11 06 2015
Project Managers, Dress to Impress-for Yourself and Your Project Reporting
Project managers are considered to be experts in their functional areas, both in terms of knowledge and operational capabilities. However, when it comes to reporting, many find themselves perplexed. A common notion is that reporting is needed only during the project implementation phase; however, reporting actually needs to start at the point of project conceptualization.
The frequency may vary, but regular reporting should happen throughout the entire project.
So, what needs to be reported so often? A simple way of understanding it is to just check with your stakeholders on what they need to report to their stakeholders. This will give you insight into what sorts of reports you need to prepare, to whom they should report, and the frequency of the reporting needed.
The art of reporting
Project managers need to think of reporting as an art, which one should to master to ensure the smooth flow of the process—and also to gain stakeholders’ confidence in what you have done.
Let’s review the major documents PMs need to prepare for reporting.
Proposals:The project proposal is made during project initiation, which requires an approval from the project authority to move on to the next phase. This report should contain a summary of high-level planning. In many projects, a business case may replace the project proposal.
The creation of a detailed execution plan follows approval of the proposal, so the proposal document requires in-depth analysis with authentic information on project cost, risks, small and large benefits, etc. If a proposal fails to reflect these effectively, there is a large likelihood the project won’t even receive sponsorship. Therefore, it’s very important for a project manager to be able to create an effective proposal.
Detailed project plan:At the end of the planning phase, a detailed project plan needs to be developed. The project plan contains not only task plans, but also the project scope, definition, schedules, detailed budget, risk management plans, organizational structure, roles and responsibilities, quality plan, communication plan, issue and escalation management plan, change management plan, and so on.
Referring to project plan templates and other real project plans can help give project managers a head start. Having an eye for details, being able to isolate the problem areas, and maintaining an organization can help project managers to effectively prepare these types of documentation.
Project status report:The project status report is the most critical report PMs need to prepare at regular intervals throughout the project life cycle. The first step to an effective project status report is to categorize the report audience into the following groups:
Project Team:This means intra-team reporting. It is important to keep the project team updated on the status of the project. A well-informed team will be much more efficient than an unfocused team. Other than some sensitive risks/issues/budget information, the team should maintain transparent project communication. This will not only improve the project efficiency, it will also enhance the team’s confidence and spirit.
Project Stakeholders: This is the most important group to be kept updated about the project status. Delivering a great status report to stakeholders is as important as proper execution of the project.
Project Team and Stakeholder: Sometimes, it becomes essential to report to the team and the stakeholders together.
Clients: If you are running a client project, you need to treat them in a separate group and prepare client-specific reports.
Others: Many times, project status may need to be reported to other groups,such as a change management division, dependent project teams, etc.
After identifying your report audience, determine what fits best in each status report and the frequency of reporting needed.
In general, having daily team reports, weekly status reports, and monthly status reports are an effective reporting practice.
You may need to include three basic sections in your reports:
1. Project progress
This is the amount of the project completed so far. You’ll want to include the percentage of progress from last week, progress planned for the following week, progress planned over the next month,factors on cost, task, CR, issues, and risks.
2. Project health
Health means the condition of the project’s financials, schedule, quality, effort, and scope. Factors such as resource availability, CR stability, training index, and other variables can affect the project health. Usually, green, yellow, and red color indicators are good for representing health of the project. You can also try out side-by-side comparisons, such as “Health Indicator at previous reporting cycle” versus “Projected Health Indicator at the next reporting cycle.
3. Project status
You’ll also need to be clear on the overall project status. A snapshot of major issues, risks, change requests, and other highlights of the project need to be included. In addition, list out the project achievement goal dates and planned achievements for the upcoming reporting cycle.
In some scenarios, you can prepare this as three separate reports. Besides making a project plan, create a communication matrix and note distribution groups to mark reports for each group.
It is also a good idea to check if individual stakeholders are interested in getting status alerts based on project events such a “status change,” “high risk identification,” “high cost change request,” etc. Many stakeholders will be excited to get such information right away rather than waiting for the next reporting cycle. (Also, be careful to avoid making them change their mind if they realize they are getting too much information. Many stakeholders will not have much time for your project unless it is in a red stage. When a project is at a red stage, the project managers tend to focus only on resolving issues, which is obviously not recommended.)
Remember that a status report is only as good as the data it contains. So, it is vital to only use genuine data when preparing accurate status reports. The major form of communication between the PM and the stakeholder is a status report. If the authenticity of the report is questioned, it is difficult to restore the stakeholder’s confidence—not only in the reports, but also in the project manager./p>
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Praveen Priyan is a Product Delivery Manager and expert in different IT and web marketing domains. He is also well versed in various software development and system design tools and used to share updates in tech industry with peer groups through blog posts and tweets.