False project reporting. Put your hands up if you as a Project professional are guilty of it! Although you can’t see, my hand is up (figuratively).
We’ve all done it, perhaps implied on our weekly highlight reports that well, all of the KPI’s are a bright shade of green. The schedule, green. Cost, green. Everything is green, green, and green! It’s as if the colour palette is restricted to 50 shades of green (I had to slip it in) and on the rare occasion, amber.
So why is reporting in so many organisations subjective? Well, it’s because normally reports are compiled manually which gives people creative freedom. Everyone likes to avoid scrutiny, colour it in green, avoid questioning. But you always get caught out.
Let’s take the following ‘real world’ example to appreciate the impact of false reporting and getting caught out. The project I’ll be referring to is the construction of the second “Death Star” (yes I’m mentioning Star Wars again). You may recall that as Darth Vader arrives at the Death Star and steps out of the Imperial Shuttle, the commander (project manager) greets him “Lord Vader this is an unexpected pleasure, we’re honoured by your presence”, reading between the lines, I’m pretty certain he’s thinking “please don’t use the Force Choke”.
Taking a step back, let’s analyse what’s happening. The commander had been submitting weekly programme level highlight reports to the emperor (sponsor) and had been portraying the schedule KPI as green. However a disturbance in the Force (the dark side) has led the emperor to suspect not all is on track, so he sends in Darth Vader (Project Assurance) to conduct an audit. As we all know, the second Death Star project was behind schedule due to a lack of resources. I could go on but I think we all get the idea.
I mentioned earlier that reports are typically manual endeavours, most of us probably recognise Friday as being reporting day. The day where you delve into your memory banks, trying to determine what should be reported and what shade of green you should be used against your KPIs. This is a very time-consuming process (that projects managers dislike) and increasingly stakeholders want to be able to self-service and access the reports they want when they want. They also want standardised, objective reporting based on facts so that they are easier to digest.
Is there a better way?
At this point I sense you all wondering, “there must be a better way”, and reaching out “show us the light”. Well, there is a way in which you can:
- Standardise report templates
- Generate reports at the click of a button and share in a variety of formats
- Base the reports on factual data
You can achieve all of the above (and more) by using, wait for it Microsoft Project Online/Project for the Web. So, in this the third in a 4 part series looking at how Microsoft PPM can help you overcome the biggest project management pains organisations face we are going to explore the features available to help your organisation achieve a better approach to reporting. This is quite a detailed topic and the article’s intention is to provide an introduction to the general benefits, not an exhaustive overview.
Within the Microsoft PPM suite which comprises of Project Professional, Project Online and Project for the Web there are a number of options available for reporting. Some of the reporting options are available directly via the client (Project Professional), whilst some directly via Project Online/Project for the Web i.e. Project Centre views. You can also access the project data via Excel and Excel Services, Power BI, Visio, PerformancePoint and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).
Starting with the client, one of the biggest improvements within Project Professional 2013 and Project Pro for O365 is the inclusion of an enhanced reporting area which provides a range of useful reports and dashboards.
When it comes to reporting within the Project Professional client, it’s not that dissimilar to Excel as you can highlight any of the charts and access a Field List which enables to slice and dice the data. Lastly, it’s also possible to export any of the reports in PDF format.
Delving into Project Online/Project for the Web, one of the key areas that allow for a rollup and graphical representation of KPI’s from within projects is the Project Centre. Within this area you’re not restricted to a single view, you can create as many as you like. So if you’d like to see your projects grouped by type of project, location, financial summary or by any other view you want, you can!
Power BI is an increasing cloud service that lets you share and access your Excel reports anywhere, on any device.
As well as presenting traditional but interactive dashboards, Power BI allows you to ask questions, in plain language and presents back the answers whilst allowing you to choose the format.
Lastly, I’ll cover SSRS, which is typically the reporting solution that many organisations adopt. With SSRS you’re able to bring together data held in a variety of sources, i.e. Project Server and SharePoint so is ideal if you’re looking to automate the process of creating programme or project level highlight reports, audit reports or any other report that needs to combine data.
Improve your Project Management
In this introductory article, I wanted to provide a high-level overview of reporting capabilities within the Microsoft PPM suite and demonstrate how you could transform your reporting approach. Next month I’ll be continuing with the series and the topic of discussion will be Strategic Alignment of Projects, obviously, Microsoft PPM will feature and I may also reference the Flux Capacitor! If you don’t know what a Flux Capacitor is, I have no words.