Using SharePoint for On-Demand Project Status Reporting

Several months ago, I published a blog talking about the importance of Project Status Reporting. I also reminisced about the scene in the popular parody on office workers, Office Space, where the boss constantly nags Peter about the timing and quality of his TPS report. This scene drives home the point that status reporting is a mundane and meaningless activity imposed on employees by incompetent managers.

Unfortunately, many project teams maintain a similar attitude about project status reporting. I am a project management purist that views project status reporting as one of the critical few best practices that produces positive project outcomes, particularly during the execution phase of the project life cycle.

Nobody reads it, why do it?

1. Facilitates communications – This is the obvious reason – The project status report establishes a consistent and timely vehicle for fact based reporting about the project that can be consumed in a meaningful manner by all stakeholders (core team members, project sponsors, and other interested parties).

2. Establishes a rhythm for project performance analysis – It ensures that on a regular basis the project manager performs analysis on what has been accomplished, how is the team performing, and what corrective actions need to be implemented (to resolve problems, or mitigate risk).

3. Maintains focus on the project team – It highlights where the team needs to focus to correct problems or maintain the progress required to meet or exceed customer expectations.

Using SharePoint to Improve Project Status Reporting

The collaborative project environment created using SharePoint enables capturing project information in a structured and timely manner. This project information provides the ability to create an up to date status report that is available for project stakeholders to consume on-demand. I usually start by creating a new site page for the on-demand project status report. A link to this page is added to the project home page to provide easy access for project stakeholders. The components of the project status report are maintained in separate lists on the project site, and organized on the project status report site page by adding the appropriate web parts. The project status report is as up to date as the individual components are maintained by the project team. The remainder of this blog describes the individual components of the on-demand project status report – project summary information, milestones, accomplishments, risks & issues, budget update, variance explanations, and project trends.

Project Summary Information

At the top of the status report, I insert a list with project header information – project name, project manager, target date, project budget and project phase. Next I add a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) web part that displays the current status for each of the project performance metrics. The KPI information is described in more detail in my blog on Using SharePoint to Measure Project Performance. The project status summary is as up to date as the individual project metrics are maintained by the team.

Project Milestones

The project milestones list is included in the project status site page to provide an overview of the current project schedule performance. This list provides the ability to open up individual milestones to obtain additional information. I will also insert a content editor web part to capture textual explanation of team accomplishments during the current period. I generally update the accomplishments at the same time I make updates to the milestones list.

Project Risks & Issues

The high impact risks and issues view of the Risk and Issue list is included in the project status site page. This view provides a summary of the high probability and impact risks and issues. Because this is an actual view of the list in the status report, the stakeholder has the ability to open an individual risk or issue to obtain more information about the risk or issue. As the project risks and issues are updated by the project team, the most current information is displayed on the project status site page.

Project Budget

I generally maintain budget tracking information in an Excel spreadsheet on the project site. Excel web parts are utilized to display budget summary information on the project status site page. Note that you must define a named area within the spreadsheet prior to setting up the Excel web part on the site page. The budget summary is updated as frequently as new budget information is available (usually once a month). For each cost category, the budget update provides actual costs to-date, estimated costs to complete the project (ETC), estimated costs at project completion (EAC) and cost variances at project completion (VAC).

Variance Explanation

Another content editor web part is added to the project status site page to capture project variance explanations – schedule and budget variances. This section is generally updated by the project manager at the same time that budget or milestones are updated on the site. The variance explanation should describe the source of the variances, as well as action plans associated with the variances.

Project Trends

I will often include a chart maintained within the budget tracking spreadsheet that provides project performance trend information. The Earned Value metrics Cost Performance Index (CPI) or Schedule Performance Index (SPI) provide an excellent mechanism to display overall project performance trends.

Top 3 Reasons SharePoint Improves Project Status Reporting

  1. Current Project Information – Assuming that the project team actively collaborates on the project site, the information displayed on the project status site page will contain significantly more timely information than the project status report updated once a week by the project manager. In addition, the responsibility for keeping information current is shared by the project team – no longer the sole responsibility of the project manager.
  2. Saves Time – Once the site page is created (a “one-time” effort), the project status report becomes a by-product of maintaining key project information on the project site. The project manager no longer needs to dread the weekly task of preparing the project status report.
  3. Ability to “Drill Down” – Your project stakeholders are one “click” away from obtaining detailed information to answer questions about data presented on the status report. In most cases, the stakeholder just needs to open a list item to obtain more details about the information presented.