Performance Reporting – Tools

October 11, 2009
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There are several tools that one can use in processing the raw information gathered as inputs and to prepare meaningful reports. Several categories of tools can be used successfully to derive meaningful information from the input data. These include variance analysis tools, forecasting methods to forecast time and cost performance in the future etc. Communication methods play a role in effective communications and then reporting systems help designing your own, effective reports.

Variance Analysis

At any monitoring interval it is vital to find out if there has been any variance in project performance very accurately, and estimate the effects on time and cost budgets. Variance of current performance from the baseline is what you would be interested in finding out. The tools to be used would depend on your domain area, industry as well standards in use already in-house. However, the common process is to do some data checks such as if data is complete and consistent with past data used. The data also need to be credible when comparing with other project and status information. Variances are to be determined. You need to note both favourable as well as unfavourable variances. Project management methods, such as earned value, may dictate specific equations to be used to find the variances.

Determining the impact of variances on cost and the time schedule of the project is important. It also helps if you can find the impact of variances, scope changes, changes in quality performance etc. They can be significant depending on how organization views these as necessary features of a project or not.

Forecasting Methods

Forecasting of future performance is an essential ingredient in the reports you make. This forecasting can be done in one of several ways such as time series, causal/econometric methods, judgmental methods and so on.

Time series uses historical data to do one of several analyses such as earned value forecast, running averages, extrapolation, linear prediction, trend estimation and growth curve etc. Causal/econometric methods use the fact that if you can find the factor causing the variance, a future estimate can be made. Such analyses include the linear and non linear regression analysis, autoregressive moving average (ARMA) etc.

Composite forecasts, surveys, Delphi method, scenario building, technology forecasting and forecast by analogy are some judgmental forecast methods. These include judgment calls, opinions and probability estimates. Other methods of forecasting can be by simulation, probabilistic forecasting and ensemble forecasting.

Communication Methods

Though there are the interactive, the push and the pull communication methods available, it is usually the push communication method a project manager uses. While it ensures distribution, meaning it is sent to the intended recipients, it does not tell you if the information is understood by them. The information can be in the form of letters, memos, reports, emails, faxes, voice mails, press releases etc.

Reporting Systems

Reporting systems are software systems that allow you to collect and collate information and then distribute the reports in the desired formats to the stakeholders you want to be on the right side of. Cost, schedule progress and the project performance are the data that these people will be interested in.

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