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StrategyOct 22, 2020

Create Effective Status Reports by Moving up on the Maturity Model

Nickoria Johnson, Dylan Compo, and Emily Crawford

When working at Credera, it doesn’t take long to get experience in program leadership. Our clients trust us to help implement their strategies and initiatives by getting the most out of a project or program. In order to have confidence this is happening, reporting on status is critical. Strong status reporting can be the difference between driving change at an organization and feeling in the dark about whether an investment is generating a meaningful return. When evaluating a company’s project tracking, Credera recognizes four levels of maturity for status reporting.

level 1: basic information

The most basic form of reporting status lets the stakeholders know stuff is going on, but is it even worth the time?

This level is the true bare bones of reporting status, providing some basic information on what’s going on, but the report is far from concise. These statuses are most commonly text heavy, providing surface-level, sometimes irrelevant detail and a shallow view into a project’s health. There is no alignment on what a healthy project truly is, or how success would be measured. Information for budget, resources, and timeline are all often living in multiple places.

These statuses are time consuming to develop, with the compiler getting bogged down in hunting for details executives may not care about or have time to review. Because of this, they often go unread, wasting everyone’s time. All we can do is hope to see program benefits down the road.

level 2: standard reporting template

The most common form of status we see after an initial look under the hood, this level may sound familiar to you, too.

At this level, we have some initial introduction to a status reporting process. Status is compiled into a one pager, often even a standard template, with all the latest updates in one place. Project health is acknowledged, with notes on some issues and risks the team is working through. In fact, the reviewer can easily check the latest metrics like how we’re trending against the budget or timeline. At a glance, it may seem like the reviewer has everything they could need.

However, the downside to Level 2 is beneath the surface. With a standard template in place, many project managers are simply filling in sections just to check the box. An executive reviewing the status of a key project can’t truly gather the deep insights that could change the direction of the program or company as a whole. There’s little view into what can drive change, for the report is simply information, with nothing necessarily actionable outside of, “Hey, let’s watch our budget,” or, “We really need to hit this milestone, please make sure we hit this milestone.”

level 3: customized details that matter

Here is where status reporting can start making a true difference, and why you should take the time to do it.

At Level 3, a status report is finally capturing metrics that matter. At a glance, the reviewer can quickly know when something is wrong, because the report potentially has just as many visualizations as words. The dashboard is impactful and actionable, and the reviewer now has something that is driving change.

This sounds great, but how do we get there? It often starts not with a standardized template of what the company did for the last big program, but goes through a discovery process that tailors the report to the audience and key metrics of the program. The report is customized to the level of the stakeholder doing the reviewing, and it doesn’t force boxes or checklists that may not be relevant.

Risks and issues are not only reported, but they’re relevant to the stakeholders reviewing. If counts of risks and issues or their technical details aren’t relevant, replace them with stuff that matters. For your program, maybe it’s the number of successful rollouts, the number of emergency change requests, or metrics that provide insight into adoption of a new tool.

level 4: automate the process

You may have all of the information you need, but how do we make this process more efficient and give time back to the team?

Finally, at the highest level of Credera’s Status Reporting Maturity Model, not only do reviewers have all of the information they could ever need to drive change, but the process is automated so the project manager spends minimal time compiling data. Appropriate templates are in place, there’s familiarity in the ask, and it’s abundantly clear what key stakeholders are looking to learn.

At this level, executives are now used to a consistent view for the program, with ability to quickly digest and double click into whatever they want to see. They have access to near real-time data, not needing to wait on the compilation process to complete or “Project Status Day” to arrive. The data is there when they need it.

Project managers no longer have to hunt down the information to fill out an arbitrary status report, but they are instead able to focus on moving a project forward and unblocking issues facing the team. With this time, a project manager can expend less energy documenting what has already happened and more considering what may happen next. A project manager can focus on the critical path and key metrics of the project, serving in a role that aligns more closely to a project sponsor than to a status reporter.

This level isn’t easy to reach, but it often happens slowly through constant, iterative improvement on Level 3, finding ways to eliminate redundant tasks and cutting out the middleman in the compilation process.

start on your path to maturity

Embarking on a new program for your organization can be both exciting and intimidating. Everyone wants to make sure big investments lead to big returns, but sometimes it can be hard to tell how things are going until the team is too far down the path. If you’re in a position of program leadership, looking to drive change instead of simply check in on how things might be going, we’d love to help. Reach out to us at findoutmore@credera.com.

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