Monday, March 3, 2008

Reporting Project Progress and Performance

Project stakeholders often require information about how resources are being used to achieve project objectives. This information is provided through performance reports.

Performance reports summarize project activity progression by comparing your project's performance to its schedule baseline.

Performance reports come in many shapes and sizes. From a time management perspective, the obvious reporting format to use is a graphical representation of project performance. The four most frequently used graphical performance reporting formats are the: Gantt chart, S-curve, histogram, and table.
  • Gantt chart - A Gantt chart displays schedule-related data. The dates are shown across the top of the chart to illustrate the time line.
  • S-curve - An S-curve displays cumulative costs, labor hours, or other quantities plotted against time.
  • Histogram - A histogram is a bar graph of a frequency distribution. The bar width represents the division of each variable into task duration. The height is relative to the number of resources required.
  • Table - A table displays semi-processed numerical data for a minimum of two variables. Data is relevant to an individual project's needs.
Each company should determine which format works best for projects, in terms of time and information required. Therefore, the format one company uses may not be an appropriate format for another company.
A reliable reporting system helps to ensure that projects progress according to plan. It can help determine when corrective action is necessary. The reporting system provides:
  • regular, accurate status updates
  • concise, easily understandable information
  • potential problem forecasts.
Performance reports can be presented in various ways, depending on the intended purpose, the content to be included, and the frequency required. Four types of reports that vary in detail and timelines are: current, cumulative, exception, and green-yellow-red reports.

Current reports
Current reports document progress solely on those activities scheduled for work during the reporting period. Reports show activity highlights and any variances from a project's plan. Follow-up on current reports should provide project details, including reasons for variances and a recommended corrective action plan.

Cumulative reports
Cumulative reports examine the project's history—from start-up to the end of the current reporting period. Cumulative reports display trends in project activities that, over several periods may exhibit improvements or chronic problems.

Exception reports
Exception reports are high-level summary reports submitted to senior management. Sometimes these reports are followed by an additional report if more detail is required.

Green-yellow-red reports
Green, yellow, and red reports are very simplified versions of performance reports. These reports get the intended point across with a minimum amount of reading required.
  • Green reports - Say that everything is going according to project's plan.
  • Yellow reports - reveal a schedule slippage with a corrective action plan.
  • Red reports - indicate a project is out of control with no action plan in place.
AC Technology is a computer company that has just reached the half-way point in its newest project. It is designing an operating system that includes its own anti-virus component. Using a cumulative reporting system allows the team to look back and see that the first quarter showed a slight schedule slippage. A corrective action plan was set up to try to offset this problem. Now, the project has reached the end of the second quarter and the reports are showing that this trend has continued. AC Technology must look very seriously at its current corrective action plan and make adjustments to bring this project back on track.
Comparing project performance to the schedule baseline will be easier once your company selects the most appropriate performance reporting format and method of presentation to meet its needs.

No comments: