One bit of advice given to me in my early career has always stuck with me. "Senior management don't like surprises, if you have bad news then report it and they have a chance to do something"
This is a very important lesson when considering project reporting. Its very important that issues are raised and not hidden however all too often progress or statistics are twisted or manipulated to make the project report better than the truth. There may be another factor to consider. Who is ultimately responsible for the project reporting and do they have a vested interest in reporting progress better than reality?
Misreporting can be a result of many factors:
Ignorance - Not understanding the importance of reliable reporting and the consequences or repeated miss representation of project status.
Performance Metrics - When projects only focus on meeting certain metrics they can lose the bigger picture. I was involved in a major infrastructure project that reported monthly progress on spend against forecast. (Without considering if they had met their programme based on the spend - a fatal flaw!). This meant they continually worked out of logical sequence and lower value works always took the back seat to higher value works like blacktop. The problem was they were creating multiple variations with each subcontractor and by the time they realised they had a problem against their forecast it was almost too late.
Denial - Some project managers don't want to face the fact that their project isn't going as planned. So in the belief that they can bring it back without anyone noticing they will adjust the project reporting so that nobody knows reality. If they don't then manage to bring this in line then its normally too late to do anything. In any case opportunity has already been lost by misreporting.
Irrelevant Metrics - Monitoring irrelevant metrics can give a false sense of security. Irrelevant Metrics can show compliance to the targets while the project could be in delay in the wrong areas or the project could be drastically overspending in order to meet the metrics.
Ensuring project reporting is transparent allows those with the power to act enough time to mitigate the impact of any issues.
Other pitfalls that occur come from poor management of project controls which can lead to unreliable reporting information. Here are a few examples:
Scope - Without the full scope of the project in the plan, how can you reliably be reporting the position of the project. The other issue is miss reporting the progress against the scope completed (i.e., have the activities actually been 100% completed or are the follow up works needed to complete?) Numerous revisits can cost a lot of money and take time, having these build up to the end can give you a big surprise.
Baseline - Reporting against an irrelevant baseline will skew the position being reported. There may be the need to report against multiple baselines depending on the circumstances of the project but in any case its important to define what is being reported against.
Progress Updates - Accurate reporting of progress on a project sounds pretty simple. After all its just a record of when and what. This should be easy however misreporting progress (especially on a regular basis) will always be discovered eventually as the backlog of uncompleted works (which has been reported as completed) builds up and the project is then spending vast amounts of money without achieving much the latest plan.
Each project will be different in what can be reported to show its true position and there are many factors to consider. One of the main factors being the contract type, this should be the first consideration when developing the project reporting metrics. Others will be dependant on the specific contract risks and scope.
If you would like a discussion about your project reporting to see if we can assist then please get in touch.
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