Performance Reporting in Project Management – Some Best Practices
By Timber Chinn, Northwest University
Project work requires ongoing measurements and evaluations to make sure everything is on track with schedule, budget and objectives. It is the project manager’s responsibility to use these measurements and evaluations to report how the project is doing compared to the performance baseline. There may be many different audiences to whom the project manager reports, and many different formats. For instance, the project sponsor may require weekly updating with a broad-brush overview of the project, whereas the project team may need daily updates with details about each work package.
The size and complexity of the project, as well as the preferences of the project manager, team and stakeholders, will determine the type and frequency of performance reporting. However, it can be challenging for parties to agree on how they want to receive performance reports, particularly if they do not understand their options. In this case, sending up what is known as a “trial balloon” is an effective technique. An actual trial balloon is used by meteorologists to obtain weather measurements, but it is used here to refer to the process of offering up examples as tests—or trials—to see which the audience prefers. For example, at the beginning of a project, the project manager may prepare several types of spreadsheets to show to the project sponsor in order to find out which format he or she prefers. This helps the sponsor know what is available, and tells the project manager which format the sponsor prefers.
Reporting about performance can take the form of status reports, progress measurements, and forecasts using reports, spreadsheets, charts and graphs. Any format works as long as it is easy to understand. It is vital that the project manager obtain and disseminate accurate performance information. The project team gathers this information from the project management plan, work performance information and measurements, budget forecasts, variance analyses and other general project management tools. Building these measurements into the project sets the expectation that regular, accurate reporting is just part of the process. In this manner, the project manager will have a solid grasp on where the project is compared to the baseline at any given time.
Northwest University opened to students on October 1, 1934. It is a regionally accredited institution awarding associate, baccalaureate, and master’s degrees.
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