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Advice & examples for writing good status updates
                                                        Selena Sol
                                                  selena@selenasol.com
                                  http://sg.linkedin.com/pub/eric-tachibana/0/33/b53/
                                           http://www.slideshare.net/selenasol
                                            http://www.selenasol.com/selena


        SUMMARY
        This guide argues that there are 3 types of events that warrant reporting in a progress
        report, provides advice, and gives examples of effective update content.

EVENT          SITUATION                      ADVICE                     AVOID UPDATES LIKE THIS....     REFERENCE EXAMPLE
Big project     A generally                   Make clear what           Pilot environment security    The Messaging Component was
completed           acknowledged big             business value was         and risk reviews requested   completed and put into production on
                    chunk or work, or the        delivered                Assessment of Option A        March 20th. This component will allow
                    entire project, was        Say what’s next             initiated                    us to feed 100% of the Indonesian
                    finished.                  Recognize                 Continued building out        Commodities transactions through
                A meaningful                    contributors               messaging component          Straight-Through Processing (STP)
                   milestone was passed.                                  Improved single-sign on       leading to faster settlement times
                A key project risk was                                     module                       and fewer transaction errors due to
                   mitigated                                              Supporting Korea              human error. We’ll be monitoring the
                The project advanced                                       Reliability Audit            production code for the next few
                   to a point where                                       Worked with project team      weeks but the team will start turning
                   tangible business                                        and stakeholders to define   its focus towards the next Asset Class,
                   value began accruing                                     Project Metrics              Equity Derivatives. Thanks to Frank
                   demonstrably (beta                                     Kicked off working group to   Miller and Jeph Loeb for high quality
                   launch or minimal                                        define requirements for      code and after-hours support during
                   viable product                                           Cloud Operating Platform     productionization.
                   released)                                              System X successfully
                                                                            integrated into System Y
Key meeting       Project Steering           Do not turn this into                   Operations IT     Since the last report, the Operations
held               Committees                 meeting minutes, but          Design Council met           IT Design Council (OPSDC) met twice,
                  Function                   do communicate:                                            covering 1) APAC Enterprise
                   Governance/Board                                                                      Architecture proposal, 2) Project Z
                   Meetings                      Key formal agenda                                      update, and 3) Vendor Q analysis.
                  Design Committees /            items                                                  With respect to Enterprise
                   Standard Setting              Key Statements                                         Architecture, the OPSDC agreed to
                   Bodies / Quality               for the record                                         adopt the proposed model (URL to
                   Reviews                       Key Decisions                                          document) and extend Phase 2
                  Meetings with                 Key action items                                       deliverables until June 16th. Meeting
                   external parties                                                                      minutes including outstanding actions
                   (auditors/regulators)                                                                 are available at (URL).
Syndication       I have finished sharing       Include an               We syndicated ETRS           Completed regional syndication of
completed          a strategy deck with all       embedded link to          related eBanking target      the, “Electronic Transaction Reporting
                   relevant stakeholders          the document              architecture with IBIT CTO   System (ETRS) eBanking Target
                   and am now ready to           List 1-3 critical         stakeholders                 Architecture” (URL to document). At a
                   publish it as final            syndication                                            high-level, key themes included 1)
                  I made a decision, set         messages as part                                       decommissioning of System X, 2)
                   a standard, or defined         of the update.                                         procurement of System Y, and 3)
                   a business process and         Don't tell us "that"                                   support for Regulatory requirement
                   have finished notifying        you syndicated,                                        of 6-factor authentication.
                   all stakeholders.              tell us "what" you                                     Syndication was completed for
                  I have made a                  syndicated                                             Investment Banking Tech (IBIT)
                   significant change to         List key                                               stakeholders from the Chief
                   strategic intent,              stakeholders                                           Technology Office (CTO). No issues
                   objectives, program            impacted,                                              were raised that might derail further
                   goals or scope, or             especially if there                                    progress, though it is worth repeating
                   organizational                 are business                                           that the rollout plan has an
                   structure and have             benefits or costs                                      aggressive timeline. Minutes from the
                                                                                                         meetings are available at (URL).
finished sharing this       to them
           with stakeholders.         List key
                                       themes/decisions/
                                       changes that came
                                       out of any related
                                       discussions


1. BIG PROJECT COMPLETED
Hopefully most of what we do is work on projects that lead to tangible business value. And
when we make significant progress against such a project, it is worth shouting about.
However, shouting effectively assumes that a meaningful phase of project work was actually
completed such as:

       A generally acknowledged big chunk or work, or the entire project, was finished.
       A meaningful milestone was passed.
       A key project risk was mitigated
       The project advanced to a point where tangible business value began accruing
    demonstrably (beta launch or minimal viable product released)

Whatever the case, the key to a good project update is that it should communicate why the
reader, who is usually not in the direct project team, should care. The update should make
clear what business value was delivered. For example, what can now be accomplished as a
result, or how much revenue can be made, or cost avoided, as a result of the
accomplishment, or what risks are now mitigated? If you cannot define what business value
was delivered, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the project is bad, it’s just that this is
probably not a time to report on it. Wait until it is newsworthy.

Also, because the audience of reports tends to include secondary or tertiary stakeholders,
who do not attend in-person project meetings, when you describe the event, you need to
add enough detail so that someone, not in the immediate project team, can immediately
understand the relevant context without needing a one-on-one project briefing.

Further, it is useful to place the delivery within the larger context. What’s next?

Finally, it is worth recognizing folks who made an outstanding contribution to the delivery.

Here are some examples of updates that are not newsworthy or updates that are
newsworthy, but not detailed enough:

            Pilot environment security and risk reviews requested
            Assessment of Option A initiated
            Continued building out messaging component
            Improved single-sign on module
            Supporting Korea Reliability Audit
            Worked with project team and stakeholders to define Project Metrics
            Kicked off working group to define requirements for Cloud Operating Platform
            System X successfully integrated into System Y
Here are some updates that might be more effective:

       The Assessment of Option A was completed. Using a rubric that included A, B, and C,
       the project team determined that Option A was unsuitable given the project
       requirements. The complete assessment report is available at (URL). The next major
       project milestone will be to agree on pricing and contractual terms for Option B by
       August 15th. Thanks to Mickey Mouse for preparing the market research report and
       meeting deck.

       The Messaging Component was completed and put into production on March 20 th.
       This component will allow us to feed 100% of the Indonesian Commodities
       transactions through Straight-Through Processing (STP) leading to faster settlement
       times and fewer transaction errors due to human error. We’ll be monitoring the
       production code for the next few weeks but the team will start turning its focus
       towards the next Asset Class, Equity Derivatives. Thanks to Frank Miller and Jeph
       Loeb for high quality code and after-hours support during productionization.

2. KEY MEETING HELD
Communicating decisions made as well as making the process of decision-making
transparent, is critical if you want people to actually own those decisions. There are many
types of key meetings including:

        Project steering committees
        Function governance/board meetings
        Design Committees / Standard Setting Bodies / Quality Reviews
        Meetings with external parties (auditors/regulators)

While most banter at a meeting will be relevant only to those present, most meetings can
be summarized quickly but effectively:

        Key formal agenda items
        Key statements for the record
        Key decisions
        Key action items

If readers of your report have reason to be interested, but meeting minutes are too
detailed, these things should be communicated in a report within reason.

Here is an example of a status update that leaves significant value on the table:

       Operations IT Design Council met

Here is how you might improve it:

       Since the last report, the Operations IT Design Council (OPSDC) met twice, covering 1)
       APAC Enterprise Architecture proposal, 2) Project Z update, and 3) Vendor Q analysis.
       With respect to Enterprise Architecture, the OPSDC agreed to adopt the proposed
model (URL to document) and extend Phase 2 deliverables until June 16 th. Meeting
       minutes including outstanding actions are available at (URL).

3. SYNDICATION COMPLETED
There are many circumstances in which you want to communicate messages throughout an
organization, and finishing that communication is a key milestone because you will now
move from Syndication to Operationalization, and you need to mark this state change. After
this milestone, there will be no more talking and sharing. It is now time for everyone to be
onboard and execute.

Examples could include:

        I have finished sharing a strategy deck with all relevant stakeholders and am now
       ready to publish it as final
        I made a decision, set a standard, or defined a business process and have finished
       notifying all stakeholders.
        I have made a significant change to strategic intent, objectives, program goals or
       scope, or organizational structure and have finished sharing this with stakeholders.

At the same time, because syndication is usually a dialog, rather than a broadcast, it is
important to ensure that key statements of record, changes, or compromises that came up
during syndication are communicated as well.

Because this is an important milestone, it is appropriate to report. But make sure that all the
relevant information is included. For example:

        Include an embedded link to the document
        List 1-3 critical syndication messages as part of the update. Don't tell us "that" you
       syndicated, tell us "what" you syndicated
        List key stakeholders impacted, especially if there are business benefits or costs to
       them
        List key themes/decisions/changes that came out of any related discussions

Here is an example of a status update that leaves significant value on the table:

       We syndicated ETRS related eBanking target architecture with IBIT CTO stakeholders

Here is how you might improve it:

       Completed regional syndication of the, “Electronic Transaction Reporting System
       (ETRS) eBanking Target Architecture” (URL to document). At a high-level, key themes
       included 1) decommissioning of System X, 2) procurement of System Y, and 3)
       support for Regulatory requirement of 6-factor authentication. Syndication was
       completed for Investment Banking Tech (IBIT) stakeholders from the Chief
       Technology Office (CTO). No issues were raised that might derail further progress,
       though it is worth repeating that the rollout plan has an aggressive timeline. Minutes
       from the meetings are available at (URL).
4. APPENDIX: SPELL OUT ACRONYMS
And remember, always Spell Out Acronyms (SOA).

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Status reporting guidelines

  • 1. Advice & examples for writing good status updates Selena Sol selena@selenasol.com http://sg.linkedin.com/pub/eric-tachibana/0/33/b53/ http://www.slideshare.net/selenasol http://www.selenasol.com/selena SUMMARY This guide argues that there are 3 types of events that warrant reporting in a progress report, provides advice, and gives examples of effective update content. EVENT SITUATION ADVICE AVOID UPDATES LIKE THIS.... REFERENCE EXAMPLE Big project  A generally  Make clear what  Pilot environment security The Messaging Component was completed acknowledged big business value was and risk reviews requested completed and put into production on chunk or work, or the delivered  Assessment of Option A March 20th. This component will allow entire project, was  Say what’s next initiated us to feed 100% of the Indonesian finished.  Recognize  Continued building out Commodities transactions through  A meaningful contributors messaging component Straight-Through Processing (STP) milestone was passed.  Improved single-sign on leading to faster settlement times  A key project risk was module and fewer transaction errors due to mitigated  Supporting Korea human error. We’ll be monitoring the  The project advanced Reliability Audit production code for the next few to a point where  Worked with project team weeks but the team will start turning tangible business and stakeholders to define its focus towards the next Asset Class, value began accruing Project Metrics Equity Derivatives. Thanks to Frank demonstrably (beta  Kicked off working group to Miller and Jeph Loeb for high quality launch or minimal define requirements for code and after-hours support during viable product Cloud Operating Platform productionization. released)  System X successfully integrated into System Y Key meeting  Project Steering Do not turn this into  Operations IT Since the last report, the Operations held Committees meeting minutes, but Design Council met IT Design Council (OPSDC) met twice,  Function do communicate: covering 1) APAC Enterprise Governance/Board Architecture proposal, 2) Project Z Meetings  Key formal agenda update, and 3) Vendor Q analysis.  Design Committees / items With respect to Enterprise Standard Setting  Key Statements Architecture, the OPSDC agreed to Bodies / Quality for the record adopt the proposed model (URL to Reviews  Key Decisions document) and extend Phase 2  Meetings with  Key action items deliverables until June 16th. Meeting external parties minutes including outstanding actions (auditors/regulators) are available at (URL). Syndication  I have finished sharing  Include an  We syndicated ETRS Completed regional syndication of completed a strategy deck with all embedded link to related eBanking target the, “Electronic Transaction Reporting relevant stakeholders the document architecture with IBIT CTO System (ETRS) eBanking Target and am now ready to  List 1-3 critical stakeholders Architecture” (URL to document). At a publish it as final syndication high-level, key themes included 1)  I made a decision, set messages as part decommissioning of System X, 2) a standard, or defined of the update. procurement of System Y, and 3) a business process and Don't tell us "that" support for Regulatory requirement have finished notifying you syndicated, of 6-factor authentication. all stakeholders. tell us "what" you Syndication was completed for  I have made a syndicated Investment Banking Tech (IBIT) significant change to  List key stakeholders from the Chief strategic intent, stakeholders Technology Office (CTO). No issues objectives, program impacted, were raised that might derail further goals or scope, or especially if there progress, though it is worth repeating organizational are business that the rollout plan has an structure and have benefits or costs aggressive timeline. Minutes from the meetings are available at (URL).
  • 2. finished sharing this to them with stakeholders.  List key themes/decisions/ changes that came out of any related discussions 1. BIG PROJECT COMPLETED Hopefully most of what we do is work on projects that lead to tangible business value. And when we make significant progress against such a project, it is worth shouting about. However, shouting effectively assumes that a meaningful phase of project work was actually completed such as:  A generally acknowledged big chunk or work, or the entire project, was finished.  A meaningful milestone was passed.  A key project risk was mitigated  The project advanced to a point where tangible business value began accruing demonstrably (beta launch or minimal viable product released) Whatever the case, the key to a good project update is that it should communicate why the reader, who is usually not in the direct project team, should care. The update should make clear what business value was delivered. For example, what can now be accomplished as a result, or how much revenue can be made, or cost avoided, as a result of the accomplishment, or what risks are now mitigated? If you cannot define what business value was delivered, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the project is bad, it’s just that this is probably not a time to report on it. Wait until it is newsworthy. Also, because the audience of reports tends to include secondary or tertiary stakeholders, who do not attend in-person project meetings, when you describe the event, you need to add enough detail so that someone, not in the immediate project team, can immediately understand the relevant context without needing a one-on-one project briefing. Further, it is useful to place the delivery within the larger context. What’s next? Finally, it is worth recognizing folks who made an outstanding contribution to the delivery. Here are some examples of updates that are not newsworthy or updates that are newsworthy, but not detailed enough:  Pilot environment security and risk reviews requested  Assessment of Option A initiated  Continued building out messaging component  Improved single-sign on module  Supporting Korea Reliability Audit  Worked with project team and stakeholders to define Project Metrics  Kicked off working group to define requirements for Cloud Operating Platform  System X successfully integrated into System Y
  • 3. Here are some updates that might be more effective: The Assessment of Option A was completed. Using a rubric that included A, B, and C, the project team determined that Option A was unsuitable given the project requirements. The complete assessment report is available at (URL). The next major project milestone will be to agree on pricing and contractual terms for Option B by August 15th. Thanks to Mickey Mouse for preparing the market research report and meeting deck. The Messaging Component was completed and put into production on March 20 th. This component will allow us to feed 100% of the Indonesian Commodities transactions through Straight-Through Processing (STP) leading to faster settlement times and fewer transaction errors due to human error. We’ll be monitoring the production code for the next few weeks but the team will start turning its focus towards the next Asset Class, Equity Derivatives. Thanks to Frank Miller and Jeph Loeb for high quality code and after-hours support during productionization. 2. KEY MEETING HELD Communicating decisions made as well as making the process of decision-making transparent, is critical if you want people to actually own those decisions. There are many types of key meetings including:  Project steering committees  Function governance/board meetings  Design Committees / Standard Setting Bodies / Quality Reviews  Meetings with external parties (auditors/regulators) While most banter at a meeting will be relevant only to those present, most meetings can be summarized quickly but effectively:  Key formal agenda items  Key statements for the record  Key decisions  Key action items If readers of your report have reason to be interested, but meeting minutes are too detailed, these things should be communicated in a report within reason. Here is an example of a status update that leaves significant value on the table: Operations IT Design Council met Here is how you might improve it: Since the last report, the Operations IT Design Council (OPSDC) met twice, covering 1) APAC Enterprise Architecture proposal, 2) Project Z update, and 3) Vendor Q analysis. With respect to Enterprise Architecture, the OPSDC agreed to adopt the proposed
  • 4. model (URL to document) and extend Phase 2 deliverables until June 16 th. Meeting minutes including outstanding actions are available at (URL). 3. SYNDICATION COMPLETED There are many circumstances in which you want to communicate messages throughout an organization, and finishing that communication is a key milestone because you will now move from Syndication to Operationalization, and you need to mark this state change. After this milestone, there will be no more talking and sharing. It is now time for everyone to be onboard and execute. Examples could include:  I have finished sharing a strategy deck with all relevant stakeholders and am now ready to publish it as final  I made a decision, set a standard, or defined a business process and have finished notifying all stakeholders.  I have made a significant change to strategic intent, objectives, program goals or scope, or organizational structure and have finished sharing this with stakeholders. At the same time, because syndication is usually a dialog, rather than a broadcast, it is important to ensure that key statements of record, changes, or compromises that came up during syndication are communicated as well. Because this is an important milestone, it is appropriate to report. But make sure that all the relevant information is included. For example:  Include an embedded link to the document  List 1-3 critical syndication messages as part of the update. Don't tell us "that" you syndicated, tell us "what" you syndicated  List key stakeholders impacted, especially if there are business benefits or costs to them  List key themes/decisions/changes that came out of any related discussions Here is an example of a status update that leaves significant value on the table: We syndicated ETRS related eBanking target architecture with IBIT CTO stakeholders Here is how you might improve it: Completed regional syndication of the, “Electronic Transaction Reporting System (ETRS) eBanking Target Architecture” (URL to document). At a high-level, key themes included 1) decommissioning of System X, 2) procurement of System Y, and 3) support for Regulatory requirement of 6-factor authentication. Syndication was completed for Investment Banking Tech (IBIT) stakeholders from the Chief Technology Office (CTO). No issues were raised that might derail further progress, though it is worth repeating that the rollout plan has an aggressive timeline. Minutes from the meetings are available at (URL).
  • 5. 4. APPENDIX: SPELL OUT ACRONYMS And remember, always Spell Out Acronyms (SOA).