Improving Project Status Reports
Project status reports include financial information, but also a whole host of other things related to the project’s progress. But are yours actually getting read? And do your stakeholders make decisions or act on the information in there?
This is a common problem for project managers, that and the fact that they are time-consuming and a bit boring to produce anyway. My new online course and ebook, Better Project Status Reports, aims to change all that. It even includes an option where I’ll review one of your status reports and help you make it better.
And it’s got a money back guarantee if you change your mind at any point or decide it isn’t for you.
Drop me a line if you need more information or have any questions!
Show me the money: the 2012 Arras People Project Management Benchmark Report
The 2012 Arras People Project Management Benchmark Report is out - the 7th annual study of the project management industry that the company has produced. The company surveyed over 2000 project professionals, mostly UK based. This year, there were some interesting results reported around budgets and salaries.
What's your budget?
Nearly a third of project managers are responsible for budgets between £1m and £5m, which is the category that had the highest response rate. Programme managers manage the larger budgets, with 37% managing between £1m and £5m and 29% having a budget of over £5m.
Contractors have responsibility for larger budgets than employed project managers, which surprised me. They also typically have more staff working for them - again, I found this surprising. It shows that contractors aren't just brought in to fill recruitment gaps but to take the lead on significant change initiatives with significant spans of control.
How much do you earn?
The survey looked at salary movements. 83% of respondents reported that their salary increased by less than inflation in 2011 - a virtual pay cut. Unsurprisingly, the public sector was the worst hit, since the pay freeze was announced. Over 60% of public sector workers reported that their salary hadn't changed, compared to under a third of private sector project workers. The average salaries were:
• Project manager: £43,762
• Programme Office and Portfolio managers: £57,560
• Programme manager: £58,788
• PPM Consultant: £67,237 (and 46% of them feel worse off than they did last year)
For mid-range salaried jobs, the public sector is the place to be. Many more employees earn in the £35k to £50k range than in the private sector. If you want to earn more than about £55k, move to the private sector - that's where the higher paid jobs are.
If you get a bonus at all, it's likely to be up to 8% of salary according to the survey. Only 2% of people receive over 25% of salary as a bonus, so if you fall into that category, consider yourself lucky.
Contractor day rates also took a dive, especially at the lower end of the pay scale. Where day rates were already low, it looks like hiring managers have squeezed them even further.
What's next for salaries in 2012?
The experts at Arras are expecting it to be another tough year for the public sector. 95% of public sector survey respondents are predicting no change or less than inflationary change in the coming 12 months.
Private sector workers are expected to fare better. Nearly two thirds of project professionals are expecting to get a rise this year. Arras is predicting that there won't be huge increases (for huge read over 5%) but that salaries will increase this year.
21% of contractors are predicting that their rates will decrease over the next year - not good for those already suffering the effects of rate declines in 2011.
So in summary, 2011 was tough and 2012 is likely to be a little bit better, but not much. However, project and programme work still remains well-paid and sought after, so it is still a good employment sector to be in.
How do you think salaries and bonuses will evolve in your country over the next year?
Is your project budget red?
As part of your project status reporting you probably include metrics. You might even have a project dashboard that calculates the metrics from an enterprise PM tool and displays them for you. Project metrics are things like resources consumed and estimate to complete. Some metrics mean more to stakeholders than others. Personally, I am not a fan of percent complete for tasks, for example.
As least one of your project metrics should relate to your budget – assuming you have the responsibility for tracking how much the project is spending. There are a number of different ways to track the budget, for example:
Again, project stakeholders will respond better to some measures than others. It depends who they are, what they want, what they need to do their jobs and what their previous experience is. A project sponsor with a finance background is likely to want a far greater degree of visibility of your budget than someone whose main focus is quality. Your job is to find out what they want and provide it.
It really doesn’t matter what the metric is that you use, provided it fulfils two criteria:
1. It must make sense to the people who are using it
2. It must have clear boundaries defined so that you all know what ‘red’ means.
There is no point in having Red, Amber, Green (RAG) or any other categorisation method (click here for a Gantthead discussion on how to categorise projects) if no one knows what the different categories mean.
Set thresholds. Define what the tolerance levels are for each metric and publish them. Then stick to them. Your budget RAG status could look like this:
Green: within +/-1% of budget
Amber: within +/- 5% of budget
Red: over +/-6% of budget
Choose figures that make sense to you: 1% of a £5m is not very much in the grand scheme of things so you could probably agree different tolerances with your project sponsor. As long as you are clear about what ‘Red’ means, everyone will be operating from the same information and your metrics will be meaningful.
How do you define Red?
Do you send project spam?
1 in 4 people receive project information weekly that they just throw in the bin. They don’t need it. This was one of the findings in research presented by Tim Lyons at the recent BCS Project Management Specialist Group Spring School in London.
Conversely, 1 in 5 people need information weekly about the project that they don’t get.
And 60% reported receiving ‘project spam’.
Whether it is project financial reporting or progress reporting, you need to be sure that you are providing the right information to the right people.
How do you know it’s the right information? Ask them. People find communication difficult.
When asked ‘how easy is it to communicate on your project?’ only 38% said it was easy. 6% said it was too difficult so they don’t bother. Over a third reported that it was labour-intensive to communicate.
All this means that people won’t always speak up if they aren’t getting what they need. Sometimes they won’t tell you when they are receiving things that they don’t need. It’s your job to get this balance right and consider what you are sending them.
Sending them? Did I assume you were passing on information by email?
87% of people in the APM People SIG research that Tim presented said that they regularly used face to face communication on projects. 67% said that this was the best way to get information.
Consider the mechanisms you use to pass information on, and the preferences of the audiences receiving the communication. What can you do to avoid project spam?
Arras People, the specialist project management recruitment company and the people behind How to Manage a Camel, have just released their latest Project Management Benchmark Report. This is an annual, ‘state of the industry’ UK project management study, and each year it includes information about salaries and corporate budgets. Here are some of the highlights from this latest report.
Training budgets cut
As well as looking at salary movements, the survey gathered data on salary amounts. The mode salary for project practitioners in the public sector is £30k to £40k: 36% of respondents fit in here. In the private sector the mode salary is the £40k to 350k band.
Part of a remuneration package is benefits: cycle hire scheme, childcare vouchers, season ticket loan, pension and so on. If you get these, consider yourself luck: 52% of employees reported that they receive no benefits.
The full 36-page Arras People Project Management Benchmark Report 2011 is available on line here.