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

PMO Outsourcing

Project Management Office Comments Off

Options to improve project performance: 1) Develop internal PM competencies, or 2) Contract it to the experts. Contractors/consultants/Outsourcing. This is Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kpo

Outsourcing Pros: No PMO setup time; Best in class tools/ dashboard/ templates; Quality PMs

Outsourcing Cons: Data confidentiality risks (pipeline projects and development plans); Tensions due to having a two tier project teams (external PMs with internal project members)

The key question is: what is it being oursourced/contracted? Is it tactical, methodology/project planning&execution processes,  and PM people (model already popular, loads of PM vendors); or Strategic PMO for Portfolio decision making? I haven’t seen data/examples of this latter case, as the risk of  lossing control of the Portfolio/Strategy seems a serious obstacle. Who is running the company? Portfolio management should always be a core competency of internal Management.

Small PMO steps for success

Project Management Office Comments Off

Most PMOs either fail to be fully implemented or get reconfigured after 1 or 2 years (Hobbs PMO whitepaper). In a changing/dynamic environment, companies want to see results fast, and would not want to invest long terms in a new PMO unless value is clear.

If you are starting or reconfiguring a PMO, think small and focus on some real value deliverable. Ask PMs and senior managers what is their top issue. Is it a set of standard templates? Assistance with planning and scheduling? Need to have visibility of projects progress and deviations? Be clear and specific, agree deliverables with the PMs/management, and commit to deliver something specific (templates, training session, dashbaord tool, etc) in a short timeframe (3 to 6 months max)

Once people see the PMO actually addressing their needs and meeting their commitments, the PMO will be perceived as something of value and worth of further investment. Small incremental steps reduce the risk of failure when implementing PMOs.

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

Design PMO to meet real needs

Project Management Office Comments Off

I suggest this 3 step approach when setting up a new PMO or developing an existing one:

  1. What is the starting point? Find out about the context, i.e. Organizational structure and culture; and PM maturity (use any maturity model)
  2. What are the expectations? Ask people (PMs, functional managers, execs, etc) what help they need, what are the challenges they face when running projects, what would they like to see changing/improving. Do interviews or surveys.
  3. Focus on real needs and balance. Create a plan to design a PMO that focuses on what is has been asked, not what books or theory say. Is it PM training? A resource management tool? Help facilitating risk management? Monitoring project progress? Ensure PMO responsibilities fit with the available tools, skillsets, processes and structure -or adjust for balance. Will the PMO role fit well in the org culture (the way we do things here) and structure (functional, matrix,centralized, decentralized)?

The major reason that PMOs are shortlived or fail is because they don’t fit in the organization’s context, are too ambitious, impose changes that not all people agree with and lack management support. It is key to start focusing on few but true needs -what people see of value to them, e.g some templates, tools, etc-, with realistic objectives and metrics, and show the delivered benefits asap, so  to position the PMO as delivering Value to the company.


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