Automatic Weekly Status Reporting

Do Next To NothingDo Next To Nothing

Even with powerful software, committed team members, and the latest technologies, there’s something affirming about that ole standby, the weekly status report. Rather than having to carve that time out to prepare it, wouldn’t it be great if there was an easy way to have it just drop out of the normal course of business?

Well, with a little configuration, this article will show you how: without resorting to the API.

The Theory

The trick is to use custom data. In short, you just record whatever’s going on at the Project Level, and “let the Status Reports take care of themselves”. Here are the highlights:

  • Define custom data at the Project Level: e.g. Highlights This Week (text), Plans for Next Week (text), Planned Hours (ootb), Actual Hours (ootb), Estimate To Complete Hours (numeric), Percent Over Budget At Completion (calc of previous 3)
  • Define a Task (or Issue) level “As Of” custom data field for official reporting and time sequenced charting purposes; I like a “SNAP” (snapshot) prefix: e.g. SNAP As Of (datetime)
  • Define a Task (or Issue) level “trigger” custom data field: e.g. SNAP Finalized (checkbox, default false)
  • Define calculated custom data at the Task (or Issue) level, similarly named to those on the Project, which will point at the Project Level: e.g. SNAP Highlights This Week (calc), SNAP Plans For Next Week (calc), etc.
  • And now, The Trick: set the formulas in those fields: e.g. SNAP Highlights This Week = IF(SNAP Finalized, SNAP Highlights This Week, project.{DE:SNAP Highlights This Week}), etc.

Putting it to Good Use

Each week – or well in advance if you prefer – create a Status Report Task (or Issue) that uses the SNAP custom form. It continually pulls data down from the Project until the SNAP Finalized is checked off, which is the PM’s way of indicating that she is done, and the status report is official.

From a management perspective, compliance becomes a simple matter of creating a Task (or Issue) matrix report — Portfolio/Project vertically, SNAP As Of horizontally (by week), with “what you care about” in the Grid. For one client, I added some groovy colors to the matrix, too – red if no Task (or Issue) existed (null), yellow if the SNAP Status Report was there but not yet Finalized, and green once it was. The first PM to create a Task (or Issue) automagically creates the next calendar column.

And then – imagine! – a tab on your Project Screen called “Status Reports” listing each in a grid by month, and another tab called “Financial Trends” with 3 reports side by side charting how Actual Hours, Estimate To Complete Hours, and Percent Over Budget At Completion have moved over time. Heck, you could probably even build an overall burn down chart.

This is the Fun Stuff!

On August 12th, 2014, posted in: Philosophical, Practical, Theory by