Top 5 Project Management Reports [video blog]

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Welcome to our whiteboard session today on types of project management reports.  One of the biggest questions I get from people are “What exactly are project management reports and which ones are the best ones to look at?”

So today, I want to cover my top five.  So, the project management reports are to look at different information data that we collect on the different projects that we manage.  Most project managers, when they’re managing one project they’re usually managing multiple projects.  So, if you consider there’s data for all of the projects the project manager manages, so this may be one project and how it branches off to deliverables and time-lines. But there may also be other projects within their portfolio as well.  So, here are the top five I want to look at, in no particular order, but these are the ones that I found helpful in managing projects, because I do feel like the devil can be in the details, and looking at something like these reports can turn a filled project into a successful project.  So, if we look at some of the ones, we’ll just start here with the time sheet.

So, the time sheet reflects the different projects that you have.  You want to look at these, and you also want to look at the different resources.  So, this project, the timesheet report is to look at time reported by the resources on your project.  So, the reason that you would want to look at a timesheet report is to look at the time people are tracking on your project, versus the time that is in your project plan allocated and approved for your budget.  So, who would want to look at this?  So, the people who you would want to look at this is number one, for yourself obviously, but I also share this with my teammates. So anyone tracking time on any of my projects I provide this to them so that they can look at it too, because they’re accountable and responsible for their time that they’ve been budgeted by the project, but they’re also accountable for what they’re reporting.

So, I give this to everyone who is reporting time.  So, if you look at this they’re the resources and so I recommend that people report this and I look at this weekly, but I think it’s more valid if people track their time in real time.  But, this is a timesheet of looking at one week so it’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and this is person one who is allocated to three projects.  So you can look at what they’re tracking for each day.  So here you can see on project two, reporting 12 hours for two days and eight on the others and how they’re allocated to other projects, so you can see right away that they’re over-budgeted, or they’re over-utilized on projects, or you can ask them, you can see maybe they’re reporting time incorrectly.  So, these are just some of the things that you can look at.

Then, you’ve got another person on the project who is reporting no time.  So, they’re either not working on anything or their project hasn’t started, so that’s potentially a resource that you can re-allocate to help out somewhere else or they’re not tracking their time at all so you need to get them to report their time.  So, these are some of the things that you can start catching if you, the project manager, are looking at these time sheets, and go back to your people, because it truly can be one of the things that causes your projects to be a failed project or a successful project.

The other thing kind of associated with this is the expense report, and this, again is where I see a lot of projects get killed at the end then maybe they think their project is going well until everyone reports expenses at the end of the project, and then where you thought you had a successful project it can quickly turn into a failed one, because people aren’t reporting their time.  So, expenses can be things such as contractor time, it can be travel expenses.

So, for myself as a project manager I do travel, so I have travel expenses.  I have airfare.  I have cabs.  I have hotels.  I have meals and other associated travel expenses, the other are supplies.  So, you might have to order supplies for your project.  Maybe if there are presentations you have to do for your executive team, those supplies are purchased and they’re charged towards your project.  Other things can be equipment.  I know some projects that are, their project teams are allocated in certain project areas.

They may have to order equipment like printers or additional laptops or other things like that, that have to be accounted for.  Then, there’s also rent.  Some project teams may rent out or lease office space, so that has to be accounted for on your project.  So, you want to keep track of these expenses real-time so they don’t hit your project at the end, causing you to have a failed project.  So, who would want to look at this?  Of course, you, the project manager, anyone who may approve any expense reports, want to look at this, and then any people on your project who, again, are counting or posting travel expenses or any other expenses to your project.

Another important report that I found helpful is the resource work load.  Just like the time sheet where people are tracking time, so you look at what’s being tracked, your actual versus your estimated, so you can look at variances. Resource work load is very important too to take a look at that.  So, who would want to look at this report?  So, you, as the project manager and again, I give all my team members insights into this as well, because they are actually estimating the work and they’re tracking the actual time. So they need to be able to look at their own work load and bring attention to things where they may be overbooked themselves.

So, this is resource work load.  Again, we’re looking at all the resources.  We’re looking at where they may be working on multiple projects, and this is a glance into a week.  So, everyday you can look at Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, of course, you can get an overall, a higher-level perspective, but I like to zoom in on a week, because here is person one.

They’re allocated three projects, so you can see what they’re posted.  It looks like on project one they’re allocated maybe part-time on that, and it looks like maybe consistent work.  Project two looks like it’s more intense work, and it kind of ebbs and flows, but if you can see already they’re, this is the budgeted work, so they’re budgeted for more time already.  So, the resource work load is looking at what you have budgeted for. So already they’re budgeted for more time than they have per day.  So, here is like they’re budgeted 15 hours a day, here they’re budgeted 12 hours there, 10 and 10. So they’re already over-loaded.  If you look at person two’s on one project, and it looks like maybe this project hasn’t even started yet, or maybe, if so, they’re just part time.  They have some time on Thursday, Friday.

If these two people happen to have the same skill set, it may be that you can re-allocate some of the work to this other resource.  If they don’t have the same skill sets, and it’s a different role then you can’t do that.  But these are some of the things to look at and I would definitely look at what’s happening with this person.  So, they’re sitting there a couple of days.  So, are they just sitting there, or are they not allocated or what’s happening with this one?  So, of course you can already see this one is over-booked or their workload is already exceeded, so it doesn’t make sense.  They’re going to, they’re overloaded and they’re going to cause this project to be over-budget.  So, these are some of the things to look for on the resource work load.

Then there’s, again, the portfolio. Again, most project managers are managing multiple projects, so I like have insight into what I call my portfolio.  So, within a portfolio I may have multiple projects.  I look at the milestones.  I can have insights into different aspects of this, of each project in my portfolio.  But I can look at high-level milestones and I look at a status like what is the status overall of these projects?  If something is red, so this one is red, so definitely something’s off track, which keys me into go look at this project in more detail.  Then, of course, the project status report.  These are some of the items that I look for.  They’re multiple, different types of reports that you can look at.  I’m a very visual person, so I do like some of the graphs that are graphed.

They may be circular, they may be histograms, and then it can show different information in color-coded and then you can look at things just in like a spread-sheet type format.  But here are some of the things, I look at what work has been completed, I look at what work might be late, when is it scheduled to be completed. I look at schedule variances, cost variances, risk issues, any risks, making sure those risks are being attended to, or any issues making sure they’re being escalated as needed, and then any changes, so what changes are coming up, what needs to be evaluated by the change control board?  So, as you can see, so this is the project status, so I look at this as the project manager.  I share this with my change control board at different levels.  They may just want to see high-level, and then I provide different status to my team members.  So, you can look at different levels, and what I love about some of the software these days, is you can actually customize these views. You can customize them.  You can go high-level.

You can go into more detail, but these are very important and looking at different project management reports gives you an eye into, insights into your project to see what’s off-track and what’s on-track. So, again, the devil is in the details, and it can mean the difference between a failed project and a successful project, and we always want to be on the successful project.  So, again, these are some of the one who have helped me and I hope they help you too.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Whitt, PMP of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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