Reporting – The Sword of Damocles for every PMO?

Note: For this article, no differentiation has been made between project, programme or portfolio reporting or indeed operational reporting.

The phrase ‘Sword of Damocles’ refers back to an ancient parable of the Roman philosopher Cicero and is used to mean a sense of impending doom.

One of the most common and often most critical service provided by PMOs is Reporting.  It is also widely regarded as one of the vital communication tools for stakeholder engagement.

In a recent PMO Flashmob, when questioned on the six themes used to measure the maturity of Portfolio Management, Reporting was identified as the theme with the highest level of maturity across the board, and also the theme that participants were most interested in improving.

So why is Reporting seen as the Sword of Damocles?

Getting Reporting right, i.e. providing timely information, analysis and insights on critical business issues, allows executives to make informed decisions that directly impact the success of the organisation.

Getting Reporting wrong, as well as increasing the risk of executives making unsound decisions, also significantly increases the risk of losing support for the PMO.

Factors Contributing to Reporting Maturity

Three factors contribute to Reporting maturity.  They are:

  • Reporting Data
  • Reporting Culture
  • Reporting Value

These factors are incremental in achieving Reporting maturity within the Portfolio maturity framework.

An organisation needs to collect sufficient Reporting Data to undertake any meaningful analysis.

An organisation needs to have a Reporting Culture that allows and actively encourages honest reporting of good and bad news.

An organisation needs to realise Reporting Value by using the information provided to drive decisions and actions to resolve risks and issues.

Although the Reporting theme was consistently more mature in our participant’s organisation than the other themes, there was much more variation when it came to the individual factors.

Reporting Data

Over 51% of the PMOs represented collected data from all departments. Another 31% collected data from some departments, with the last 17% collecting data from a minimal number or no departments.




Reporting Culture

Only 50% of the PMOs represented worked in organisations where a red status is used as a proactive management tool.  35% of organisations represented will only report a red status when it is unavoidable, with 15% of organisations not reporting or ‘hiding’ red statuses.




Reporting Value
In just 42% of the organisations represented, reports are used as a management tool for decision making and to resolve risks and issues.  In 48% organisation, reports are regularly reviewed, but they do not lead to any specific decision or actions with 10% of organisations where reports are not  consistently analysed and drive no decision or actions.

What can we learn from the results?

1. Getting Reporting Data is still the biggest issue for Organisations

You probably have seen all the reports by the various PPM or specialist BI vendors, eloquently talking about visibility and transparency provided through reporting. Do not forget the hard graft required to get there!  Every single data element and its production is the outcome of a business process that needs to be operated effectively. For the business process to be operated effectively across the whole organisation it needs the buy-in and agreement of all the relevant stakeholder groups – and those stakeholders will ask “What’s in it for me?”.

The PMO must be able to provide transparency and integrity of the data provenance.  They must also be able to demonstrate the benefits of Reporting to every single actor involved.

2. Establishing the right Reporting Culture might be the most difficult issue to resolve

Have you ever heard people say, “I don’t want to see any of our projects in the RED” or “We only need to see the reports from IT”?  These are actual quotes from previous client engagements.  The desire for visibility and transparency is often undermined by ‘fake news’; we have had buy-in by the stakeholders to provide reporting data,but we know that the data is not true.

What is required is a cultural shift in the organisation to one which provides a collaborative environment that welcomes any status that is truthfully reported.  A RED status should be seen as an opportunity to give support or provide corrective action to get the project back on track.

The PMO can help the various stakeholder groups see the benefit of truthful reporting, position the messaging from failing projects, and provide the framework to drive decision-making and follow-up.

3. Reporting Value is not only down to the Reporting Date and Reporting Culture

So even having the right data reported and content reflecting reality, without analysis and preparation of the decision making, organisations will not get the perceived maximum value out of the reporting.

This is the point for the PMO to address – no avoidance of doubt, no ifs and buts. And just to confirm the issue, some value can even be derived from the analysis of incomplete or fake data.

PMOs may well be cautious when establishing Reporting and look to take any opportunity to improve Reporting in their organisation.

There are many examples generally available of reporting content and layouts, including a wide range provided through software solutions.  Despite this, surprisingly little literature is available covering the procedural aspects of implementing, delivering and improving reporting.

Our Unlocking Business Agility Through Portfolio Management course explores the three factors that contribute to Reporting maturity and supports delegates in developing an improvement route map for their organisation, and explores the critical success factors for effective portfolio management and identifies strategies and tactics to address organisation blockers.

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