There’s more to successful portfolio reporting than simply pulling together a massive spreadsheet and marking the cells as Red, Yellow or Green depending on project health. With the right data, you can get professional reports that aid organizational planning and help you schedule and prioritize upcoming work.
Here’s some more advice on reporting the status of your project portfolio.
Get A Single View Of The Truth
Enterprise project management software can help you get a single view of the truth. This is really important because it prevents different teams from slicing and dicing the same data to get different responses. When you have multiple data sources it becomes difficult (if not impossible) to compare projects, prioritize effectively and put together enterprise-wide reports. You need one data source to be considered the ‘master’ and an EPM solution can help with this.
One view of the truth doesn’t mean that you have to have a single report that does for everybody. It only means a single database for sourcing the information: you can then tailor the project, program and portfolio reports to get customized data that suits each stakeholder.
For example, a portfolio manager wants to see the high level view, perhaps with additional cost information or details about which workstreams are coming to an end, freeing up the resources in the next few months. A project manager will want to see how his or her individual projects are progressing, detailed earned value data and the current resource assignments. These two differing needs can still rely on the same database, but the data is presented in different ways.
The trick is to make sure that everyone gets the information they need to do their jobs. Simply bear that in mind and you’ll be able to create reports that help everyone get on with their work. And don’t forget to check with them that they are useful! It’s normally easy to tweak existing reports so do offer to make changes if that would help the users.
Focus On What’s Important
Is real-time data important? It might be if your executives have to have access to portfolio status at any time. However, most businesses can manage without real-time reporting. Equally, your other priority might be to report on resource allocation and not whether projects are hitting their quality targets 100% of the time. Talk to your stakeholders (the people who use the portfolio reports) and find out what is important to them. Then make sure that data is included in the reports.
Remember that what’s important to them is likely to change so expect them to ask for different information as the year progresses. You can even pre-empt this by offering to shift the focus of the reports (or produce new ones) at budget forecasting time or at the end of significant periods like the end of the financial year.
Make It Easy
Don’t hide important information deep within the report: if there are issues, risks or problems that deserve management attention then flag them up clearly at the beginning. By all means, add more data somewhere else in the report, but don’t make your executive team hunt for what’s going wrong.
One way to do this is to add a ‘next steps’ section towards the end of the report, highlighting any outstanding decisions or actions that need to be taken.
You really don’t want to be manually producing reports at the end of every month. In large organizations the reporting overhead could run into dozens of reports, especially if you are tailoring them to individual stakeholders.
Automate as much as you can by using the reporting features of your software to generate the reports for you. Even better, give stakeholders access to your EPM solution so that they can generate and download their own reports, whenever they want.
Dashboards are a great way to present an overview of the current portfolio progress in a graphical format. They also give you the option of drilling down into the detail. See something that doesn’t look quite right? Click the graph to access the underlying data and investigate the potential issue more thoroughly.
Remember, however you present your portfolio reports the aim is to aid decision making. You should regularly check that stakeholders are getting the information they need and that it is still relevant to them. Stop producing reports for stakeholders who have moved out of portfolio jobs and make sure any new recruits are given access to the data they need to do their jobs effectively.
Portfolio reporting is a great way to monitor organizational health, but your executive team want to be able to access reliable data in a suitable format to help them make informed decisions about what to do next. A bit of forward planning when it comes to reporting and ensuring you consult sufficiently with key stakeholders will make sure that everyone gets what they need.