Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How To Quickly Assess Project Status through Reports

First and foremost, keep it simple. I know I have a tendency to try and over complicate things in reviewing project status. Like many others, we are managing amounts vast amounts of information on our projects (e.g. risks, activities, stakeholders, resources, etc.) and thus need to include everything so nothing gets left behind, right?
Take a deep breath with me, and let’s simply things so we can do what is ultimately or objective: quickly assess project status so we can focus or time. It will help us not only problem-solve, but help us not focus to narrowly such that we miss opportunities to take a look at potential problems and come up with solutions.
Simplification is also important to get collaboration with the project team. If it’s broken down to manageable pieces of work (i.e. tasks due this week), it gets everyone engaged and focused in the same direction, gives resources the opportunity to discuss delivery and potential constraints, helps identify risks, and gets the project focused on the proper path ahead.
So how do we simplify? For starters, only report on exceptions. These exceptions could be in any area, but should revolve around cost, timing, budget, and probably resources or quality. Issues of potential risk are also fair game, as they can eventually lead to delays and overruns. If things are on time and on budget, then great. Focus on current status.
The best way to manage this process is to visualize the data, such as the use of a Gantt chart in Microsoft Project, and subsequently using filters to just see those activities that need to be reviewed (e.g. activities due this week, milestones, etc.) It will help shape the conversation, so focus the status review on just those items, and get everyone board and engaged to ensure that the project follows the plan. Further, this strategy will allow actionable mitigation opportunities to ensure client expectations are met if delays or overruns materialize.
The last thing you want to be doing is going to the customer with problems. Go to the customer with solutions in hand instead. This not only helps build confidence, but the win-win relationships that are needed for success.

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