Don’t bore me, tell me what I need to know – Status Report

Project Management Basics Comments Off

Some PMs, when asked by their managers how their project is doing, tend to go into a lot of detail explaining the complexities of their  latest issue or current activities. Other PMs like to keep it to themselves and say very little, i.e. all is good, trust my feelings, don’t ask me more questions and let me go. The truth is that the question on project performance can be answered professionally with significant and relevant data, and management should be clear on how that looks like.

 

Status reports, or progress reports, are probably the best known document during the life of a project. Other documents such as Business case, Requirements, Architecture, Test Plans, etc are in many cases once off documents that not necessarily all project team sees. Status or Progress reports however, are updated frequently (e.g. weekly) and shared with all the project team, customers and stakeholders. I am using both terms status and progress as synonyms here, as in practice organizations use either when refering to the same document -same purpose. Usually, the report is a one page with both status and progress information.

 

Don’t bore me, keep it simple and tell me what I need to know. That means Significant and Relevant to the audience. We’re talking of a one-pager, a short document that shows me two things: The Baseline, and any Variations. The baseline is what the project has agreed, the project boundaries in planned scope, cost and time. This should not be too detailed. It includes a summary or the more important deliverables (the scope), the planned budget (and people’s planned hours if not included in the budget), and planned milestones (some key dates from the schedule). Just looking at those few lines and figures, I can get a good idea of what the project is about, and its size/complexity based on budget and hours. This bit should not change during the project –it is the baseline-, that is,  the base against which we will measure if the project does well or not. Variations are deviations to the planned baseline. For example, actual cost higher than budgeted, or not meeting set milestones. We may also have issues or risks that if not already affecting the project, they might in the future. Put that info together and you have a nice Progress report showing planned vs actual data on deliverables, cost and time. The status report section can be done with some text explaining the project phase or stage that we’re in, one line saying what task is ongoing (to give an idea of current position within project life cycle), and a traffic light signal (green, yellow, red) to flag when we think we may face trouble (yellow) or for when we already know we won’t meet the baseline (red).

 

Improve the report. Add forecasts.  Earned Value and all the forecasted cost and dates are not so complicated. The PMBoK and Wikipedia have good explanations. I think a good status report should always show the Estimated at Completion data to better illustrate any deviations and their estimated final impact.

 

In summary, a Project Status/Progress Report should show in one page:

  1. Life Cycle Phase and one line summary of current activity
  2. Flag (Green/Yellow/Red)
  3. Main Deliverables
  4. Planned budget vs Actual
  5. Planned hours vs Actual
  6. Milestones vs Actual dates
  7. Main Risks and Issues, with impact and actions to resolve

PM Basics | Projects Support

Project Management Office Comments Off

I wanted to write two posts to explain two types of PMOs: 1) The start-up basic project support PMO, for when we’re starting to do project management and we don’t know how; And 2) the PMO focused at strategic level (portfolio, etc) -.

I think this is a nice simplification of what PMOs can do.

So, let’s see, we are starting to work on projects, or so we think as we have to do some work for customers, we have deadlines and money to spend, but haven’t done project management before… Typical things that we may need are:

  • Set up an intranet site or sharepoint site as the repository of PM docs and info
  • One page to explain the methodology: e.g. Waterfall model such as Requirements, Design, Build, Test, Release; and Gates Review with Signoff process.
  • Standard Templates to document phases’ deliverables (Requirements doc template, Design doc template, etc)
  • Standard Templates for Status Reports, Risks and Issues Log, Budget, Project schedule (standard set of milestones)

With all the above we have achieved that all projects will follow a similar plan and development path. Projects will be planned and thought before we start programming or building. The main PM artifacts (budget, schedule, risks&issues, status report) are a minimum that helps the project to be internally controlled, but also allows to compare vs other projects.

A Lite PMO would be responsible to create the site, the docs and templates, and support PMs in following the set methodology. The PMO could be just one experienced PM, not even necesarily at full time.

However, this is a very simple start. Good project management requires more than just templates. The PMO could also support in any other areas where gaps may exist: e.g. Defining project scope/requirements; Getting good estimates;  Ensuring good comms among team members and externally with stakeholders (meeting agendas and minutes), etc


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