A class teacher was posing questions to her second grade students as part of an assessment. She asked Tom, "Can you tell me a name of an animal that starts with the letter 'e'?" Tom replied "Elephant". The teacher asked him again but this time to name an animal that starts with letter ’t’ and Tom replied "Two Elephants". The teacher asked him the same question again and this time Tom responded "Ten elephants". Annoyed, the teacher asked him to name an animal that starts with letter ‘m’ and Tom replied "Mother elephant". By now, the teacher was getting very angry and repeated the same question. With a calm demeanor Tom responded "Maybe an elephant".
Syntactically it can be argued that Tom was giving the ‘right’ answers but they were technically wrong and certainly not the answers the teacher was expecting. Similarly, when stakeholders are asking for the ‘status' of a project, most often they are looking for how, when and at what cost (business value) the project will be delivered. The status report should not be just about status of scheduling, cost or scope but should be more of a report on business value. It is important to understand respective stakeholders objectives regarding the project, program or portfolio and the status report should be targeted accordingly. A dashboard summarizing the status on business value with respective links to elaborate on the specific status of scope, schedule and cost can be shared.
For instance, while executing Agile based projects it is important to understand the overall business value of the project. To understand business value it is important to first identify key stakeholders, respective goals, how to measure the goals and understand the relationship between various value drivers. Prioritized business value can then be mapped to respective themes or milestones, which helps in quantifying the requirements of overall business value while breaking them down in terms of incremental value. Overall status of the project can then be measured for each theme while sharing supporting status on:
- Velocity (actual vs. planned)
- Story Points (accepted vs. planned)
- Number of Defects
- Percentage of Unit Test Coverage
- Number of Test Cases
- Number of Test Cases automated
- Percentage of New Test Cases Added
- Percentage of New Test Cases Automated
In my earlier post on 10 Ground Rules on the Right Metrics for Your Business, I discussed on how to select the right metrics. These posts can be used as guidelines for selecting metrics, which can then be included in future status reports showing progress on the business value of a project, program or portfolio.
In summary, a good status report is an effective communication and transparency tool, which shares the progress on the business value of a project or a program or a portfolio mapped with objectives. What are your thoughts on providing the right status?