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PMP, CAPM & PMI-ACP Certification Exam Prep

Work Performance Data, Work Performance Information, and Work Performance Reports

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In 2009, I did a series of posts on Work Performance Information, Work Performance Measurements and Performance Reports, highlighting how the PMBOK® Guide, Fourth Edition was utterly confusing and inadequate in defining and explaining these terms. The posts resonated well with the readers and till date are among the most popular posts on this blog. Some copy-cat bloggers also latched on to the idea and churned out similar posts. But more importantly, the people behind the PMBOK® Guide took notice, and made significant improvements to redefine and clarify these terms. The good news is that these terms are much more simplified now, and the folks preparing for PMP and CAPM certifications need not pull their hair out. In this post, we'll review how these terms have changed and fill in some of the gaps that still remain.

What has changed

The following table highlights the changes.

Old term - PMBOK® Guide, 4th Ed New term - PMBOK® Guide, 5th Ed
Work Performance Information Work Performance Data
Work Performance Measurements Work Performance Information
Performance Reports Work Performance Reports

As you can see, the terms have been completely overhauled in PMBOK® Guide, Fifth Edition.

Data vs Information

Before we go further, let's clarify the basic terms - data and information. These terms are usually used interchangeably, but the PMBOK® Guide, Fifth Edition, makes a clear attempt to distinguish them. According to Diffen:

Data is raw, unorganized facts that need to be processed. Data can be something simple and seemingly random and useless until it is organized. When Data is processed, organized, structured or presented in a given context so as to make it useful, it is called Information.

The New Definitions

Following definitions are quoted from the PMBOK® Guide, Fifth Edition.

Work Performance Data: The raw observations and measurements identified during activities performed to carry out the project work. Examples include reported percent of work physically completed, quality and technical performance measures, start and finish dates of schedule activities, number of change requests, number of defects, actual costs, actual durations, etc.

Work Performance Information: The performance data collected from various controlling processes, analyzed in context and integrated based on relationships across areas. Examples of performance information are status of deliverables, implementation status for change requests, and forecasted estimates to complete.

Work Performance Reports: The physical or electronic representation of work performance information compiled in project documents, intended to generate decisions or raise issues, actions, or awareness. Examples include status reports, memos, justifications, information notes, electronic dashboards, recommendations, and updates.

Having wasted countless hours trying to make sense of these concepts from the Fourth Edition of the Guide, I can assure you that the new definitions (in the Fifth Edition) are much more clearer, though still not perfect (and I'll explain that later in the post). It's interesting to note that back in 2009, I used the term "raw data" to describe Work Performance Information. Fast forward 4 years, and PMI renamed Work Performance Information to Work Performance "Data" and used the term "raw observations and measurements" in its definition. Interesting coincidence :)

So what's wrong now?

The new definitions are much more clearer, but still not perfect. Here are some of the examples.

First, the definition of Work Performance Information reads "The performance data collected from various controlling processes ...". I think it should say executing instead of controlling because the performance data is collected in the executing processes, not in the controlling processes.

Second, many other statements are loosely worded and confusing. For example, section 4.4.1.5 says "Work performance information is circulated through communication processes." Going by the definitions and the analysis of process inputs and outputs, Work Performance Reports (not Work Performance Information) are circulated through the communication processes.

Another example is in section 8.3.1.4 where it says that Work Performance Data includes "Planned vs. Actual" performance. This does not seem right either. The measurement against baselines happen in the Monitoring and Controlling processes and not Executing processes. So, the "Planned vs. Actual" performance should be part of Work Performance Information, and not Work Performance Data.

Summary

Figure 3.5 in the PMBOK® Guide, Fifth Edition nicely illustrates the difference between the three terms. Let's summarize the main points:
  1. Work Performance Data is the "raw data" which is collected as the project is being executed (output of Executing processes).
  2. Work Performance Data is measured against the baselines in the Monitoring and Controlling processes to determine project progress and performance, which is termed as Work Performance Information.
  3. Work Performance Information is compiled in the form of reports, memos, notes, dashboards, etc. in the Monitor and Control Project Work process to generate Work Performance Reports, which are used to drive project decisions and generate awareness about project issues. These reports are disseminated to project stakeholders through project communication processes.

Examples

Work Performance Data
  • Scope: work physically completed (20 out of the 50 work packages have been completed), number of change requests (8 new change requests were raised last month).
  • Schedule: actual durations (Activity A took 5 days to complete and Activity B took 8 days to complete), start and finish dates of schedule activities (Activity A started on Jan 2, 2014, and completed on Jan 14, 2014).
  • Cost: actual costs (till date $233,942 have been spent on the project).
  • Quality: quality and technical performance measures (the website loads in 2.3 seconds; the application passed 95% of the test cases), number of defects (5 defects were found in the first round of functional testing).
  • Communication: list of communications that have been sent out, the feedback received, the results of surveys conducted.
  • Risk: a missed milestone or cost overrun (these could be indicators of risks that have occurred).
  • Procurement: invoices that have been paid, costs incurred on procurements, quality measurements of seller's deliverables, etc.
Work Performance Information
  • Scope: scope variances identified, their causes and impact on time, cost, quality, etc., status of deliverables (three deliverables have been accepted, two are complete, work is in progress on two, three are stuck, etc.), implementation status for change requests (four change requests were implemented, one is under implementation, two have been rejected, and one has been sent back to the requester for more information).
  • Schedule: schedule performance indicators such as SV and SPI.
  • Cost: cost performance indicators such as CV, CPI, TCPI, VAC, and forecasted estimates to complete such as VAC, ETC and EAC.
  • Quality: causes for rejections, rework required, and the need for process adjustments.
  • Risk: effectiveness of risk response plans.
  • Procurements: compliance to contracts.
I hope this post helps clarify these concepts further, particularly for the folks who previously studied from the PMBOK® Guide, Fourth Edition but were not able to take or pass the exam. I'm also interested to hear other opinions on this topic, as I could have misinterpreted the information. So please post your comments below and let me know your thoughts.

Image credit: Flickr / CollegeDegrees360

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3 comments:

  1. Good comparison. As a PMP instructor I like to trace out the origin of WPD and show how it's turned into WPI and compiled into WPR. It's helpful to my students to see how and when to use one over the other. The easiest way to remember is when in a tactical area you should be looking at WPD and converting to WPI. In the strategic areas, like Integration, you should be looking at WPI and compiling into WPR. WPR is what you need to make project wide decisions except when they overlap in Control Risks and Control Procurements. It happens there because you trend how things are going.

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