Written progress reports are one of the most important facets of communication between a project manager and a resource, but they also happen to be one of the most difficult for resources to accomplish. Written progress reports take a lot of time, and they’re often overly complex. But Microsoft’s Project Server 2002 builds qualitative, text-based status reports into the Web Access product, making progress reports as easy as they are important. Here’s how the feature works.
Part 3 in a three-part series
In the first installment of this series, I examined the benefits of using Project Server 2002’s timesheet feature. In the second installment of this series, I discussed Project Server 2002’s Issues feature. The third topic imperative to project manager/resource communication is the status report. These three features of Project Manager create a solid system for maintaining good communication between project manager and resource throughout the life of a project.
The process starts when the project manager (who is named Neil Page in this example) decides to require his resources to submit a status report on a weekly basis. To do this, he will click on the Status Reports link at the top of his Web Access screen and then, on the Status Reports Overview screen, he will click the Request A Status Report link. This will bring up the first page of the Status Report Wizard, shown in Figure A.
To set up a new status report, Neil will click OK. The next screen, shown in Figure B, allows Neil to define a title and a frequency for the report. Report frequency can be weekly, monthly, or even yearly.
After he has decided on a weekly report due on Fridays starting on the fourth of October, Neil will click Next. The next screen, shown in Figure C, allows Neil to pick which resources should respond to the status report and also which of the resource’s reports should be combined into a group report.
Neil picks Dell Griffith and Joe Blow as the resources from his Software Development project who should submit a status report. Clicking Next will bring up the screen that lets the project manager control what kinds of information the status report should contain, as shown in Figure D.
The three default sections are Major Accomplishments, Objectives For The Next Period, and Hot Issues. These will be the sections that the resources are asked to fill in for each report. In this screen of the wizard, the project manager can decide to add new sections or change the names of sections to suit the needs of the project. The default sections will work for Neil’s project, so he will click Next. Neil will send the report to the resources by clicking Send at the last screen. There is also an option to Save instead of Send. Figure E shows Neil’s Status Reports Overview screen after sending the status report request.
Dell Griffith and Joe Blow will both get e-mails from Project Server letting them know that Neil has requested a status report from them. As Dell logs in to Project Server Web Access, he will see a link to the status report on his home page. When he clicks on it, he will see the status report in Figure F.
Here you can see the three sections that Neil decided on for his report, along with who the report will be sent to, and the period covered by the report. Once Dell has filled in his status, he clicks Send to submit the report to Neil. Joe Blow does the same and for each of these submissions, Neil gets an e-mail letting him know that one of his resources has submitted a status report.
The next time Neil logs in to Web Access, he will see on his home page that there are two responses to his report request. When he clicks on the link for this report, he will see Figure G, which shows him the status of his status report.
One of the most useful parts of the Status Reports feature is the Merged Group report. Back in Figure C, you can see the option to have resources’ status submissions merged into a group report. Using traditional report templates in Word or some other application, this type of report is only possible by pasting all the status reports into a big, project-level report—a time-consuming and tedious chore. This feature in Project Server allows the project manager to see the responses from each team member compiled into a project-level report, automatically. Figure H shows the compiled report for Neil’s report request.
These reports are kept in the Project Server database for future reference. This backward view of the project can be extremely useful when doing project postmortem reviews.
Do you have a question about Project Server?
What would you like to see covered in regard to this project management tool? Send us an e-mail or post a reply to this article.