Written by Andy Clarke Head of Projects and Programmes

We recently published a post on project reporting’s best practice, if you missed it you can check it out here. This included recommendations on what content to include, information on ensuring managers are sufficiently informed of progress, and ways of getting management to support escalation processes. With those points in mind, we now turn to report cadence at the portfolio level – ensuring you get your project reporting frequency right!  This process could be combined or independent of the project or programmes’ internal reporting to the sponsor. The frequency of centralised reporting varies considerably from each organisation. However, there are three main schools of thought:

  • Weekly:  Weekly reporting is favoured by many organisations, and is often preferred if the portfolio comprises of smaller, short term projects, such as IT cloud implementations.  Weekly reports give the Portfolio Manager and members of the governance team good visibility through regular updates on progress.  If the reporting process is working well, it’s a way of keeping the management team close to the day-to-day activity on individual projects.
  • Fortnightly: Leaving two weeks between reports might suit a stable portfolio where project durations are normally over three months.  Also, it could be the appropriate cadence to enable the management team to remain acceptably close to project activity, but recognising that weekly reporting would be too onerous.
  • Monthly: This cadence is more common on larger-scale projects, such as in construction and engineering, where the duration will, likely, run into years, and risks and issues develop over a longer period of time.

This information raises the question – is there a correct reporting rate?

To answer this we should consider the reporting process from end-to-end.

  1. Reporting starts with the project manager compiling their status report and submitting it, by a deadline, to the organisation’s PMO.
  2. The PMO will then collate all status reports and generate some form of management report. Ideally, this includes all project information and some aggregated views in a dashboard, showing overall portfolio health. For example, a delivery timeline, a table of red and amber risks and spend v forecast etc.
  3. The PMO report is submitted to the management team – usually the Portfolio Manager and other involved stakeholders.
  4. The management team review the PMO report through a Project or Programme Board or, at a Portfolio Level, via a regular Portfolio Review Board.
  5. Management act on reporting information. This is the key step of course.  Projects and Programmes cannot authorise changes that go beyond the parameters of the business case or, extend into areas that are outside to the project’s / programme’s control.  Therefore, the capability and proactivity of the management team to support delivery, and in particular, escalations is key.
  6. The PM responds to the management actions in 5 above. This could be at an individual risk, issue-level or it could even be necessary for the PM to carry out some form of replanning. For example, updating the schedule and the other control documents and continuing with delivery.  If these changes impact the project’s baseline position it would lead to change management processes.
  7. PM starts compiling content in readiness for the next reporting cycle

If the reporting cycle can be completed in five days, then weekly reporting would be a good approach.  This would likely be the case in smaller organisations or when project delivery is high on the management team’s priority list. However, It should be recognised that there’s a significant management overhead required for this to be effective.  Often weekly reporting achieves steps 1 to 4 above and repeats – with all the focus on building, collating and submitting reports, leaving little or no time for review and action before the next cycle commences.

Fortnightly reporting seems to be the most common, and most effective compromise for medium to large businesses and public sector organisations.  This could either be fortnightly status reporting or monthly reporting including a form of management update.

The key isn’t the rate of reporting, it’s the effectiveness of the reporting process.  If Portfolio Managers feel this is an area of concern then trialing other cadences might prove useful.

Roc Technologies use Atlas Digital for the collation of information and to generate project and portfolio reports.  This is a lightweight, reporting tool that can be configured to ensure the management team have the best data for effective decision making.  Roc recognises that the management response (step 5 above) is pivotal to producing effective portfolios. Therefore, it’s important reports contain consistent data that Atlas digital can develop to provide trend and systemic data.  For example, Atlas can provide information that can provide the management teams with messages such as:  “Delivery costs per project are increasing month on month over the last two years”, “Resource constraints are costing £xxx per quarter in project delay this year”, “Testing duration has over run on 70% of projects in the last year”.

To find out more about the reporting process or Atlas Digital contact info@roctechnologies.com