Tuesday 13 May 2014

The Art of Reporting

The start of a new procurement project is an exciting, hectic, emotional and educational experience. A team is thrown together from all parts of the business and management provides them with motivational speeches and gruelling targets. The mood is: hit the ground running now if you're going to deliver what the stakeholder needs, when they need it.

So the team get to work, drawing up a project charter, getting meetings in the calendar and taking on the suppliers. At the first review, progress is presented and management asks for some more slides and statistics. The following Tuesday, the stakeholder asks for a weekly update showing Red/Amber/Green (RAG) statuses and changes to savings forecasts. The team find themselves spending most of their time building and updating these reports and they start to get behind. The next report contains errors and the numbers don't add up, and more reviews go into the calendar. How did this happen? Things started so well.

I have often seen projects begin with a flurry of activity which omits the crucial stage of developing a consistent set of reports to show current and forecast progress against the plan. Project leaders may want to get stuck right in with delivering the project, but when it comes to reporting, a solid kickoff will save a huge amount of rework in the long run.

Building reporting at the start of a project allows the team to re-use previous reports and present a common message to all stakeholders. When given a blank page, stakeholders will dream up their ideal reporting format - and every one will be different - but the details they really need are rarely novel. Providing this to them in a clean and consistent set of reports, all drawn from a single set of  master data, will set expectations and build confidence from the first meeting.

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