Automate Status Reporting – Part 1 – Budget Reporting
Status reports – the most repetitive piece of project management, and also one of the most crucial to get right. As a project manager, your job is to make these reports an accurate point-in-time snapshot of the current state and health of your project to present to your customer. They can be tedious to build week after week, especially if you have a number of projects on the go. But they don’t have to be – there are ways we can (and should) automate how these reports get built. This is the first of a series of posts demonstrating simple ways you can start to automate your status reporting.
This is the no-brainer of automating your status reports. Depending on the type of billing model (fixed-price or T&M), you may want to show or hide certain pieces of information. For example, for a fixed-price contract you may not want to show the hours you are logging against your project since the customer isn’t impacted by that since they are paying the same dollar figure regardless of effort expended. And if you’re running a T&M project, you may not be concerned with showing the billing milestones (since your invoicing is likely done monthly).
Either way, there is a great way to simply automate your budget reporting. For the sake of this post, let’s focus on T&M. I like to show my customers the dollar figures (since that’s ultimately what matters to them, not necessarily the effort). Presuming your status reports are done using MS Word, you can easily create a simple Excel spreadsheet that contains the information that you want to share (ex. Budget, spend to-date, EAC, invoiced to-date) and then copy and special paste into Word from Excel – either in graph or tabular format. This establishes a link between your status report and Excel spreadsheet. All you need to do from now on is make sure your Excel spreadsheet is updated (and even that can be automated depending on where your source data comes from), open the Word status report and it will automatically
update to the latest data in your Excel spreadsheet. Zero chance of clerical error when re-typing figures. The more times that data has to be manually transposed, the higher the chance for error and more importantly – the longer it takes.
When you have status reports to send out in a day filled with status meetings it can be a challenge. Customers get accustomed to getting their status reports by a certain time of day – if you can crank out your status reports with a little more than a few button clicks you’ll be able to focus your efforts on more valuable tasks. Stay tuned for more posts on further automating your project status reports.