Every project team uses some reporting tool for reporting progress of their work. Conventionally status or progress reporting on projects is done on weekly basis but the reporting format can be used for any periodic interval. As most commonly used weekly report is known as WSR, which is a weekly status report (normally) submitted every Friday but there is no fixed rule. The PM and PMO receives/ chase and compile a consolidated weekly status report for the project as a whole covering relevant points from individual status reports. This is an effective way of reporting a comprehensive state of affairs of a project undertaken during a reporting period. This report is circulated to all relevant stakeholders so as to keep them abreast of the project situation. Normally each team lead within a project compiles status report on behalf of their functional/technical team and submits it to the Project Manager. There are many forms and formats which are used by PM/PMO as per their convenience and relevance, so its ok as long as it serves the purpose of meaningful communication of project facts and status information.
Of many conventional or otherwise reporting format I came across during my professional project management experience, I especially became fond of the ABCD reporting, for the reason of its simplicity (easy to write/read and present). We were used to this kind of reporting on a large, strategic IT implementation project in the APAC region, where I worked as a functional specialist. Its very effective reporting tool where bulleted information in four quadrants presented clockwise on a one slide power point or a one pager word document whatever is preferred, in an easily readable format.
ABCD report stands to report four important aspects, and elicits progress information from the team on these 4 aspects, so this is Output-Input-Output relationship of information where its an Output from team member, Input to the PM/PMO and Output to the stakeholders.
In the analogy of ABCD:
A is for 'Achievements'
B is for 'Benefits'
C is for 'Concerns'
D is for 'Do Next'
The report is presented in four quadrant format, a sample can be:
Rules for writing ABCD Report:
1. Mention the name of the project in prominent font
2. Present customer and performing organisation's logo
3. Mention the date of reporting in the document header in prominent font
4. Keep the format need dont use too many colours and cluttering in the format, keep the same font
5. Mention the Submitting Team's name under project team (i.e testing team, Development team etc.)
6. Mention the period from -to of which reporting is submitted
7. Keep summary and concise information under bullet points in each quadrant, not very subjective information to be given here
8. Golden rule to follow: Try to finish within a page only.
Specific information in the quadrants:
In the preface to the four quadrant reporting, it must be clarified that the information in these quadrants is related to each other, such as, an achievement shall be causing a benefit, it might have a caused a concern while achieving something, and Do next stores something which will cause achievement in the next period so there is a close nexus among all the quadrants and this forms a chain of relational actions and counter actions which can be analysed and reviewed in order to gauge progress of a project over a period of time. Following paragraphs explains information to be complied in each quadrant.
1. Highlight achievements (in the reporting period)
2. Avoid using ongoing/ working on stuff, rather mention what exactly accomplished. This quadrant must mention your accomplishments only, avoid using exaggeration.
3. Always quantify and clearly state how much has been accomplished. Suppose development team has been assigned to write a lengthy program which will take a few weeks, but it must have something done in this week than to simply saying working on.... For example, this can be reported that 25% of the given code has been finished, or the team has worked out 5 of 10 sub routines of the main program etc. The reader (stakeholders) will appreciate this kind of information, or if the PMO needs to consolidate total performance of multiple teams working on a project, it would be easy for him to quantify the status for further reporting. This is always helpful in monitoring progress of a task or deliverables.
4. The work which has taken time and could not be precisely quantified must be waited until something meaningful be deduced
1. A substance in the fact must be presented, avoid bluffing or boasting
2. A benefit can be, please be critical of your assessment before citing, it may boost or cause a dent to your credibility -
Saving in time, cost or
Value addition without loss of extra time or cost, or
Adherence to schedule will lead to delivery in time, or
Increased efficiency in coding will lead to more time in testing so as to avoid future issues/bugs etc.
It is very important to list your concerns because they lead to early detections of the potential project problems/risk areas, if not treated might cause a negative impact on the project. This quadrant will be very closely looked into by the Project Manager. Following are the key aspects of writing concerns:
1. Bring up the issues/causes of worries with facts and figures, because un-necessary reported issues/ concerns will depict a casual outlook and may lead to ignorance of real concerns in the future. Below mentioned concern areas are worth of a mention:
Lagging on schedule, if any thing causing a delay in meeting the scheduled time lines must be listed here
Areas where you might need support in terms of more human resources, better equipments/servers or some training need
Performance issue of a team member/ personal conflict among team members or any other area where escalation is needed
2. Try to avoid bringing personal issues/biases under the concern areas, concerns must be related with Schedule, Cost, Quality and Team Management or any visible risk related to project activities.
3. There must be an element of insight, mere perception will be a waste of the team's effort.
4. Have your facts clear in order to convey the real picture in your one on one discussion
D. Do Next:
This area is clearly your work plan for the next week, fortnight or month whatever be the reporting period. Here you describe you plan and lay out activities to follow, in order to enlighten you reviewer of your engagement. Precisely planned activity reported in the status report under this quadrant, will provide visibility and transparency of your future tasks. You may include following subject matter under this quadrant:
1. Catch up work which needs to accomplish some urgent delivery
2. Mention your scheduled task
Triple O Meetings and ABCD Reporting:
Triple O (One On One) meetings are meeting between the project manager and the individual team, which is a normal practice to discuss and understand achievements and concerns so that achievements can be appreciated and the concerns can be addressed appropriately. The time and frequency of the one on one meeting is as per the requirement of a given project, but ideally it should be every week after submission of the ABCD reporting. This improves overall progress of a project by timely deciphering the issues followed by appropriate actions and maintain focus of the team on project tasks.
A conscious follow up on timely and accurately preparation/submission and review of the ABCD report as a progress monitoring tool helps the project in securing documented evidence of the progressive work, issues and visible benefits. This becomes an important project document and might be referred to in future for team performance appraisal, issue management etc. Looking at the simple and effective formats, this reporting tool has a potential of formalising into a popular reporting tool in project management practice in the future