Merging Disparate Project Data Sources – The Value of Consolidated Reporting
Many organizations use multiple systems for various purposes in project delivery. This isn’t because organizations set out to establish a wide systems footprint, it’s usually because they are seeking to use best-of-breed/affordable/configurable systems to perform the functions that they need to execute. This can lead to a number of different systems being in place, all performing well for their intention but providing a challenge when trying to get a wholistic picture of your project. This is where consolidated reporting can provide your organization with the viewpoints and data comparisons needed to make critical decisions on projects.
How to Consolidate
The key to consolidating data for reporting is to find a tool that is capable of reading data from a multitude of sources. Power BI & Tableau are two great examples. This is the easy part. The challenge is then building a data model from your disparate data sources that will allow your reporting tool to make the data connections needed to provide the consolidated reporting. For example, if you have project timesheets in one system and your schedule in another system – you will need a way to link those data elements. Unique ID’s that are shared between systems are a perfect solution for this. Such as a project or task ID that you can use as a key field.
Once you have your data model established you are ready to move on to building out some consolidated reports.
Build Comprehensive Dashboards
One of the most common requests I get from senior management is to provide a high-level overview of the project without needing to get into the nitty-gritty details. Executive level stakeholders rarely have the time to dedicate to reading a 10-page status report on a project and need to know just the significant details. This is where the power of dashboarding comes in. By building a project dashboard that hits on all key areas, giving the reader a synopsis of all major project areas (budget, schedule, risk, quality) in 30 seconds or less, you are providing the ability for the reader to quickly assess the project and if further attention is required or if they can move on to the next project. Having a consolidated data source behind these dashboards is crucial.
Retain the Power of Individual Systems
The bonus of using a disparate system/consolidated reporting method is the ability to retain the power of the individual systems. Unfortunately, there is not just a one-size-fits-all solution for professional services project delivery (in this writer’s opinion) and individual, specialized systems will be needed by these delivery organizations.
By having these specialized systems in place feeding a consolidated reporting model to provide both high level dashboarding and detailed reporting, you retain the best of both worlds. Slick functionality for your project teams to do their jobs and quick access to dashboard material for your c-suite executives.