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Reporting Believable Progress in your Projects

Along all my years in project management, I always see Project Managers report very optimistic progress in their projects. They start with an optimistic 50%, they continue reporting a 80%, later an 95%, and then continue with micromanagement: 97%, 98%, 99%, 99,3%, 99,7%, 99,9%, 99,99999%…

The problem with this is a lack of credibility in a Project Manager’s reporting and serious doubts on the part of senior management about the real project’s progress.

Here, I must share with you something I have learned: sponsors and senior management don’t like surprises. Reporting is done to know the truth, the good, the bad, the ugly, and all of the above.

The reporting of progress and performance in projects should be regulated by the PMO; but in any case, the Project Manager needs to be honest about the real situation of his/her project.

There are different methods of reporting progress in a project:

  • 50/50 method: when a Work-Package (WP) is initiated, it is assigned a 50% of progress, and when it is completed it is assigned the other 50%. As you can imagine, this method is too optimistic. You can nearly start with all your WPs and you will be reporting that you have completed over half of your project. I don’t recommend this method.
  • 20/80 method: similar to the previous one, but in this case it is assigned a 20% when it is started and 80% when it is finished. It’s a bit more fair but my view is similar to the aforementioned one.
  • 0/100 method: this is the most conservative method. Unless a task is completed, any progress is assigned. Take into account that completing a task doesn’t mean getting acceptance. Many times, I have seen a project with all its tasks completed but without any acceptance. I like this method where only the 100% is assigned only when you get an acceptance of your WP – that also means a partial acceptance of your whole project. This way, the project team will strive not only in completing tasks but also in getting acceptance of their deliveries.
  • EV x 100 / PV: this method is based on the Earned Value method. In this case, the WP’s Earned Value (EV) is divided by the WP’s Planned Value (PV) and multiplied by 100. This way, when the division result of both is 1, it is because the WP is 100% complete. Take into account that EV doesn’t consider the “getting acceptance” issue that I have commented on in the previous point – unless you have included getting acceptance inside your WP’s scope.

Just as important, as choosing the correct progress tracking method, is informing all the stakeholders receiving the progress report about the method that you are choosing. If everyone is clear about information and understands what reporting he/she is receiving, the expectations will be more clear.

Remember that projects sometimes are not stand-alone, but they are part of something bigger (i.e. a programme of projects). When projects are part of a programme, accurate reporting of progress is a must, because not only would the dates/costs of this project be compromised but also probably all the other projects involved.

How accurate is the project’s progress you are reporting?

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