Projects are complicated beasts – there is no question about that. Tracking everything from issues, to outstanding tasks, to change orders, to risks, to financials, and everything in between…it’s enough to drive any project manager up the wall if he’s trying to do it all in his head, on paper or in a spreadsheet. It just isn’t possible, nor does it have to be. In the landscape where there were really only a couple of offerings 15-20 years ago, there are now literally hundreds of desktop and web-based project management tools designed to help the project manager organize just about anything he can imagine. And nearly everyone of them can do most of what any PM needs: track tasks, track progress, manage financials, track resource usage, handle task dependencies, identify the critical path, and roll several projects into one manageable portfolio as well.
And most can do a pretty good job at reporting…something that I consider to be at the heart of project management. Why? Because a smart project manager can use project management reports that come out of your chosen project management tool to do most of the project status reporting for you.
Weekly revised project schedule and status reports are great
There’s no question that staying on top of the project by meeting with your team weekly (daily?) and the customer weekly is critical. And as part of that, the delivery of up to date project status reports that drive meetings such as these along with revised project schedules is extremely important. Everyone stays on the same page in terms of tasks statuses, overall project progress, outstanding issues, change order statuses, and any outstanding alerts or problem areas that are need to be closely monitored. Without weekly status reports and status meetings and weekly revisions, there’s too much of a chance for key information, key assignments, and critical concerns to fall through the cracks. Never skip these important meetings and status revisions – even if it seems that there isn’t much to report. It can be a very slippery slope to start letting this happen – and customer confidence and satisfaction can drop as well as they start to feel ‘out of touch’ with the team and the progress that’s happening.
But built-in detailed reporting can really make a difference
One thing I’ve always tried to do – especially after I got smarter about it – was to let my project management software tool do some of the project status reporting work for me. It was cumbersome at first – creating filters in MS Project…what was widely available at the time – to show what’s in progress, what’s recently completed, what’s behind, and what’s starting next week. While that was great…and a little groundbreaking at the time…what we can do now is much more informative, eye appealing, and easier to create. Take, for example, Telerik’s TeamPulse PM software solution. TeamPulse is especially useful for agile software development initiatives and can deliver detailed and graphical reports as part of its standard configuration that can show detailed progress information such as:
Burndown by areas - Identifying potential trouble areas by generating a burndown chart for each area of the current iteration. Charts show trends of how much work is left to do and when it is forecasted to be completed in that specific area.
Burndown by tasks – Users can easily create and view a report that shows the completion of tasks so they can easily see how much work is left in terms of number of tasks until the successful closing of the iteration.
The key concept to take away is this: it is no longer necessary to do a lot of configuration or filtering to get meaningful reports to help you manage a project or to comfort your customer and management with. Many of these reports are built in to these very affordable PM software solutions…so use them.
We use best practices to stay on top of our projects, give us and our teams better chances for project success, and to give us a nice, organized methodology to follow. The hope is that by using repeatable best practices we are continually delivering project success as a result, not just because we’re getting lucky on a regular basis. But the wise project manager who can utilize powerful and meaningful reports from his project management software – like the ones available in Telerik’s TeamPulse package as discussed above – can easily stay on top of his projects. And this allows him to deliver very meaningful project status content to his team, customer and executive management that is up to date and less prone to interpretation and human error because it’s coming straight out of the package used to manage the project.