Tools for Planning and Monitoring Research Projects

Schematic for project planning

Schematic for project planning

The UDOT Research Division recently updated their Project Management Checklist. The checklist is a tool for use in planning and monitoring progress of new research projects at UDOT. It is available on the Research Division website under Project Tool Box, along with a new Project Management Worksheet which helps to define the project prior to contracting with a university or consultant.

A previous version of the checklist had been in use for several months and was based on project management training given to UDOT regional and central project managers by Ernie Nielsen of BYU. In early 2014 the Research Division staff received additional training from Ernie Nielsen in using the project planning principles within the checklist, including an exercise using an actual new research project. Based on that exercise the checklist was refined and the worksheet was created in July 2014.

Project management worksheet excerpt

Project management worksheet excerpt

The updated checklist is a simplified version of the previous one and is well suited for the typical size of research projects funded at UDOT. The new worksheet helps key individuals inside and outside UDOT, representing groups most affected by and most able to contribute to the research, to define the project objective and deliverables. These tools help research project managers involve the right people in planning and conducting the research, preparing the way for effective implementation of research results at UDOT.

Research projects at UDOT typically have much smaller budgets, have fewer activities or tasks, and are more focused on incremental process improvements than regular UDOT projects. UDOT research projects are usually completed within one or two years, and the majority of these come from the annual Research Workshop where submitted problem statements are prioritized. Both types of projects can benefit from the same project management principles, including effective planning and scheduling of tasks and resources. Scheduling tools used on UDOT research projects vary from basic MS Project files to spreadsheets to track tasks and milestones.

We look forward to working with our research project champions, technical advisory committees, and researchers while benefiting together from using these new tools.

This guest post was written by Davis Stevens, P.E., UDOT Research Project Manager and was originally published in the Fall 2014 Research Newsletter.

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