement, which collects all the work that must be done; a work breakdown structure (WBS), deliverable-oriented hierarchical deconstruction of the project from the top down; and a WBS dictionary, which details the tasks, activities and deliverables of the WBS.

Related: Free Project Scope Template for Word

The creation of these three documents is essential to understanding the project. Once they’ve been approved by the project stakeholders, then you have a scope baseline. It outlines the work that must be done and allows you to see if the work is being done through the execution phase in a timely manner.

2. Create a Schedule Baseline

The scope baseline will inform your costs as it outlines all activities necessary to deliver a successful project. But you also need to link any dependencies that might impact the sequence of activities. A schedule network diagram is a common tool for this work.

More than listing the activities, tasks and deliverables, you need to estimate the duration for each. It’s important to know how long it takes for an activity to be executed to completion and the resources required to do this. That information is incorporated into your schedule assumptions and constraints. Scheduling those resources is key to a smooth-running project.

When you have a schedule with task dependencies, duration and needed resources that’s been approved by stakeholders, you now have a project schedule baseline.

3. Create a Cost Baseline

At this point, we have the scope and the schedule but have yet to determine the financial investment that makes the work possible. Costs are forecast by looking at the resource requirements that you’ve compiled in the last step. These include your team, materials, equipment, software and anything else used in the execution of your project.

Like others mentioned above, the project budget has to be approved by stakeholders. That’s your cost baseline and it’s set up across project phases. Similar to other baselines, these numbers can change. If one changes, the other two need to adjust to make sure the project meets expectations.

4. Define Performance Indicators

You have the scope, schedule and cost baselines, but now you need to define the performance indicators related to those baselines. These indicators can refer to the earned value analysis (EVA) or other indicators that make sense for the project. But all are measured against the planned scope, schedule and budget.

5. Consolidate a Performance Measurement Baseline

While you can use the scope, schedule and cost baselines individually, many projects use a combination of the three to get a fuller picture of the project’s performance during the execution phase.

Whichever you choose, you’ll need a tool that collects the actual performance of the project’s scope, schedule and cost against the planned scope, schedule and cost. This is called the project variance and shows where you are in relation to where you should be.

Comparing your performance measurement baseline to the actual performance indicates whether you’re on target. If you’re not meeting baselines, the project manager must reallocate resources to get back on track.

However, the baseline can change if the scope, timeline or budget is adjusted. Approved changes are then reflected in the three baselines. This influences the combined performance measurement baseline.

ProjectManager Is Ideal for Performance Measurement

ProjectManager is project management software that creates a performance measurement baseline with just one click. Once you add the project plan data to your Gantt chart, simply set the baseline so you can always see the percentage of work completed, the actual costs you’ve spent and much more.

Get a High-Level View With Real-Time Dashboards

The data saved to your baseline automatically feeds throughout the software. You can see a percentage of tasks completed on any of the multiple project views. But the real-time dashboard goes even further. It requires no setup and does all the work for you. All you have to do is look at the graphs and charts it generates to monitor time, cost, workload, health, tasks and progress. There’s even a portfolio dashboard if you’re managing more than one project.

dashboard showing project metrics in real-timedashboard showing project metrics in real-time
Go Deeper Into Data With Customizable Reports

Stakeholders have expectations and project managers have to report to them with regular updates. In one click, you have reports that go deeper into the data than the high-level view of the real-time dashboard. Reports can be generated on project or portfolio status, project plan, tasks, timesheets, availability, workload and variance. The latter will use your performance measurement baseline to tell you where you are and where you should be. All reports can be customized to focus only on details for project managers or more general outlooks for stakeholders.

ProjectManager's status report filterProjectManager's status report filter

If you discovered that you’re falling behind, our tool has resource management features that can help you view your team’s workload and balance it to keep them productive. Any changes you make to your project plan can be done by simply dragging and dropping start dates or deadlines to their new place. The tool updates automatically to reflect these changes and teams are notified by email and in-app alerts. It’s this real-time collaboration that keeps your teams working better together.

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that helps you plan, monitor and report on projects in real time. Set a baseline after you create your project plan and see in real time where you actually are in relation to your planned effort. Join teams from NASA, Siemens and Nestle who use our tools to drive success. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM): A Quick Guide

PM Articles by ProjectManager.com. 

Products have a lifespan just like everything else. After they’re born, they develop, mature and eventually die. That journey is called product lifecycle management. Like any aspect of creating a product, it involves many processes.

Product lifecycle management is the sum of the process that makes a product happen. It can be long and complicated with many phases, but let’s first define what product lifecycle management is and look at its history.

What Is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?

Product lifecycle management, or PLM for short, is the handling of a good as it moves through the phases of its product life. Those phases are market development, market introduction, market growth, maturity and market decline.

For now, it’s enough to know that product lifecycle management is an involved process. It’s everything from manufacturing the product to marketing it. Managing that process is important as it helps executives make business decisions on everything from the price of the goods to promotion, expansion and cost-cutting.

The way a business approaches the various phases of a product’s development, from inception to decline, is what the product lifecycle is all about. That includes every stage of the process, from development to manufacturing and marketing to customer segmentation. Benefits include shortening product development times, knowing when to ramp up or slow down production and how to focus marketing efforts.

Successful product lifecycle management must integrate different departments within the organization, its various teams and even outside companies to streamline their activities. If done properly, this can create a product that outshines its competitors in the marketplace. That means greater profitability.

Product lifecycle management is one of the four cornerstones of manufacturing with customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). PLM also helps you market the product by knowing which stage it’s in. For example, a new product needs explaining and a mature one needs differentiating to help it continue to grow.

Project management software can help you streamline processes throughout the product lifecycle. ProjectManager is online project management software that helps your products more efficiently. Our automated workflow feature lets you set as many triggers as you want that then automate actions to move your product through production faster. Don’t worry about quality, we also have task approvals that allow only authorized team members to change the task’s status. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

ProjectManager's workflow automationProjectManager's workflow automation
ProjectManager has workflow automation to streamline processes without losing quality. Learn more

The History of PLM

While manufacturing can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, product lifecycle management is a concept that started to codify around the early 1930s. In 1957, the five-phase lifecycle for goods was developed by an employee of the advertising agency Booz Allen Hamilton. But it was German economist Theodore Levitt who published his Product Lifecycle model in the Harvard Business Review in 1965.

In 1985, American Motors Corporation (AMC) wanted to speed up its product development process to be more competitive. AMC didn’t have the budget so it focused on the product lifecycle of its prime products, such as Jeeps, and introduced the compact Jeep Cherokee. That product launched the modern sport utility vehicle (SUV) market.

This process was advanced by the creation of computer-aided design (CAD) software that helped engineers work more productively. Better communication systems furthered the effort by centralizing drawings and documents. When AMC was purchased by Chrysler, it used PLM to become the lowest-cost producer in the automotive market by the mid-1990s.

Since then, product lifecycle management has been known as the integration of a set of software tools used in the design, review and manufacturing of goods. Now, other companies can ensure that transition data is the same, with one source of truth reducing errors.

PLM Phases

Products go through five phases in their lifecycle. These are milestones that indicate the time from the product concept to its decline in the market. As noted earlier, the product lifecycle management phases help with decision-making, strategic development and creating the correct messaging when marketing each phase.

You’ll need to spend time on market research to understand the role of each stage of the product lifecycle within the context of your business. For example, each phase has no definitive timeline, its own risks, costs and opportunities. However, there are five basic product lifecycle management phases, which we’ve defined below.

1. Market Development

Here’s where you start the market research for your product. You’ll define and refine your product concept, test it and start to develop a launch strategy. It’s important that you test with potential customers to get feedback that can help you make changes before the launch. This is a costly phase with no income, the risk is high and outside funding might be limited. You need to show investors the potential of your product and its viability, the earlier the better, to raise funds for your product launch.

2. Market Introduction

This is when your product is launched into the market. The marketing team is tasked with creating product awareness and reaching the target audience you’ve identified. While marketing primarily focuses on promoting the product, it could also explain the usefulness or need the product is filling. This phase is all about getting the product into the hands of your customers successfully.

Related: Free Product Launch Template

3. Market Growth

Now you have a customer base that has embraced the product. Hopefully, you also have demand and profits associated with the product. But the competition can see this and will likely work towards interrupting that success. Your marketing plan will pivot to showing how your product is superior and different and perhaps you’ll add new features. You’ll also want to increase your customer support and open new distribution channels to solidify your place in the market.

4. Maturity

As your sales begin to level off from their peak, you’re entering the maturity phase of your product. To stay competitive, you might have to lower prices or revamp the product. Awareness campaigns will cease at this point, and you’ll concentrate on differentiating your product and adding features that improve the product to keep customers engaged. Market saturation is likely by this point as competitors flood the marketplace. Focus on your strengths or suffer decline.

5. Market Decline

Every product has a shelf life. Some are months while others are years. There are many things that can send your product into decline; there’s more competition from similar products, your product is outdated, customers lose interest or your brand image is tarnished. You can try to extend your product line, repackage it, adopt new pricing strategies, launch new versions of the product or move into new product categories. The latter means starting from the beginning.

PLM Software

Product lifecycle management software helps with the data and processes from the development to the decline of your goods. It’s an information management system that integrates data, processes, business systems and teams.

Using PLM software allows users to better manage data throughout the lifecycle of their product. This includes automating processes that drive revenue through repeatable actions, connecting different departments and other outside partners as well as providing real-time data.

Having a single source of truth that keeps everyone working on the most current data is one of the main features of any PLM software. It maximizes the lifetime value of your product portfolio.

Benefits of PLM

Knowing the PLM phases won’t only help with making decisions but can increase the return on investment (ROI) when you launch a product, increase the overall profitability of the company and help marketing stay connected with your target audience. This leads to maintaining and improving your product’s appeal, reputation and customer loyalty.

You also get a single source of truth, which means everyone is always working using the most current data. That’s critical when you have teams coordinating across departments and even other businesses. Having a central hub for your documentation and drawings that’s easily accessible also adds to the project’s efficiency.

Other benefits include reducing compliance risks and keeping your product updated with standards, requirements and regulations. You can also find cost reductions, drive innovation and improve the quality of the products your manufacture. That all leads to greater productivity, the ability to scale your business and boost collaboration with suppliers.

How ProjectManager Helps with PLM

If you’re looking for benefits when developing and delivering a product to the market, then you need ProjectManager. Our online software connects teams across the company. Our real-time data updates help to establish one source of truth that keeps everyone working on the same page to avoid delays and redundancies.

Connect With Remote Teams and Outside Partners

Staying engaged with teams outside of your department or even outside the company is hard. Those hurdles are easily cleared with online software. We keep everyone involved in the project connected so they can comment at the task level, share files and even tag other people in the project and bring them into the conversation.

Task list in ProjectManagerTask list in ProjectManager

Use Multiple Project Views to Work How You Want

Not everyone uses the same tools. We keep traditional Gantt chart users connected with more agile teams using kanban boards or list views by having multiple project views. Every project tool is connected to our live updates so what you see on a timeline is the same as what you see on the calendar or sheet view.

A screenshot of a gantt chart in ProjectManagerA screenshot of a gantt chart in ProjectManager

To make sure you get that product to market on time we have tools that give you a high-level view of the progress and performance of your production, such as the real-time dashboard, and one-click reports that dive deeper into the data for a customizable look at everything from time and tasks to overall health. Add resource management features that balance your workload and you’re able to keep everyone working at capacity for greater productivity and a greater product.

ProjectManager is award-winning project management software that connects teams to work better together. Plan, monitor and report on projects to keep on schedule and stay within your budget. Manage every phase of your product lifecycle and deliver higher quality goods faster to market. Join teams at NASA, Siemens and Nestle who are delivering success with our tool. Get started with ProjectManager today for free.

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