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Do you use Subjective or Standardized Status Reports Guidelines in your Organization? Effectively presenting a clear understanding of the status of your project in a single word or color is not the easiest thing to successfully do. There is a very subjective nature to the normal status definitions of “Green / Yellow / Red” in your status reports. It’s a normal way to represent a quick reflection of how your project is doing. It is also a way to grab a sponsor’s attention quickly at times where you need that executive engagement to ensure the success of your project.
In this article, I want to discuss the value of a Standardized Project Status methodology. There are many ways for a PMO to develop a standard method of representing the status of the projects they manage. Some PMO’s will leave it totally to the discretion of the Project Manager and the Project Sponsor. While this is not wrong, it can put the Project Manager in a difficult position at times during the project. (You can read my article “Your PMO Should be The Trusted Source of Truth” – CLICK HERE).
If we are completely frank, any status of your project has a degree of subjectiveness to it, as a result of the human nature of the Project Manager(s) running the projects. Every process within the PMO should allow for, and encourage the Project Managers to utilize their experience and discretion in the implementation of that process within their project. The intent of a Standardized Project Status methodology is to put a foundation in place that triggers the Project Manager to review and evaluate the status with his Project Team and Sponsor(s).
I am a proponent of that every project status report should show four elements to present the status of the project. Below is a cut-out of an actual status report template that I have used in multiple PMO reporting scenarios. As you can see from the image, the intent of this section of the status report is to provide insight into the key areas of the project: Scope, Schedule, and Budget, as well as provide an Overall reflection of the status of the project.
Project Status – In these four Project Status fields, you present the status of the context of the Triple Constraints. This section of your status report should be used to provide your Project Sponsor and Project Team members a quick reference to key status areas of your project.
- Overall Status – Overall Project Status is a reflection of the other three status areas. Here, you will select the appropriate color (Green / Yellow / Red) and include the percentage completed for the entire Project or Program.
- Scope Status – Scope Status is a reflection of how the project is tracking to the original and approved scope. Include the percent complete to the defined scope of your Project or Program and select the appropriate color (Green / Yellow / Red).
- Schedule Status – Schedule Status is a reflection of how the project is tracking to your approved / baselined project schedule. Include the percentage completed of the original schedule and select the appropriate color (Green / Yellow / Red).
- Budget Status – Budget Status is a reflection of how the project is tracking to your approved project or program budget. Include the percentage completed of the budget utilized against the approved budget and select the appropriate color (Green / Yellow / Red).
Project Financials – In these four Budget Status fields, you will present the status of your project budget. This is the detailed information used to define the “Red / Yellow / Green” status of your budget in the above Project Status field.
- Budget – This field should show your Approved Project Budget Number (in thousands). This includes original baseline, plus any approved Change Requests.
- Forecast – This is your forecasted project spend at project completion.
- Variance – This is the difference between your “Budget” and your “Forecast”. This will reflect if you are projecting your project to be over or under budget at the project close.
- Actual – This is a reflection of your current spend to date.
As we have shown in this example, we use key data fields to provide the consumer the data contained in the status report with an easily consumable view of data that allows them to quickly understand the status of the project.
A key success factor in this effort is the use of a standard methodology to determine the selection of your status colors. By using a standard baseline, you provide your Project Sponsors with the ability to have a fundamental standard when working across multiple projects at one time. If you leave your project status to a 100% subjective standard, how do you develop trust in our project status when different standards are used to determine the status?
In the example below, I am sharing a basic standard for determining the different triggers that change your Projects Status. While I am not presenting this as the only trigger to change your status, I am presenting that by using a baseline, you introduce a methodology that can produce a more balanced approach for a Project Manager to use their discretion in defining status.
Truthful and Transparent Project Status is a key component in developing trust in your PMO’s reporting and is a cornerstone in the effort to becoming the “Trusted Source of Truth” within your organization. I hope that this conversation has been beneficial to you and help in the development of basic standards for your Status Reporting efforts in the future.
If you have any questions or want to continue the conversation, please feel free to reach out to me directly by leaving a comment here on the article and I vow that I’ll reply and engage in the conversation.
Tell me your thoughts in the comments and let’s open a dialog. I would be excited to hear other opinions on this topic.
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Co-Founder: Project Management for Today
As a Co-Founder of the pmfortoday.com website, Don Clarke has over 20 years of experience in the Project Management / Program Management space. Having worked for a variety of companies over the last 20 years, he brings a strong base of knowledge in the industry. Establishing or helping redefine multiple PMO's during this time, there is a unique perspective to his approach to developing the value of a Project Management Office (PMO), as well as his approach to leadership development within the organization. Having been privileged to have multiple career defining mentoring experiences, Don realizes the importance of sharing that experience and giving back to the organizations where he is engaged.