As part of managing or working in your PMO do you find that it is a constant battle with the project managers to get timely project updates? This is an experience everyone in a PMO has experienced at some point.
When you chase a project manager for the status update, it is not unusual for them to act as if they did not know about the request, claim it is yet another ‘fire drill’ diverting time from ‘real delivery work’ and then go around telling the sponsor and everyone else who will listen that the PMO is creating bureaucracy!
At this point I just want to remind everyone that one of the responsibilities of the project manager is to provide frequent and accurate reporting of their project.
What not to do
As reporting is part of the job description of a project manager, it is very easy (even tempting) to state the fact “it is your responsibility”. Followed very closely by “the reporting is required for <name of CEO of your organisation>”.
While both are factual statements, they will not get the reaction you require. If they do, it probably will only be the absolute minimum.
Like with any challenge, it is good to break it down into components that can be addressed.
1. Is the report really required / too complex?
Make sure you validate that all the information requested on the report is really required and will be used productively. If not redesign and rationalise.
2. Reporting frequency
Are the requests to frequent meaning that project teams are spending a lot of time constantly preparing reports? Work out how often you need updated reports so a to maintain the required level of visibility to allow timely interventions. This will vary from project to project depending on duration. A short 3 month project probably needs weekly reporting, a 2 year project probably can be monthly.
3. Leverage existing reporting
Does the project already produce a frequent update for their working / steering group? If so look to see how the same data can be used to service the reporting to the PMO. If they are using a different format / template and it is difficult to get them to use the standard PMO template, don’t ask them to complete both versions, make the effort to transfer the data for them and then ask them to review and sign-off.
4. Reporting calendar
Many project managers do not provide updates on time because they and their teams are unclear what is required by when. In defence of project managers, they usually have a lot to think about.
PMO’s don’t help as reporting requests are buried in e-mails, a 30 second update in AOB of a meeting, etc. While these should still be used, make sure you create a simple reporting schedule on a single page that clearly articulates:
- Date report to be submitted
- Date reports will be published
- Date of meeting material will be used (if necessary)
This is then communicated to all project teams and constantly referred to in meetings, etc. This helps overcome the risk that the project manager thinks that the requests are ‘fire drills’ and you will be very surprised how quickly it becomes part of their routine.
There is also an element that writing it down on paper somehow makes it more real!