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What’s the status of your status reports?

Written by Ben Chamberlain on March 31st, 2021 at 12:49 pm

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Since project management first became a formal discipline, status reports have been the bane of every project manager’s life.  Team members hate having to stop their work to update them.  Stakeholders doubt the accuracy, completeness and timeliness of them.  PMOs feel as though they spend way too much trying to corral them.  And leadership largely ignores them.

It doesn’t have to be this way.  In fact, if your strategic portfolio management (SPM) is to be effective, it can’t be this way.  Executives only fund investments after they understand what they are going to get, how that is going to benefit the business, and how much it’s going to cost (money and resources) to achieve.  That is what drives approvals and that’s what must be monitored and managed throughout the delivery process.

Don’t tell me the joke is funny, make me laugh

Executives don’t care how work is being delivered – that’s a decision for the teams who are executing.  They care about the performance of the investments that they have carefully selected.  They care that the expected value, the expected contribution to strategic goals, is being achieved.  And that’s what they expect to see reported when they review the status of initiatives collectively and individually.  Value based reporting in a context that allows them to take the necessary action.

Generating status reports can be a logistical nightmare, but automation can dynamically build performance dashboards and centralize the administration of the entire process.

Effective status reporting can’t succeed by simply reporting on constraints or velocity, it must present information in the context of value – reporting progress on all work as it relates to the investment dollars committed and the progress towards business goals.  Only then can status reporting be the fuel that drives the key business decisions you need to make around continuous and adaptive planning.  Only then can it support cost transparency.  Only then can it validate that your resources are optimally utilized.

Reporting shouldn’t be a full-time job

On the subject of resource utilization, if people are spending their time updating status reports they aren’t delivering value to your organization or contributing to achieving the strategic goals.  The metrics tracked in status reporting should be automated – driven by your work management tools in all modalities and presenting that data in a context that is supportive of business decisions.  You don’t need to know how much time was spent or how many story points completed.  You need to know where the variances from required performance have happened, where those variances are becoming concerning trends and what your options are to address the situation.

Powerful analytics capabilities enable the organization to monitor status and anticipate opportunities to adjust course and make more effective decisions across the portfolio.

Your automated, integrated status reporting won’t make those decisions for you, but it should be proving contextualized predictive analytics to help you and your colleagues make those decisions – quickly and with confidence.  Status reporting is not to tell you what’s happened, it’s to guide you in making the right decisions around what is yet to happen.

Getting the right info to the right people at the right time

Effective status reporting guides managers of work in making minor adjustments, it supports line of business executives and PMOs in shifting resources to where they will generate the best return, and it guides the strategic planning and delivery functions to ensure the work being done is fully aligned with the strategic priorities.  All while providing cost transparency on how your investments dollars are being spent.  But only if it is automated, integrated, complete, timely and accurate.  Is yours?

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