Yes, our executive management team are critical stakeholders too. They need reports and updates. They care about the engagement to some degree, but most often they care about our projects from financial standpoint as in… “Will our project be contributing to, or taking from the bottom line of the organization.” Occasionally there are those projects that happen to become “pet projects” of one or more executives in our organization. And you know quickly if you happen to be “lucky” enough to lead one of those.
Normally, our key stakeholders get specific project information in the form of weekly status reports, budget and resource planning and forecasting updates, issues and risks updates, and an updated project schedule listing all project tasks and the progress made on each. But what do our executives in the organization want and need to see?
When I’m trying to get my project noticed, I want to make sure the VP’s are presented information that they will actually pay attention to. I need to prepare my project review a higher level than I normally do and these are the top 3 most important items I provide to them:
Visual project schedule
A visual project schedule is key for busy VPs, since it is ultimately the project schedule that drives the project day-to-day, week-to-week, from beginning to end. By using proper filters and reporting options, you can produce a higher-level report that conveys “what’s in progress”, “what’s starting next week”, “what’s lagging in the project schedule,” etc. I typically do this by paring down my full project schedule and presenting only the critical tasks, milestones, statuses and completion estimates. Although this can be done in many formats I have found that customers and executives love to see this report as a graphical project schedule or high level gantt chart and they prefer it in PowerPoint. It quickly communicates the project schedule in a way that grabs their attention and is easy for them to digest. I use this format to communicate any updates and alerts as well. Basically they get a good a snapshot of what’s happening and what should have happened that isn’t happening.
Updated financial forecast.
In addition to a visual project schedule in PowerPoint, I provide a revised financial forecast shows actuals-to-date and forecasts through the end of the engagement. These financials complements the project schedule by providing executives a snapshot of where the overall budget is against plan (i.e., 10% over, or 12% under…).
The financial report should also should call out any high level issues or notes or explanations especially well…especially if the budget is off by much. For example giving the financial forecast to the executive management team showing that it is 22% over budget might cause them concern, but indicating in the notes that you are about to get signoff on a $255k change order that will correct the overage immediately will keep them away from your desk.
Weekly status report.
Finally, providing your VP’s with a exec-level status report for each of your projects is a good idea. You could just forward your regular weekly status report on to them, especially if you are extremely busy, however, I have found that summarizing it so it provides the right amount of detail in the right format will get attention and get notice. If I am managing multiple projects at a time, I will try to roll these status reports up into one high-level summary.
Exec teams are busy and may not have the time to digest a lot of heavy project information, so your reporting needs to be high level and easy to understand. I try to provide them just the right amount of detail in the right format. I have, occasionally, had execs who didn’t want much information at all, but even then it is a good practice to keep them informed. In scenarios where you need them to quickly get a resource or knock down a project roadblock it is helpful if they have been kept current. The other benefit of presenting your project schedule, financials and status reports to execs on a regular basis is that it gets you recognition…they will know who you are and they will see you are in control of managing your projects. And that is pretty good for your career in the long run.