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The best of project management reports

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Project Management Reports: the importance of project management reports along with tips and tools that you can use to make reporting easier.

This is a collection of excerpts from the ProjectManager.com blog archives 2008 - 2013 presenting top tips and advice from our professional project managers in a "best of" series now available free to download and share.

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The best of project management reports

  1. 1. The Best of Project Management Reports A selection of professional insights from the Blog archive ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 1
  2. 2. Since 2008 our project management professionals have been sharing knowledge,experience and learning with online readers via the Project Manager Blog.Their collective wisdom provides a wealth of how to, top tips and best practice advice,for project managers, teams and businesses.To make their writings more accessible we’ve created a series of “Best of” projectmanagement topics available free to download and share.Here is a collection of excerpts and insights from blog posts that discuss the importanceof project management reports along with tips and tools that you can use to makereporting easierEnjoy!Jason Westland CEOProjectManager.com4 Things You Should Never Do During a Project Report ............................................................................. 3Your Most Recent Project Report Does Not Look Good ............................................................................. 5Top 5 Project Management Reports ........................................................................................................... 65 Essentials for Your Project Status Reports ............................................................................................... 74 Words That Should Never Show Up on a Status Report ........................................................................ 10Writing the Project Management Status Report for Management .......................................................... 135 Ways to Keep Your Project Management Status Report out of the Trash ............................................ 158 Ways to Create Simple Project Management Reports........................................................................... 17The Ubiquitous Program Management Report ......................................................................................... 1930 Day Free Software Trial ........................................................................................................................ 22 ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 2
  3. 3. 4 Things You Should Never Do During a Project ReportIf you have the same gut-wrenching, heart-palpitating, headache-inducing reaction tothe Quarterly Executive Project Review, then the following points will help you make themost of these meetings. But first, let’s talk about the benefits that can be derived fromsuch a meeting.Look past the fact that the meeting is called a Project Review. You can make it whateveryou want. Sure, you need to discuss project status, risks, next steps, etc., but you canalso use it to focus on new opportunities, gather strategic information related to wherethe customer is going, and make the relationship between your two organizations seemlike a match made in heaven. You don’t have to limit the meeting to what was pulledfrom your project reporting software.Use this meeting as an opportunity to clear up all those stubborn little obstacles thathaven’t been resolved since the project started. Your counterpart at this client meetinghas done the best he can, but sometimes things are even out of his control.At this table are the people that can make a difference,and even more importantly, they can make a decisionso activity can get unstuck and the project can moveforward. Resources can be assigned, schedules can becleared, and budgets can be reallocated at the singlenod of an executive giving the go-ahead.A Recipe of DO NOT’s for a Good Executive ReviewThe following are some guidelines you’ll want to follow for the purpose of having aproductive and stress-free executive review.1. Don’t Dwell on the PastThis crowd doesn’t care that you met your goals. It’s an assumption on their part. Thesepeople are a no-nonsense, no-excuses group of people that didn’t get where they are byresting on their laurels. Spend 20% of the meeting rapidly going down the checklist ofwhat’s been accomplished so everyone is on the same page, and then the remaining80% of the time on the future. Talk about next steps, strategic initiatives and issueresolution. This is how this crowd is wired, that’s what keeps them engaged, and that’swhat makes you sound credible. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 3
  4. 4. 2. Don’t Just Present the PositiveIf you get in front of everyone and just focus on everythingthat went right, then your credibility begins to dwindle aswell. These people have made plenty of mistakes in theircareer and they know stuff happens. They also realizethat’s part of business and if you’re not making mistakes,then you’re not pushing the envelope and you’re certainlynot learning. They know there’s more to business than justwhat shows up on a sanitized project report. You don’thave to air all of your dirty laundry, but do be mindful toinclude a ‘missed opportunities’ component to the presentation.3. Don’t Sound like a Project ManagerThis group of people doesn’t care about Gantt charts, or project schedules, workbreakdown structures, or the project reporting software you use. Do you know whatthey do care about? The bottom line. Do you know why they care about the bottomline? Because their personal financial statements are joined at the hip with thecompany’s bottom line. Bonuses, compensation and other employment variables areintrinsically connected to how well the company is doing.With this fact in mind, alwaysspeak in terms of how much money this saved, the income it generated, the expenses itcut and any combination thereof that allows them the ability to take home a bit morefor themselves.4. Don’t Spend a lot of Time Putting YourPowerPoint togetherThis may sound counterintuitive, but theydon’t want to see another PowerPointpresentation. Have a conversation with thesepeople. Ask them questions. Let them ask youquestions. Look them in the eye when you talkto them…not at some screen filled withmindless dribble that you’re reading from. Ifyou do have a PowerPoint, just have it serve asa backdrop to the main show…which is you. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 4
  5. 5. Your Most Recent Project Report Does Not Look GoodThe following are three tell-tale signs that your project may be in trouble and soon to beanother victim of ‘the next best thing’.1. Deteriorating BuzzSometimes, it’s not as much about what is being said about yourproject as it is what is NOT being said. If people are no longer askingquestions, throwing out deadlines for you to refute, or presenting risksand challenges…than your project may be on the road of being anothercasualty of ‘the next best thing’. It’s hard to capture what’s NOT therewith any project reporting software, so you need to rely upon yourexperience and gut feelings as a project manager.2. Meeting Attendance Dries Up There used to be a dozen people in the small conference room. There weren’t enough copies of handouts to give to everyone and they would have to share. Meetings were scheduled for an hour but they would run two hours and resulted in enough action items and next steps to fill the most robust project report.Then the makeup and nature of the meetings began to change as well. The first to gowere the executives. They were busy working on ‘the next best thing’. Then, thefunctional managers disappeared leaving you with a couple of low-level resources thatenjoyed coming to your meetings because they liked your jokes. There’s no longer aneed for handouts as the meetings have gone from a couple of hours long to about fiveminutes where the question “does anybody need anything?” is met with a resounding“no, we’re good”. Meeting adjourned. When you see the above begin to occur, you canknow that your project is assuredly in trouble.3. You’re Not a Rock Star AnymoreYou used to be the central repository of everything good and vibrant related to yourproject. Managers came to you with questions – and you had answers. Resources cameto you with risks – and you had mitigations. Stakeholders came to you with ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 5
  6. 6. unreasonable demands – and you had pushback…along with facts to back it up projectreporting software.You’re reputation preceded you no matter whichmeeting you attended and people loved being pluggedinto your energy. It was a great show. But now, yourcalendar is wide open…a lot. Your emails havedropped from 150 per day to a dozen or so.Nobody asks you any questions and you haven’t hadthe opportunity to pushback in a LONG time. Thespotlight is now on Joe, the project manager acrossthe hall.In today’s economy and work environment,everybody is a hired gun.You’ll get all the attention, direction, accolades and atta’boys you want as long as youare providing value. When you are no longer providing value, you run the risk of yourrock show being cancelled. Always be mindful of when the value in your organizationshifts to another project or to ‘the next best thing.’What can you do when you see the buzz deteriorating about your project, meetingattendance drying up and your celebrity status shifting over to a has-been? First, get areality check from the most senior person who knows the answer in your company onwhether the project you are still working on is viable and important to yourorganization.If it is still important, talk to them about what you have noticed related to support andask when they feel it will be reinvigorated. They may not even be aware of thathappening and this one conversation will be all that is required to jumpstart thingsagain. If it is going away, ask for permission to close the project out so you can applyyour project management skills to ‘the next best thing!’Top 5 Project Management ReportsProject management training video presented by Jennifer Witt,Director of projectmanager.com on the top 5 available projectmanagement reports and why you should use them. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 6
  7. 7. 5 Essentials for Your Project Status ReportsThe project sponsor walks up to your desk. “Can you give me an update on yourproject?” she says. That’s something that all project managers hear a lot. It’s importantto keep your project stakeholders updated, and while you’ll not stop those ad hocrequests where someone asks you for a status update in the corridor or at your desk,you can get ahead of the game by providing great status reports.Many online project management software tools have a template or dashboard that youcan use for your status reporting. This is really handy as it means that all projectsmanaged across the company will have their status presented in a consistent way andthis is better for stakeholders – they only have to learn how to interpret one report. Souse whatever template or tool your Project Management Office supports – don’t try tocreate one from scratch and give yourself extra work!Whatever system you use, or whatever tool you have available, here are 5 things thatare essential for your status reports.1. The Top Project RisksWhat is likely to trip you up on this project? Include a snapshot of your top 3 projectrisks and what you are doing about them. Make sure these are the big risks that yourproject sponsor should be aware of – don’t bother about including the small risks thatyou know you have a good action plan to mitigate against.The situation with risks can change frequently, so speak to the risk owner to make surethat you have the latest information to report. What is a big risk this month may not bea concern next month, so update this section of the report regularly. And if there isnothing to report because all the risks are being managed, say so! Use your statusreport to share good news as well as bad.2. The Top Project IssuesList the top 3 issues that your project is facing. You canalso include a short summary of the actions that you aretaking to address them. Include the name of the personwho is managing the issue and if you need input fromyour project sponsor to help you resolve any of them,make sure to mention it here. You can also rank the ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 7
  8. 8. impact of your issues as high, medium or low to give them some context. This sectionwill change each time, so review your issue log and check that your status report has themost up-to-date information.3. A List of Milestones and ProgressOne of the things sponsors are most interested in is how much progress is being madeon the project. Progress against your forecasted schedule is something that you’lldefinitely be asked about regularly – so make sure to include the highlights in yourstatus reports. You can do this by including a list of major milestones and the progressagainst them.Pick the high level milestones; don’t try to include every task on your plan. Start date of a stage, Finish date of a stage, When the project moves into testing, External dependencies or dates where you are relying or suppliersRecord the original baseline date (when you originally thought that you would be able tocomplete the task) and the current forecasted date (the date that you now think thatthe task will be completed on). These might be the same if your project is on track. Orthey might be different if your dates have changed slightly.When the task is complete, highlight this too. Next time you need to turn in a statusreport, drop off the completed tasks. This makes the report easier to read and ensures itfocuses on the key things that the project sponsor needs to know now. While it’s greatto show them that tasks are getting completed, they don’t need to see a full history ofthe dates when every milestone was achieved. If they do want to know that, they canask for it!4. A Current Budget ForecastSponsors are really keen to find out about ishow much money you are spending andwhether this is in line with what you thoughtthe project would cost. When times are tight,project sponsors want to know that theirmoney is being spent wisely, and they want ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 8
  9. 9. early notice if a project is going over budget.Equally, if the project is going to come in under budget, they will want to know that theycan use some of the funds to do other things. Tying up money on projects where it isn’tneeded doesn’t make good business sense.You don’t have to provide lots of detail. Just give your overall planned budget and thelatest forecast. If these two numbers are different, add in a short sentence that explainswhy there is a difference. Make it clear if you are expecting the project sponsor toapprove this change in budget.5. A Red/Yellow/Green StatusMake it easy for the people reading the report to see if your project is on track orstruggling. A Red/Yellow/Green (also known as Red/Amber/Green, or RAG) statusindicator allows you to demonstrate the overall status of the project graphically, so thatpeople can easily see the status using traffic light indicators.You can do this by including a small box at the top of the report or dashboard thatshows the status indicator color. Or you could change the color of the project name toreflect the status. Your Project Management Office may have guidelines about whatmakes a project Red, Yellow or Green, so you can follow those to choose your status. Aneasy, alternative way of choosing a status is to use the following convention: Red: the project needs management attention and is not going to hit its published budget, deadline or quality criteria. Yellow: the project is in danger of not meeting its published budget, deadline or quality criteria. Green: the project is on track and will meet its published budget, deadline or quality criteria.Essentially, your project status report is a way of making sure that you have brought allthe key problems and actions to your sponsor’s attention. It’s a way of making themaware of areas where they may need to step in, and of getting them to act on issueswhen they need to. Think of your status report as an opportunity to ask your sponsor forhelp when you need to, or reassuring them that you do have everything under control. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 9
  10. 10. 4 Words That Should Never Show Up on a Status Report Project management is about results, not activity. You can be very active on your projects and not make any progress at all. I compare it to being stuck in the mud—your wheels are spinning but you’re not going anywhere. Find out if you are stuck and what you can do to make sure your projects keep moving forward. Passive Project Management vs. Active Project Management Passive project management is sitting at your desk and expecting therest of the company to come to you. You feel that having direct reports affords you ahigh level of respect. That’s true, as long as you have earned that respect. Passiveproject managers will sit at their desk and fire off email after email to individual teammembers, demanding status updates, or to tell a resource how behind his or herdeliverable are. They forward emails to other people on the team in spite of barelyreading the emails themselves, and certainly do not add any value to them.Then, they will include “I sent an email” on their own status report. This is their way offeeling they did their job as a project manager. “I know the deliverable is late, but I sentan email,” they say, as if this abdicates them of their responsibility to follow up andcome up with a creative way to get it back on the schedule.An active project manager will get out from behind their desk and pursue information.They will meet with their resources face-to-face. It’s rare that they’ll even have to askfor status because they innately know what it is, based upon their ongoing and multipleconversations and meetings.Do they send an email to remind their team members about certain deliverables ontheir project? Absolutely. But, that will NEVER show up on a status report. If they don’thear back from a resource, they’ll walk down the hall and find out what’s going on.They’ll develop a plan with the resource to get their deliverable back on track and theninclude that plan on the status report.Why “I Sent an E-Mail” Is Unacceptable for a Status ReportThere are a number of reasons why “I sent an email” or “I left a voice mail” isunacceptable on a status report. For example: ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 10
  11. 11. Project Management is Black and White – Yes, there are many grey areas in projectmanagement. It’s an art to know when to escalate an issue, or how to deliver bad newsto a client without upsetting the apple cart. However, project management is very blackand white at its core.The bottom line is that you need to know the answer to these two questions: 1) is itdone? 2) Is it not done? That’s it. You can’t get any clearer than that.Your status reportsshould reflect that black and white reality. “I sent an email” doesn’t reflect anything butyour unwillingness to dig deep. You need to report out on the fact that the deliverable iscomplete or when it will be complete.Project Management is Results Oriented – In thespirit of communicating in black and white, eachtask on the project plan should be resultsoriented, meaning a deliverable is able to bereported as finished, researched, installed,implemented, solved and other action words thatend in –ed. You should NEVER have activities onyour project plan that end in –ing as it doesn’texpress results, such as finishing, researching,installing, implement, or solving a problem. Do you notice a difference? The latter onlyexpresses activities that cycle around in perpetuity, i.e., sending an email. It perpetuatesthis endless cycle of things not getting done.Project Management is About Tangible, Solid Steps Forward – There’s the private lifeof a project and then there’s the public life. The private life is everything that occursbetween PMO meetings, i.e., from Thursday afternoon to the following Thursdaymorning. This includes all of the drama, disappointments, setbacks, breakthroughs andvictories. The public life is what is discussed each Thursday morning. The net of all of thedrama, disappointments, setbacks, breakthroughs and victories should equate totangible, solid strides forward in the plan. Clearly, “I sent an email” does not fall into thecategory of a solid step forward.What If The Client Isn’t Responsive?“But,” you may protest, “what happens if I sent an email or left a voice mail for a clientthat is on the critical path, and they are not responding?” A great example of this couldbe that you need sign off on a particular deliverable before moving forward. Or, they ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 11
  12. 12. may have to finish some IT work on their side before you can integrate your system intotheir system. It may sound reasonable to excuse your lack of action on an internalproject for this reason, but there is a better way to handle this situation:Let the Account Manager Know What You Need – Typically, there will be an accountmanager or account executive that is responsible for managing the account relationship.Let the account manager know the situation. Make sure they are aware of thedownstream impact of a late deliverable from the client and that you need their help tokeep the schedule intact. This is, of course, after numerous attempts on your part to getwhat you need from the client.Include a Special Status Indicator on the Weekly Status Report – Even the accountmanager won’t be able to make or force the client to do something they don’t want todo. There are all kinds of reasons why clients fall behind on project tasks. Maybe theirresources are too busy to work on the project or they are just plain losing interest.Regardless of the reason, your company needs to know the cause of the delay. Reporton the status with a special indicator that communicates the team is “waiting on client.”Make it red and very prominent for all to see. This will eventually capture the attentionof management, who will want to resolve it.Put the Project on Hold – Another option is to let the client know that the plan wasdeveloped around the assumption they would turn around their deliverables by acertain date. You have other projects waiting in the wings, and when this project’sestimated completion date arrives another slotopens for the next project to begin. Unlessdeliverables are completed in a reasonableamount of time, the client may lose their slotand the project could be MUCH later than thedelay they have caused. Make sure you haveinvoiced them for the work that has been done up to this point as well. You need to helpthem help themselves and get their project done.The bottom line is that you should never succumb to a perpetual cycle of passivity.Don’t submit “I sent an email” as a legitimate update on your status report. This passiveapproach to project management will certainly backfire in the long run. Rather, focus ondoing everything within your power to complete each project and you’ll really enjoyyour Thursday morning PMO meetings! ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 12
  13. 13. Writing the Project Management Status Report forManagementA project management status report for management needs to be written in a differentlanguage than what you may use with your regular project team. Understanding yourstrengths as a project manager and the value you bring to the organization will help youprior to putting together your project management status report for executives. Forexample, you are: A Conduit of Clarity: It’s hard to really know what is going on in an organization with the ambiguity, uncertainty, and even chaos that plagues so many companies. Executives are far removed from day to day details, or are told only what their reports think they want to hear.Your unique skill is being able to cut through the static and get to the points that really matter. The project management status report is a great opportunity to convert ambiguity, uncertainty, and chaos into clarity for those around you. A Voice of Reason: When people become entrenched in their own viewpoints, positions, and opinions they can become emotionally attached and unreasonable in the decision making process. You have the ability to serve as an objective voice of reason that can influence decisions to go down the correct path. A Compiler of Facts: You are not just a compiler of facts, but an important aggregator of facts. There may be scores of people involved in projects and hundreds of conversations going on about your projects at any given time with e-mail, spreadsheets, documents, and other electronic media flying all over the place.You know how to take this massive swirl of information and find trends, patterns, and other meaningful information to make your project management status report useful. A Bottom Line Person: The ability to net things out is your biggest asset to the organization. You can take all of the ambiguity, swirl, and information around a project and come up with a pithy, relevant, and actionable piece of information that executives can digest. This is the type of content that needs to appear on your project management status report. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 13
  14. 14. Communicating with Executives Using your Project ManagementStatus ReportThe above skills are all for naught if you can’t translate information into something anexecutive can understand on the project management status report. The following aresome suggestions when speaking their language: Be Clear, and Concise: One of the first lessons in successfully communicating with executives is to be extremely precise and clear. Don’t leave room for interpretation. Ask for their help if you are bogged down and can’t move a certain part of the project forward. Don’t infer you need their help, or leave it up to them to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Use Bullets and Not Narrative: Capitalize on your ability to net things out on your project management status report with quick, “to the point” bullet points that tell execs what they need to know in mere moments. Executives don’t have the time or interest in reading narratives about the project. Bullet points should never be longer than two sentences. A paragraph, or heaven forbid, paragraphs of text explaining the status of the project will be almost guaranteed to fall on deaf ears. Be Objective: Just report the facts. Don’t fall into the trap of editorializing or providing your personal opinion on the project management status report. It’s not that you can’t or don’t have an opinion, it’s just that the project management status report is not where these opinions should see the light of day.What Should Be Included on your Project Management StatusReport?The project management status report can really be as simple as a one or two pagedocument that includes: Overall Project Health: This is your summation of netting the project out. Use some type of indicator (green, yellow, red for example) to indicate the overall health of the project. The executives won’t have to give a second thought to areas that are green, but will need to be all over the details if the status is red. Milestones: Include the most recent milestones that have been achieved on the project as well as those in the immediate future. This will provide a sense of trending and project velocity. Issues: Net out major issues that are surrounding the project. There may be 10 or 20 issues actively being worked through, so don’t dig into too much detail. Rather, break ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 14
  15. 15. them down into how many critical, semi-critical, and non-critical issues are on the table. Then, include your plan for how the critical issues will be addressed.Following the above principles for your next project management status report willprevent you from having to speak LOUDLY to your native executives. Understandingtheir language will allow you to communicate effectively and run your projects moresmoothly.5 Ways to Keep Your Project Management Status Report outof the TrashChances are your project management status report isnot receiving the attention you feel it deserves. Whatcan you do about this? The following are 5 things youcan do to keep your project management status reportout of the trash:1. Keep It ShortThis is not the time to pontificate and editorialize. Youare not a person that is sitting around the house all daywith little more to do than write Op Ed pieces to thelocal newspaper in hopes of them being published. No,you are an extremely busy project manager that has amillion things going on at one time. Also, your audienceis in the same boat as you. They are not sitting around all day reading the Op Ed piecesthat have been published in the local paper. In other words, keep your projectmanagement status report short…ideally one page. Capture the most vital aspects ofthe project in as few words as possible and get right to the point.2. Keep Reports ConsistentProject management status reports are not the reports you want to use to explore yourcreative side. How does this happen? Well, this week includes a nice color coded chartthat provides some very meaningful information about the project. It’s in the upper leftcorner and really stands out. Next week you decide you don’t like that so much andmove it to the bottom right corner. You also decide to change what the report ismeasuring and add another section with some discussion points that came up over theweek. The following week you move the chart around again and then lose the discussion ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 15
  16. 16. points. Keep your reports consistent. Is there room for change every now and then? Yes.But, it should be infrequent, it should be after discussion with the users of the report,and the change should be clearly communicated.3. Make Your Reports ActionableIf you don’t want your project management status reports thrown in the trash thenmake them actionable. What does this mean? It means that somebody who is readingthe report can clearly see what they need to do next.4. Keep Your Reports SimpleThe higher up the corporate food chain your project management status report goes thesimpler it needs to be. Executives in a company are not dumb. Otherwise, they wouldnot be in the positions they have attained. But, neither are they experts in the details ofthe projects you are managing. The art of project management is being able to takesomething that is incredibly complex and break it down into something that is plain andunderstandable. You’ll get more buy-in and support from the execs. Plus, it forces you todeeply understand the issues in order to translate them into everyday speech.5. Follow-UpWant to make sure your project management status report wasn’t just thrown in thegarbage? Get in the habit of following up. Walk around to team members and ask if theyhave any questions about the report. Talk to upper management and make sureeverything made sense. Ask for ways the project management status report can berevised to be even more meaningful to those who use the report. Once people realizethat “there’s a test at the end” they will at the very least take a glance at your weeklyproject management status report. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 16
  17. 17. 8 Ways to Create Simple Project Management ReportsThe following 8 tips will help you make a simple project management report that youwill love putting together each week1. Use Project TemplatesOnce you have fastidiously developed the pristine report that you fell in love with, saveit down as a generic template that can be reused and repurposed time and timeagain.There’s no reason to start from scratch each time. Or to feel as if every time youdig into the report, its format has to be just a bit better, or more sophisticated, or moretelling than the last version you put together. This has a two-fold benefit. First, it makesit much easier for you to put together on a weekly basis. Second, people that use thereport become familiar with what they are looking at and know exactly where they canfind the information that is designed for them.2. Don’t PontificateUnless specifically requested, there is no need to editorialize,share your opinions, and comment on every detail in thereport. Project Managers have a tendency to do this from timeto time, feeling as if this is a value-added activity. It mayprovide some value, however, the same value can be derivedfrom discussing the report in person or at the next projectstatus meeting. Coming up with comments and opinions abouteverything that is on a simple project management report istime-consuming. It can also get a well-intentioned project manager into unnecessaryhot water by not having all the facts straight before rendering an opinion on a tightweekly schedule.3. Keep the Language SimpleNO Three-Letter Acronyms. If you want your simple project management report to bemeaningful for everyone, then stay away from jargon and technical-speak as much aspossible. This is especially important if this is a client-facing report. Your poor client hasno idea what language you speak internally and will just be confused after they readyour report. This in-turn prompts a phone call to you which consumes even more ofyour precious time. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 17
  18. 18. 4. Provide the Ability for Anyone to Follow-UpKeep your simple project management reports short, to the point, and designed toprovide facts. If you know there is information on the report that will elicit a number ofquestions or may be somewhat confusing, you can include the contact information ofthe person to speak to, directly for follow-up. This will remove you from the loop ofspending an inordinate amount of time on one or two sections in the report that may ormay not be of interest to everyone. Those that are interested can follow-up directly withthe person who provided the information and dig into further details.5. Make them ActionableA key to making a simple project management report worth doing every week is tomake it actionable. What do you expect or need the reader of this report to do? Is therequest for their assistance crystal clear in the report? Do they have all the informationthey need in order to follow up, such as a clear next step or which person they need tocontact? I’ve seen it too many times that a report is thrown over the fence just for thesake of doing a report and nobody knows what to do with what has been provided. Thisis a waste of everyone’s time, especially yours.6. Trust but VerifyPick out one or two key points that are in the report that you need to make sure werebrought to everyone’s attention and have a conversation about them with therecipients. You’ll quickly get a sense of whether they’ve read your report or not and canmake sure they understand the key point that was being made. Some may not think thisis the job of a project manager to follow-up on adults to read their reports. However, I’llfollow up all day long on top executives and upper management that are responsible forthe success and funding of one of my projects. Respect the fact that they are busy andit’s up to you to provide them with the information that will make your job easier.7. Get Someone Else to Put the Report TogetherThis is kind of tongue-in-cheek, but also very real at the same time. You may fall into thetrap that you are the only person in the world that could put a simple projectmanagement report together. Nobody can do it like you and it will take you longer justto train them. You need to dispel that thinking right now! Find someone on your team,or someone else’s team for that matter, that has some bandwidth and can you putthese routine reports together. They’ll be glad to have something to do and you’ll goback to loving this report every week. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 18
  19. 19. 8. Keep Them ShortIf possible, keep it to a page or less. Why? Do you see how nice this tip was compared tothe other 7 tips? Reports are a necessary part of our existence as project managers.They keep everyone on the same page, remove surprises, and get people movingforward. It’s up to you to make sure you continue to love the reports you generate.Following the 8 Tips above will move you in that direction!The Ubiquitous Program Management ReportA program manager needs to keep up with a considerable amount of information, toensure their program makes it from point A to point B and delivers the value that waspromised. Here’s the problem. It’s very hard to aggregate, assimilate, and distribute allof this information in an easy-to-read and easy-to-understand format that benefits theprogram stakeholders. There have been countless methods and systems for puttingtogether a perfect program management report. However, experience shows that theprogram management report is dreaded by both producers and users for the following 3reasons:It Takes Too Long to CompileYou will be amazed at how quickly a weekwill pass when you are tasked with puttingtogether a weekly program managementreport that updates everyone on the statusof the program. You will have just finishedone program management report to beturned in on a Wednesday and the nextthing you know you’re creeping intoTuesday afternoon one week later.It Takes Too Long To ReadTake comfort…the person on the receiving end of this program management reportfeels as if it takes too long to read as well. There are so many details included and ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 19
  20. 20. meaningless facts and figures that their eyes glaze over the second they see thisprogram management report pop into their inbox.It Doesn’t Net Things OutThe program management report is many times a disparate collection of semi-looselyrelated items and activity that are hard to pull together into one cohesive message. Assuch, it leaves a lot open for interpretation and room for confusion by the reader. It’s upto the reader to connect the dots to truly understand the current status of the program.And, to add insult to injury, you would be amazed at how many people don’t read theprogram management report that comes their way. Don’t believe me? Try this…stopsending your weekly management report for a week or two and see how many peopleeven ask what happened.How to Make Your Program Management Report MeaningfulDo you want your program management report to take less time to put together,meaningful to the receiver, and ultimately read? We all do. Then focus on making surejust these four questions are answered on your weekly report. What Happened – Have one section on your report dedicated to what happened over the prior week. You can do a brief recap of some of the highlights that occurred, meetings that took place, or milestones that were reached. This section provides just enough information to show that progress has been made and that there’s a certain momentum and life to the program. What’s Next – After you’ve spent a couple of minutes putting together what happened over the previous week, focus on those items that are coming up over the next week or two. Again, you don’t have to include a lot of detail, but an executive overview of those major events that are planned in order to keep the program on track. This could include a project being complete, or a review of open tickets, to completing a plan for better handling customer complaints. What May Get in the Way – You will next want to answer the question about what may get in the way of the “what’s next” section. This is the area where you briefly discuss risks to the program or even issues that have already occurred. Be sure to have some element of what you are doing to mitigate a risk from occurring or how you are resolving a risk that occurred and turned into an issue. Indication of Trends – Finally, you should include some type of trend indication in the form of an easy to understand chart or graph that shows the momentum of the ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 20
  21. 21. program in general. You don’t need a lot of Key Performance Indicators here. Just pick out 3-5 very relevant and very meaningful indicators and make sure they continue to go in the right direction. It may be that you want the number of trouble tickets to go down, or customer satisfaction index to go up, or the amount of uptime for the system to stay right where it’s at. Whatever you and the users of the program management report deem to be important is what you should include in this section.Two Principles to Keep in Mind for an Effective ProgramManagement ReportOver the years I have seen more program management reports than I care toremember. I’ve also worked with scores of program managers and their bosses wholiterally obsessed ad nausea over how impeccably perfect these reports needed to be(for example, the period after one sentence is 12 point and the period after anothersentence is 14 point…not kidding.) Stop the madness and focus on these two principles:Keep It Simple – Your program managementreport needs to be simple to put together,simple to read, simple to understand, andsimple to update week after week. Nobodyhas time anymore to get bogged down withputting a report together that will be glancedat for a matter of a few minutes.Keep it Relevant – Since people only have afew minutes to read your programmanagement report, keep it very relevant. Askpeople what they want to see on the report.More importantly, ask them what they don’tcare about or don’t need on the report. ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 21
  22. 22. 30 Day Free Software TrialThere are two key differences between ProjectManager.com and its competitors.The first is that we give you all of the features you need to plan, track and report onprojects efficiently. The second key difference is that our competitors charge a highupfront price as well as annual maintenance fees for new releases.Here at ProjectManager.com we offer you all of the features you need to manageprojects, at a small monthly price of just $25 per user. That simple! When you sign up toProjectManager.com, you also get for free: Unlimited Projects 3 Gigs of Document Storage Client Login Free Upgrade to New ReleasesTake Action, Sign-Up for a 30 Day Free Trial Today! Take a Free Trial Create your own Projects Sign up to boost your project successAny questions? Email support@ProjectManager.com andone of our friendly support staff will be happy to help. Wealso recommend a visit our resource library if you would likeaccess to further:-  project management tips  video tutorials  project management templates ProjectManager.com © 2013 All Rights Reserved 22

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