5 Ways to Benefit from Automated Project Status Reports
By Heather Hurst, Senior Director of Communications
You’ve heard some version of this line in dozens of movies, from Beverly Hills Cop to Silence of the Lambs to White Chicks:
“Have that report on my desk by morning!”
In this crime drama trope, the renegade cop or investigator is so passionate about catching bad guys that he can’t be bothered with something as inconsequential as paperwork, and the boss is constantly calling him on it.
There’s truth in the trope (as there often is). Who can’t relate to feeling more invested in doing our work than reporting on it? If that makes us renegade knowledge workers, then I guess we were all just born to be bad.
But what if I told you can fully embrace your rebellious self AND have that report on the boss’s desk by morning? Welcome to the world of automated project status reports.
1. Start with a Work Management Foundation
It goes without saying that if you haven’t streamlined or quantified something in the first place, it won’t be easy to report on it in any meaningful way. Kiwibank Limited realized in 2014 that they needed a better foundation for tracking projects and centralizing communication and collaboration across marketing team members, agency partners, and stakeholders. The company, which is headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand and has more than 2,000 employees spread across 150 branches, deployed a work management solution in 2015—adding digital proofing and digital asset management (DAM) solutions to their package in 2016.
Before the switch to a robust work management platform, consistent reporting presented challenges for Kiwibank. The bank regularly engages with outside creative and design agencies to help fulfill the volume of work requests coming into the 20-person marketing team. Internal marketers had their own ways of tracking and reporting on tasks while agency staff had different work-in-progress reports. This made it difficult for anyone to have complete visibility over all of the projects.
“We were asked to consider how we could reduce our business-as-usual costs, and we believed one significant way was to increase our digital capabilities,” explains Vesna Nixon, personal marketing lead at Kiwibank. “By having everything in one place—projects, assets, approvals, and reporting—we could gain efficiencies and lower costs.” In other words, work is planned, completed, tracked, and reported on all from a centralized online environment.
2. Leverage Built-In Project Status Reports
Let’s say your boss asks for a project status report showing the projects or tasks that are currently at risk. If you don’t have your processes streamlined and powered by work management software, this will be a highly manual process, and you’ll be lucky to turn it around by morning. But with an operational system of record, the information is literally at your fingertips the moment you log in.
Specifically, Kiwibank had access to 70+ work management reports built in to their platform of choice. Here are just a few of them:
- Actual Portfolio Cost by Program/Project
- Actual Portfolio Revenue by Program/Project
- At Risk Projects
- Billing Revenue by Company/Group/Month
- Completed Issues By Week By User
- Current Projects
- Hour Costs by User By Week/Month
- Monthly Project Planned Costs vs Actual
- Open Timesheets
- Planned Portfolio Revenue by Program/Project
- Portfolio Revenue Grouped by Program and by Month
- Project Performance
- Projects by Condition/Priority/Progress Status
- Trouble Tasks
You can see just from the list how a built-in report can provide immediate insight into myriad issues that could be affecting your business. You can also easily customize any of these reports with just a few clicks, so you’re displaying exactly the information you need, in the order you want it displayed. Need to have a report on your boss’s desk by morning? Send it to her digital desktop in less than a minute instead.
3. Create Custom Reports from Scratch
Thanks to dashboard capabilities, Kiwibank was able to replace manual, disconnected reporting processes with real-time project status reports. Rather than slogging through a laborious process like this one, any team member can quickly gather and share accurate, up-to-date details about the status of every project. Agency teams can also run their own custom reports without complex programming or tools, showing both completed and in-process projects.
If you have need for a niche report that’s not covered by one of the built-in options, many of today’s work management solutions make it easy to build reports from scratch. And I’m not talking about the old-school definition of “from scratch” that involves graphing software, a calculator, and several hours of your time. I’m talking about opening your work management solution and, with just a few clicks, pulling together the specific fields and elements you need into a custom report, which will be automatically populated with the robust data that already exists in the platform.
For example, your automated report might consist of the following tabs:
- Details: this tab might show a simple list of the objects included in your report
- Summary: this tab would summarize and aggregate the information
- Matrix: this tab would take the same information and display it in a table
- Chart: this tab displays the information in a concise, visual, impactful way, such as a bar chart, pie chart, line graph, gauge, or bubble chart (see examples here)
- Prompts: this tab would allow you to add a filter to a report every time you run the report
It would take hours to assemble a report featuring this level of detail and complexity by hand. Thanks to modern work management technology, you can now do it in mere minutes.
4. Automate Your Reports
Everything we’ve talked about so far is already pretty automated. But you can take it a step further. Rather than accessing built-in reports or creating a custom project status report for a particular purpose on a one-by-one basis, many modern work management solutions can also schedule any report to be delivered on a recurring schedule.
If your reports are of a sensitive nature or you need to limit access for other reasons, look for a work management solution that makes it easy to control user rights, either at the individual, group, team, or role level. You should be able to simply specify a subject, an email message, and a format, select your repeating schedule (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, including day of week and time of day), and let the automated report fly.
No more guessing what’s happening with users and work. No more needing to remember to log in and check on project status or other metrics. With automated status reports, you can have updated metrics automatically delivered to whomever needs to see them, as often as you like.
5. Share Your Reports
Just like the most important part of taking a car rental reservation is holding the reservation, the most important part of creating a report is sharing the report. Once you’re effectively tracking important KPIs like time, budget, and ROI in one place, you’ll want to distribute that information to others within the organization. Best practice consists of having the ability to schedule a report for delivery, and having the system automatically send an email to your selected users with an HTML, PDF, or Excel file attachment. You can also export your report to selected file formats or add it to a dashboard.
From Desktop to Digital Dashboard
As much as I hate to see this staple movie phrase become endangered, it looks like the “have that report on my desk by morning” cliché is going the way of memos, carbon copies, and filing cabinets. As modern work management technology continues to transform workplaces of all kinds, we may even start hearing, “send that report to my digital dashboard in five minutes” in the mediocre crime dramas of the future.