In most organizations, the approach taken for managing projects evolves over years. Sure, you may start out with some out-of-the-box software solution, but that isn’t exactly how you wind up using it. For example, maybe Betty in payroll needs a weekly email with your team’s timesheet data. Even if you already use a tool that tracks the time the team works and where they spend it, you’ll probably have to cut and paste your reports to meet Betty’s exacting specifications. Similar questions come up every time you need to report information, making your processes inefficient.
Bringing Reporting to the Front
Many project management applications have reporting tools built in. The problem is that those reports don’t always match up with the sort of information that you need to be able to provide to the different levels of an organization. This can be especially inconvenient if you switch project management tools as it may then generate a disconnect between the way your new project management tool presents its information and the way your organization prefers to look at it.
Finding a way to bring the two together is crucial to being able to work efficiently with your project management tools. If you’re spending hours preparing reports, you won’t have as much time for working on the projects you ought to be focusing on. There isn’t always an easy solution to such situations, but it’s likely easier to change the information that you report to your organization rather than to change the software you’re working with. It can take some negotiation and inter-departmental conversations to convince your organization to use a reporting system that reduces your cut-and-paste time. It may not be possible to simply hand off the reports that your tools produce (after all, not all tools automatically produce every report you might need), but simplifying the process just a little can make a difference in the amount of time your need to spend on reporting.
The Paper Problem
In some organizations, there remains an expectation that all reports are made in hard copy, just as there are still plenty of organizations with members who print out every email. If your team is distributed, though, providing printed reports may slow things down: someone has to go into the office, print the reports and circulate them to the appropriate recipients. Difficult as it may be, making a change in your organization’s culture is likely the only way to make the situation easier to manage. Not only do the higher-ups of your organization need to become willing to receive electronic reports, but they need to be able to manage them and understand them. That may mean some education on your part.