Monitoring Archival Project Progress
Under the best circumstances, archival projects are completed on time, within budget, and to your standards. In practice, though, projects involve a unique set of problems that create complexity and risk, such as slowdowns.
Best practices for archival projects include monitoring and controlling. These are related concepts: monitoring refers to watching the activities whereas controlling means acting to correct the course. Accordingly, monitoring involves performance measurements and recommendations for corrective and preventative action based on the variance of the measured performance from the planned performance. Controlling involves implementing the approved corrective actions.
How to Monitor
Monitoring collects information about project progress and compares it with the plan to identify any differences. Monitoring should be done routinely to determine any discrepancies between the plan and reality.
To keep track of what’s happening, gather information on two levels. The big picture level includes objectives to which the project contributes, and the balance of time, budget, and quality. The project activity level includes tracking individual tasks that have been initiated, are on schedule, or are due to be completed. Once you identify any differences, you can consider whether there are issues. In some cases, the variances will be within the plan’s tolerance.
Macro- and Micro- level Monitoring
It’s challenging to pay attention to the big picture issues when a project immerses you. You lose touch with events occurring in the rest of the organization because people have little time to think of anything other than the immediate pressures of the project. Stay alert to changes in your organization because projects must move in the right direction. You’ll need to balance focusing internally on your project with what’s happening in your organizational environment.
There are a variety of ways to gather the information required to track project progress. Project status reports and regularly scheduling daily, weekly, or monthly meetings are formal reporting methods that enable you to collect this information and determine the amount of variance in your project plan. Monitoring depends on the flow of information, and systems should be in place to get feedback on what’s happening.
A Group Effort
Monitoring isn’t an activity accomplished only by the project manager. If the project team is meeting to review progress, monitoring becomes dynamic, and group consensus changes the plan. As problems arise, the strength of your relationships—with your team members, stakeholders, and sponsor—will in large measure contribute to how well you keep the project on course. Best practices for archival projects include involving team members; this helps keep everyone on target and builds commitment. However, if you rely solely on the impact of others, you may miss signs of difficulties. Project managers should make a point of regularly checking in to keep in touch with the daily realities that emerge as the work progresses.
Monitoring progress enables the project team to detect problems quickly so they can make proper changes. Projects rarely run as the team envisions them. Sometimes planning results in a smooth startup with minimal problems. The project team can launch activities according to the timeline outlined in the plan. In other situations, the project team encounters setbacks and obstacles that delay the planned activities. When the project is delayed, the project manager and team members have an opportunity to review the plan to determine whether reallocation of funds can resolve problems and allow the work to move forward.
The longer you wait to fix problems, the longer it’ll take to restore balance in your project plan. Best practices for archival projects include regular monitoring and evaluation; this empowers the project team so they are aware of shifting circumstances, respond to them, and ensure a successful project.
Technology has changed archival collections management, with dramatic but gradual impact.
Many archives use proprietary archival collections management systems; open source can provide an alternative but be aware of hidden costs and risks
Archival collections management includes bringing materials in through accessioning, as collections are physically and legally transferred to an archives.
Collection analysis clarifies an archives’ goals in context of its mission and budget; supplies data used to set priorities; aids in long-range planning