As mentioned many times before on this blog, reporting is one of the most important activities performed by a PMO.  The PMO usually provides:

  • Status reporting of projects
  • Status reporting of programmes
  • Status reporting of portfolios

Within these, there is then reporting of:

  • Milestones
  • Scope
  • Schedule / timeline
  • Costs
  • Benefits

The Issue

Given this diverse reporting requirements, often across many projects, it is very important that there is a common standard for reporting status using RAG.  For those that have not encountered RAG, it is simply an acronym for Red, Amber, Green like traffic lights.

  • Green – usually everything is on target
  • Amber – minor issues impacting delivery
  • Red – major issues impacting delivery

The reason a common approach is needed this that you may get one project who is very hard on reporting status and reports their project Red, then another project (in a similar state), where the project manager is more lenient and reports Amber or even Green!  Obviously this is not fair on the project manager who conscientiously is reporting the correct status of red and opening themselves up for management attention and the other, being more conservative with the truth, reporting Green getting no attention.

This is also very unhelpful to the organisation as, senior management will believe that all the projects reporting Green are on track when they are not.  This can only lead to a nasty shock near the end of the project when the project manager has no option other than to report that the project will miss dates, over spend, etc.

Common Reporting of RAG

The PMO should take the lead in defining a common standard for the reporting of status.  This means defining the tolerance levels, interpretation, etc for each of the statuses and communicating this to all project managers.  It is important that there is a common approach for all of the use of RAG.  Fr example, don’t use different interpretations at project, programme and portfolio levels.  This will result in multiple processes, more work and confusion.  The aim is to have one common framework that can be understood and applied.

Document the RAG Reporting Framework

While obvious – very important.  The PMO should take charge of defining and documenting the RAG framework.  This should be reviewed by friendly project managers to make sure that it is clear, can be understood and does not result in multiple interpretations.

PMO Review

The PMO should work with the project managers and review the reporting of status.  This allows an independent review of status, bench marked against the RAG framework and the other projects.  This will allow for a better chance of normalised reporting.  Be mindful this will take a couple of reporting cycles to truly bed down.  However, the effort is worth it as it will result in a reporting framework in which, senior management will have full confidence.


The use of RAG status is a very powerful way of reporting status.  However, an investment in defining an appropriate framework and working with the project managers to review results is required.  Get this right and you will have good oversight of the projects and will gain the trust of senior management.