Effective project reporting is something all projects and programs need to accurately report on progress and performance. Senior leaders, stakeholders and, of course, the customer, need to be kept updated with what is going on. However, if you are receiving a lot of requests for additional information, or find that however much you communicate, stakeholders still don’t seem to understand what’s happening, it could be that your project is not meeting its reporting requirements.
In this article, we’ll review some of the common reasons why reports might not be up to standard and what you can do about that.
Issue #1: Unclear requirements
Stakeholders might be asking for additional reports because you are not meeting their requirements – or they might not have explained the requirements adequately in the first place. Generally, people tend to ask for more if what they are getting is not good enough to allow them to make informed decisions or do their job. Take this as an urgent sign that you should look at what you are providing and make improvements.
Fix by: Go back to the contract or Statement of Work and review the reporting requirements as laid out in those documents. Review these with the customer if they do not seem to be meeting the needs of the team at this time, and set clear expectations about what is going to be produced and why.
Issue #2: No baseline from which to report
You can’t report progress if there is no baseline against which to measure progress. Or, you can, but the data is pretty meaningless! The baseline provides a snapshot of what was agreed and therefore what is expected. That’s the benchmark you are measuring against and all reports should tie back to the approved integrated baseline.
Fix by: Make sure there is an approved, integrated baseline for all aspects of the work. This is an essential for programs using earned value management.
Issue #3: No standard processes for reporting
Another potential issue could be that there are no (or limited) processes to support the reporting effort. If people don’t know what to do, or doing it seems too difficult, they may not produce a quality output.
Broader project management processes play into this issue as well, especially the procedure for managing changes. It’s difficult to report on current project status if you don’t know what has changed or what the latest scope is.
Fix by: Making sure there are standardized processes with adequate documentation, and that everyone knows where to find them. Train the team on how to use them so everyone is confident.
Issue #4: Inadequate software for reporting
The whole Earned Value Management System produces information for data analysis and reporting, so it’s important that data is integrated and consolidated to provide a complete picture for reporting. Tools that don’t talk to each other can cause data disconnects and an incomplete view of what is actually going on. Perhaps your tools are not good enough for the reporting requirements needed, or they have been set up in a way that does not support your communication goals.
Fix by: Review your tool stack and see if it is set up optimally. For example, it could be advantageous to make use of APIs to connect tools for better overall data consolidation. Get expert advice on the best way to integrate and configure your tools to save time.
Issue #5: Inexperienced staff
If all the elements above are in place, the issue could be that your team does not have the experience or training to interpret and report on what they are seeing in the system. This happens if the team has lost experienced staff, or the system has developed organically over time and staff have not been kept up-to-date with how to make the most of the new enhancements.
Fix by: Provide one-off or ongoing training to support staff with their responsibilities. Deltek Cobra training will give them the skills to be able to create reports from cost data in the correct format for earned value management reporting. Once training is complete, help the team transfer their knowledge to the workplace by putting their new skills to use.
Resolving project reporting challenges will make it easier to see what is going on with the project and to meet stakeholder expectations. Let’s look at a project management case study to demonstrate the impact that a good set up can have for you and your client.
Project Communication Management Case Study
Project reporting is part of communication management, and we know first-hand how much of a difference adequate communication can make to a program’s success.
Ten Six worked with NEON, Inc, the National Ecological Observatory Network, an independent corporation created to manage large-scale ecological observing systems and experiments on behalf of the scientific community and funded by the National Science Foundation.
NEON, Inc. asked the Ten Six team to provide support for a new program that was struggling to meet deliverable dates required by the National Science Foundation. In addition, they needed help addressing numerous reporting requirements, integration, technical and reporting issues with Deltek Cobra and Oracle Primavera P6.
We developed the WBS, Work Package Elements (framework) and the program schedule, along with a complete program budget, to create a program baseline.
Amongst other things, the Ten Six team resolved technical issues to integrate systems, collected monthly project status and updated P6 and Cobra to provide the required cost performance reports, and provided regular and ad-hoc reporting to key stakeholders. We shared a detailed Report Developers field manual to support training on custom reports and documented processes where necessary.
As a result, the new program benefited from accountability, the ability to drill into the program and answer specific questions more quickly and accurately and the means to manage cost and schedule better.
Your next steps
Even if you think project reporting is going well, take a moment to ask your client and check that they are receiving information that meets their expectations. It’s better to know this now before it gets flagged to you as a potential compliance issue later on.
Then make any appropriate changes to ensure they are getting the project performance data they require. At the same time, spend a little effort reviewing your reporting set up so it is as efficient as it can be. Your Earned Value Management System generates a lot of reports, so the more that can be automated and streamlined, the better! A few tweaks could make the process more efficient and save you time to focus on other value-added work for your clients.