13 posts categorized "Reporting"


2 Major Reasons to Start Tracking both Duration and Effort

Many of us come to project management software to achieve a particular objective, and that objective is many times related to somehow managing resources better.  There is a fundamental data point that needs to be understood in order for that to happen, and that is the entry of duration and effort.  For some of you, this is elementary.  For many of us, it is not, and it is essential to understand this.  These two terms are used when performing scheduling or estimating in a project tool.  Effort is sometimes called work (such as in MS Project).  What is the difference between these and why should you start to track both?  Here are two major reasons.

First, what is the difference?  Duration is the amount of calendar time that is required before a task or project will be completed. For example, the task will take 5 days to complete.  Effort is the amount of work that resources on a task or a project will actually do. For example, a person may work 10 hours on a particular task over the 5 day duration of the task (because they are also doing other things during that time).

Here is a screenshot of a sample project in MS Project showing the difference in entries (remember MS Project uses the term Work for Effort).


Why is this so important?  Here are the two primary reasons to start tracking both of these.

1.  You cannot do resource management without doing both.

Many organizations come to us wanting to manage their resources better, but they only think in terms of duration - how much calendar time will it take to complete tasks and projects.  An organization can implement project management software, load up all their projects, and start using it as a part of their process.  But if they are only tracking duration, they have no information or data to understand their resource loads and utilization.  They only have schedule information.  Only effort provides information as to the actual workload of the resource.  And only entering effort for every single task will provide the overall views and data needed to manage resources better (or manage them period).

You have to be able to add both duration and effort as part of your process.  Then you can begin to pull data such as the following (out of EnterPlicity) and really look at your resources.


2.  You cannot have a truly accurate schedule without doing both.

Think about it.  If I simply enter duration with no thought to effort, do I really have an accurate schedule for that task / project?  You need to know how many hours it is going to take for a person to complete the task (effort).  You also need to know what else that resource is working on and, given that, factor that into how much calendar time it will take before they can put in that many hours and get it done (duration).  Otherwise, you have a guess at best.

There are several ways to do this, such as simply entering the values for duration and effort per task, or using a percentage of time a resource is available to work on it.  Depending on your project management software, you have some options.  It does not need to be complicated.  But these are a couple of really good reasons to start tracking both of these values.


Reporting Metrics to Management

Why project management software? This is another post on common problems that cause organizations to look at and evaluate project management software.

And that is...reporting metrics to management. Is this something that you should be thinking about and why?

In spite of all our problems, I do believe that organizations as a whole are gradually getting better at this project management thing. And that means that management wants to know what is going on. How many projects are experiencing problems? How many are on time and on budget? How much time are spending towards which projects? Do those projects align with our goals? Who is doing what? What is our efficiency? What did we actually accomplish last year? And we could go on and on...

What happens when these questions are asked and there is no centralized, more formal project management software system? I've been there myself personally. It's called hours (if not days) of finding and putting together the information. Or it is called hours upon hours of constantly making sure I was on top of everything. Even then, I couldn't answer all the questions. How many hours did we spend on each project? That was called a SWAG.

What happens when you have to report up to a parent organization or to an organization in another geographic location? It is difficult without any type of formalized metrics tracking for your projects.

These are real issues that many organizations face. Do you need project management software to solve these? No, of course not. You could solve these with other tools and processes. But project management software is designed to handle these types of specific problems.

How can you go about solving this problem with project management software? Here are some suggestions.

1. Identify the metrics you need. Document them. Make sure they are real (don't track what isn't going to be used).

2. Focus on process not software. Build a process that supports your specific objectives and metrics. Train on that process not just on "how the software works."

3. Take it in phases. Don't try to do it all at once. Get people comfortable with the new system and process. Identify the metrics you are going to start to track. Gradually add to it.

4. Hold people accountable. You need to hold people accountable for putting the information in so that you can get the metrics. If they don't have to do it, often times they simply won't.

5. Revisit and revise. Continually revisit the process and software setup. Are you getting accurate metrics? What needs to be adjusted?

Follow these tips and you'll be surprised where you are at in even six months time.


Tips on Reporting

Reporting is a big part of project management software. After all, being able to obtain the right data at the right time to make the right decisions is one of the reasons to implement project management software in the first place. So let's talk a little bit about how to use reports more effectively.

First, it goes without saying that your project management software must have a reporting function in order for you to use it. Some software systems do, others do not. Some software systems provide canned reports that you cannot change while others (like EnterPlicity) provide a full reporting engine for you to modify and create your own reports. Some software systems have these reporting engines built into their interface, others use a third party tool such as Crystal Reports. Except for the lower end systems that are geared more towards collaboration, most systems should have some sort of reporting capability, or at least provide access for you to use a third party tool to create reports.

What's the point? You need to know what reporting capability is supported by your system, or what reporting capability is supported by the systems that you are considering. Often times the focus is on ease of use and features. While this is all well and good, don't forget the importance of reporting.

Second, what kind of reports should you be creating? I cannot answer that question dogmatically because that depends on your objectives. Are you trying to get a handle on resource utilization and usage? Then you are going to want specific resource reports such as the percent allocation of resources over your projects for a particular time frame; or the hours resources are assigned to each project; or which projects are taking up the most hours.

Are you trying to get a handle on your scheduling issues? Then you are going to want specific scheduling reports such as tasks that are late, projects that are in trouble, perhaps even earned value related reporting.

There are many other types of reports as well such as open issues, project risks, or requests. Some common reports that we find our clients get a lot of use out of include:
-A high-level red/yellow/green summary of all projects
-Tasks that are running behind
-Resource allocation over the next few months
-How much time resources have actually spent on which projects over the last few months (time sheets)

Identify a few reports (not too many) that are strategic and make sure they are getting run and disseminated on a regular basis.

Third, how can you disseminate reports? This is important to make sure that people can easily get their hands on the data. The simplest mechanism is that people can login and run the report. Another helpful mechanism is email. Some systems will allow you to automatically email out reports directly to a manager's inbox.

Fourth, you can use reports as a tool to further your implementation. You want to see good data in your report so that you can actually act on it. That is dependent on the fact that people are entering data and the data they are entering is accurate. You can use reporting to hold people accountable for entering in data appropriately. This can be especially useful during the initial implementation.

Identify those reports that are strategic and manage to them. Make sure that the data is there for you to make the right decisions. In the implementation phase, use these reports to show management the value that you could get out of the system if people are held accountable to enter it properly.

Reporting is a real value-add when done correctly. Be sure that you can get the reports out of your software that you need.



The EnterPlicity Project Tools blog covers all areas of effectively tracking, managing, and using your enterprise project data.


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