Almost all organizations have more project work than resources to complete it. Management teams frequently find it difficult to refuse new requests. Instead, they try to accomplish everything by adding more work to the already busy schedules of project teams or taking shortcuts while the project is still ongoing.
Companies continue to produce underwhelming results while making significant human and financial investments in projects because employees are left with unprioritized projects, too many projects, or without the necessary technical assistance. This results in delays, cost overruns, or low-quality work overall.
Project portfolio management is the answer.
Compared with project and program management, it utilizes completely different techniques and perspectives: selecting, prioritizing, and coordinating.
Combining those techniques with the benefits of computer technology has allowed for a breakthrough.
Despite the incredible speed at which PPM systems were adopted and processes reorganized, it soon became clear that they have one major drawback – software can do everything you ask for, but it cannot help you come up with the questions to ask.
Hence, the objective need for data analysis in enterprises with a complex management structure lets you know the right questions to ask your project portfolio management system.
Right now, we suggest you explore the essence of project portfolio analysis and its reports in detail, define the key components, and find out how to build your analysis system. Let’s dive in!
Table of contents
- The essence of project portfolio analysis and reports
- The data depends on the time when the analysis is conducted
- How to create a comprehensive project report
- What to choose: manual or automated report?
- How to take project portfolio analysis and report creation to the next level
- How to skyrocket your analysis and simplify reports with PPM Express
The essence of project portfolio analysis and reports
According to Cambridge vocabulary, analysis is the act of studying or examining something in detail to discover or understand more about it or your opinion and judgment after doing this.
A report, according to Cambridge vocabulary, has more than one definition suitable to our topic:
- A statement that may or may not be true.
- A spoken or written description of an event or situation.
- An official document made by someone who has examined a particular subject.
- A search for a particular type of information in a large amount of data – or the results of a search like this.
Let’s retain the existing definition of analysis and report, change the “something” and “subject” into “project portfolio management”, and we have accurate definitions.
What`s the difference between an analysis and a report?
You may have heard or seen people using the words “reporting” and “analysis” interchangeably or as close synonyms.
While both areas draw upon the same collected project data, reporting and analysis are very different in terms of purpose, methods, and value.
Without a clear understanding of the differences, a company may undervalue itself in one area (usually analysis) and fail to reap the full rewards of its project analysis investment. So what distinguishes reporting from project data analysis?
The goal of the analysis is to extract insights from data. On the other hand, reports are meant to gather data and organize it into understandable information.
It’s common to hear terms like organizing, formatting, building, configuring, consolidating, or summarizing while discussing reports or reporting processes. As for analysis, you will come across phrases like investigating, performing a “deep dive,” questioning, examining, interpreting, comparing, and confirming.
Another difference is that reports adhere to what is referred to as a “push strategy”, which basically implies that once a report has been created, it is intended to be pushed to users. The deliverable on a report is the data being made usable, regardless of who is writing it: a manager, an employee, or a consultant.
Because reports “push”, you could have predicted that analysis takes a “pull” approach, in which analysis is done to “pull” out the response to whatever business query is being presented.
Predictive analysis (answers about what will happen in the future) or prescriptive analysis (the ways to optimize the next steps) are the deliverables in the analysis context.
Every step in your company’s process should be intended to advance your company’s goals, boost profits, or elevate your company’s standing in the market. As a result, we want to be crystal clear about the importance of both reporting and analysis to your business strategy.
In summary, reporting shows you what is happening, while analysis focuses on explaining why and what you can do about it.
What are project analysis and report types?
There are eight main categories of project analysis, each with advantages and disadvantages. It’s possible to use different types of project analysis to identify and monitor various aspects of your project, such as risk, cost, and efficiency.
Here is a list of the eight most typical types of project analysis:
- Project risks.
- Financial and economical.
Each type of analysis has specific evaluation criteria.
The multi-criteria approach is used in project analysis in all international methodologies, including the EU Guidelines for Project Evaluation and the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) standards on sustainable development.
Because projects require many steps and much planning so that you can use several reports at various stages, each of these reports plays a particular role in helping you successfully complete the project.
Some common types of project management reports include:
1. Availability reports
It’s important to be aware of the tools, team members, and other resources at your disposal before starting a project. To help decide how much time they have to dedicate to a new project, a team member’s workload is broken down in an availability report.
2. Project baseline reports
A project baseline report includes a complete estimated schedule of tasks and the time required to complete them.
These reports (frequently presented as graphs) let you overlay the actual timetables your team utilizes throughout a project so you can compare them to your estimate.
By comparing actual timeframes to your initial estimate, you can learn how much time different jobs require and how to estimate them better.
3. Status reports
Status reports list completed and uncompleted tasks and those currently being worked on by the team. These reports enable a project to stay on time or to alter the schedule as necessary to accommodate new project requirements.
4. Project health reports
Project health reports are more visually appealing than status reports.
They convert project status data into graphic materials so team members and management can see what has been finished and what still needs to be done.
5. Risk assessment reports
Risk assessment reports organize and prioritize the predicted and current risks of a project.
They can help teams prepare to overcome potential challenges by listing them and sometimes describing ways to avoid them.
Making a note of how vital each risk also helps prioritize how much time to give each one of them to ensure the project stays on schedule.
6. Time management reports
Time management reports show how much actual time your team spends on each project-related task.
By keeping track of the time, you can compare it to schedule estimates, determine how much of your man-hours each task consumes, and make any necessary adjustments.
7. Variance reports
Variance reports compare original estimates of metrics, such as budget or predicted profits from a project, with the actual numbers.
This improves managers’ and stakeholders’ understanding of how much various projects truly cost and how profitable they might be in the long run.
8. Summary reports
Summary reports are a combination of other report types and frequently include data on budgets, schedules, and risks to help managers and stakeholders comprehend the overall situation and project perspective.
What are project analysis and report objectives?
We are all aware that data drives many modern business decisions. Data is an essential part of decision-making. The more data you can gather and evaluate, the more theories, strategies, plans, and tests you can come up with to help your project succeed.
To manipulate and evaluate data, you mostly need reliable methods and tools. You can obtain the necessary data and get vital insights using various types of analysis, synchronization, data mining, and collection.
Project managers can have an impact on projects and businesses by analyzing data. PMs use data-driven decision-making, among other things, to:
- Identify the drawbacks of the project.
- Increase project agility.
- Get rid of bottlenecks.
- Highlight customer needs and problems.
- Increase team output and improve communication.
After the data has been gathered and processed, an objective definition is the first step in every project report. Your objective should provide precise directions. Think about the purpose you want your project report to fulfill.
Here are a few examples of project report objectives:
- Applying for a new project.
- Asking for financial support.
- Monitoring the project’s progress.
- Identifying and managing risks.
- Managing costs and budgets.
The data depends on the time when the analysis is conducted
Pre- and post-analysis are performed when the project manager and stakeholders are interested in finding out if there is a difference in observations before and after the project’s completion.
Pre-post analysis methods vary from company to company, but they are widely used in almost every industry because of their ability to inform decision-makers correctly.
Pre-data analysis in project and portfolio management
The pre-implementation analysis is a crucial pre-processing step that strives to gather data and requirements on a project to facilitate efficient planning.
The main objective is to collect functional requirements to create a technical description. This description should include a list of features (epics in backlog) that summarize all the effort required to develop the project properly.
It is an essential first step in preventing any problems from developing later, such as a vague specification of requirements or specifying them too late. Pre-implementation analysis assists in identifying these components beforehand.
The project parameters that are vital to success are:
- Project life cycle
The life cycle as a project parameter depends on the formulation of the project goal. The goal of the project determines the expected result of the project. When forming a goal (both for a project and in strategic management), it is necessary to use the S.M.A.R.T principles:
The duration of the life cycle, the cost of the project, and the evaluation of its effectiveness depend on how specifically the goal of the project is formulated.
For example, it is impossible to set the opening of a bank branch in city X as a project goal. This formulation does not define an event that corresponds to achieving the project goal.
The correct wording would be opening the branch and achieving a certain number of deposits from the local population.
The life cycle of a project is understood as a timeline from the moment the idea of a project is born to the moment the project goal is achieved. It is necessary to distinguish between the project life cycle and the product life cycle. The product life cycle can be much longer than the project life cycle.
The typical duration of project life cycles in different industries varies depending on the industry in which projects are implemented:
- Infrastructure projects – 25 years.
- Energy projects – 15 years.
- Common machine building – 8 years.
- IT and high technology – 4 years.
- Project environment
The project is implemented in a specific external project environment.
The external environment is understood as a set of macroeconomic, political, legislative, and natural factors that influence the parameters and characteristics of a project and determine its external risks and the necessary adaptation tools.
The system of interaction with project stakeholders also applies to environmental factors.
The internal environment of the project refers to a set of factors that characterize the business management system of the company implementing the project and the adopted project management system.
- Business management process
The business process of the project initiator during a project’s life cycle includes the following stages of work:
- Project initiation, development of project documentation, work, and event planning.
- Project analysis and justification of its effectiveness and investment attractiveness; development of a business management plan.
- Searching for investors and creditors, forming a group of project stakeholders, and choosing a form of project financing.
- Arranging to finance, signing contracts.
- Project implementation.
- Project monitoring and settlements with creditors and investors.
- Achievement of the project goal and completion of the project.
Post-data analysis in project and portfolio management
Data analysis after a project has been “born” is equally, if not more important, than the “pre-party”. Most PPM software solutions, like PPM Express, are excellent at capturing project detail. But just capturing data points has limited strategic value.
Strategic value comes from turning data into reports that inform strategic decision-makers by illustrating the relationship between all an organization’s projects and their effect on resources and ultimately profitability.
To help teams working with projects ensure they are on time, within budget, and carried according to specifications, these questions must be answered:
- How does the plan compare with actual activities?
- Are we meeting milestones and deliverable dates?
- Are we exceeding planned budgets?
- What is the overall status, and where are the bottlenecks in the project?
Project management professionals live and die by project status reports that track these issues. There is a common thread that ties these reports together.
Singly and together, projects affect organizations’ strategic objectives.
A broader view of project management analysis can provide a wealth of information to turn projects into strategic activities that elevate organizations.
How to create a comprehensive project report
After collecting the data, we need to create a report. Firstly, the project report must increase a reader’s understanding while requiring minimal work.
Along with explaining its findings, it must also discuss how those findings affect the organization’s operations.
Essential project report components
Regardless of the type of PPM report you’re writing, the information will vary, but keeping your report ordered will help the reader follow through without skipping any important details.
Create sections for your data and content so all stakeholders can easily refer to them. Consider including some of the project portfolio report elements listed below:
#1 Executive Summary
This brief description should include each report’s key conclusions, enabling the reader to comprehend the substance of the report without reading through all the project details.
#2 Project Progress
Actual metrics monitor the progress of your project in this section. It identifies potential risks or problems while assessing the project’s status and budget. It helps management and stakeholders reflect on the project schedule and make necessary amendments.
This section gives a thorough description of how your budget was distributed, taking into account supplies, labor, and operating expenses.
Resources could be the equipment, supplies, or even the money needed to finish your project. Describe your present resource allocation in detail.
#5 Team Performance
Determine the team’s progress and compare their performance to their original objectives.
#6 Risk Management
Include a comprehensive risk analysis, your suggested fixes, and an explanation of how these additional components will impact the project.
Include an overview of tasks that have already been completed and a comprehensive schedule of remaining tasks.
The various parts of your report should be brought together in your conclusion and direct your reader toward any necessary activities or next steps.
First 7 steps to create a project report from scratch
Writing a report is an effective way to assess a project, record the takeaways learned, and broaden your organization’s knowledge base for future projects. To write better project reports, try these methods:
1. Decide the objective
Spend some time considering the report’s goal. Engaging your reader is simpler when you are focused and have a clear aim from the beginning.
2. Understand your audience
Writing a financial review for your stakeholders is very different from writing a formal yearly report. Consider the audience when choosing your language, data utilization, and accompanying visuals.
It’s also a good idea to think about how your reader prefers to communicate – for instance, how they format emails and documents. Where possible, reflect their preferences.
You may need to develop a more formal or informal tone than your natural style.
Using this method can help you establish a connection with the reader and increase their openness to your thoughts.
3. Report format and type
Check the report’s format and type before you start. Do you have to give a presentation or submit a written report? Do you need to write a formal, informal, technical, investigative, fact-finding, financial, annual, or problem-solving report?
Check to see whether the company has any templates available as well. Being sure of these details now can save time later.
4. Gather facts and data
Including engaging facts and data will strengthen your case.
Start with the location of your collaborative project, then adjust as necessary. Remember to reference papers, case studies, and interviews as sources.
5. Structure the report
Typically, a report contains four components:
5.1 An executive summary will come first after the report is complete.
5.2 An introduction sets the report’s context and describes its structure.
5.3 The body includes background information, an analysis, a discussion, and some recommendations.
5.4 The conclusion puts all the report’s components together clearly and succinctly.
Spend some time making the report easy to read and engaging. The Navigation pane in Word is a fantastic tool for assisting your reader as they navigate the document. Use formatting, images, and lists to break up long sections of text.
It is uncommon for a report to have a flawless first draft. Therefore, you will need to edit and modify the content. If feasible, wait a few days before evaluating the document or ask a coworker to do so.
What to choose: manual or automated report?
Manual report production has long been the industry standard, despite advances in software applications, but there are numerous reasons to stop producing reports manually.
Various factors constrain people who develop and analyze manual reports in the contemporary business world. First, it’s critical to comprehend how manual reports constrain decision-making for report authors and audiences.
How do manual reports destroy decision-making ability?
All businesses must follow the essential management reporting procedure, which helps provide decision-makers with crucial information.
The data gathered during the reporting process supports management in creating strategies to either realign the company with its goals or verify the methods implemented to achieve them.
The limitations of manual reporting can be summed up in a few basic ways:
- Data validation is prioritized over data analysis in manual reporting.
Typically, reports are created in Excel and presented in static form using PowerPoint or similar. This necessitates several layers of manual data input, which requires manual review processes. Management is overloaded with data validation, which prevents them from conducting data analysis.
- Manual reporting uses many resources.
Manually creating project portfolio reports increases the need for resources to carry out data collection, entry, and validation. As a result, there is a greater need to hire more people or install new systems.
Project managers and PMOs can save resources thanks to automated reporting, prioritizing analysis over creation and validation.
- Manual reporting takes a lot of time.
Handling data using many technologies and manually producing reports wastes time.
The time that could be spent making crucial and timely decisions is instead spent evaluating and assembling data into short slide decks.
Why is automated reporting a better solution?
The reasons mentioned above serve as an overview of how manual reporting restricts decision-making ability. Indeed, manual reporting is not only less effective but also dangerous for a variety of reasons.
Automated project portfolio reporting helps reduce the risk of reporting errors resulting from transposition mistakes or review point breakdowns. Systems that automate reporting include built-in procedures to facilitate quick data checking instead of manually processing redundant information.
Manual data manipulation in Excel comes with a wide range of restrictions and risks. Aside from transposition mistakes, other factors contributing to inaccurate or out-of-date information in reports include formula breaks, close data linkages, and version control issues.
Modern automated reporting software like PPM Express and Microsoft Power BI allows users to build easy-to-read dashboards that reflect real-time KPIs.
This eliminates the need to transform raw data into visual representations before presenting it to management in a final report. Instead, it automatically provides data more comprehensibly and attractively.
Finally, automated reporting saves time by reducing the need for manual report creation and focusing users’ efforts on analysis. Manual reporting does not offer this value-add.
How to take project portfolio analysis and report creation to the next level
Even though successful organizations must adapt to new circumstances, they continually ensure that their project decisions align with company strategies.
Project portfolio analysis enables intelligent analysis rather than letting pet projects and products that don’t satisfy requirements to overtake others on the priority list. The most valuable products rise to the top as a result.
Organizations require data to make these informed decisions, and data is more readily available as product portfolio management cycles become connected.
Every organization is in danger due to siloed, inaccurate, or incomplete data, which also slows growth rates down and affects the market position.
Gartner says, “Siloed portfolios can’t work in isolation to provide the organization with a true picture of performance.”
However, organizations need a strong intelligence layer to help them prioritize the right products, adjust to change, and remain competitive. This intelligence is created by reliable, connected data that can be continuously examined in real-time.
The journey from basic siloed data reports to true project analysis
To evolve from basic reports to true project analysis, you must consolidate and organize data across all projects from all project management platforms.
Project analysis needs the same ground-level data — time sheets, budget records, plans, and schedules.
But project analysis needs it for all projects in progress. For analysis to have strategic value, executives and project managers need to have the ability to see the workloads and resources assigned to multiple projects.
A consolidated view of that information enables project stakeholders to:
- Assess the viability of projects within a portfolio by connecting all project management tools provided by PPM solutions like PPM Express.
- Decide whether projects are meeting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
- Provide clients with access to relevant data to check their projects’ progress.
To effectively merge data analysis into project management, companies must be able to mine all the information entered into both unstructured data sources (documents, spreadsheets, and email) and structured sources (such as a project database).
How to eliminate “Tunnel Vision” in your organization’s management
PPM systems with limited features force project managers to make decisions based on partial information. This is sometimes called “guesstimation” or “project tunnel vision.” And it is dangerous.
Tunnel vision is more than just a lack of data and limited reporting. Tunnel vision syndrome begins with the people and culture behind the running of projects. Many project management organizations work reactively.
Strategic project management concepts are new to most organizations, and many must prepare to move to a strategic mindset.
This shift can only begin by adopting a platform like PPM Express. This complete toolkit provides a full set of data for evaluating the current state of projects from all project management tools to develop a plan of action to take your projects to the next level.
To develop solid business management and analysis strategy, project management professionals need to ask themselves the following questions:
- How accessible is the project data? Is data siloed or centralized?
- What primary components need to be assessed across all projects? Is it resource-driven? Is it budget-driven?
- What are the organization’s goals and targets? Does it have defined KPIs in place? How will they be measured?
- What is their risk management strategy? What kind of tools do they have in place to conduct a “what-if” analysis?
Turning project management into a strategic asset means including analysis in PPM and governance frameworks.
A well-thought-out governance framework and a PPM strategy are crucial steps in identifying what metrics and analysis are needed to improve project performance.
How to skyrocket your analysis and simplify reports with PPM Express
PPM Express makes long-term and short-term reporting easier with Power BI. It is explicitly designed to accommodate the need of PMOs and executives for portfolio transparency and flexibility.
As a SaaS platform, PPM Express equips an organization with complete portfolio and project visibility by aggregating project-related information across groups, portfolios, and systems.
PPM Express connects all project data in the cloud – terms, progress, and performance indicators are all combined into one comprehensive picture from Azure DevOps Boards, Microsoft Project Online, Desktop, MS Planner, Jira Software, and Smartsheet.
Synchronizing your data in PPM Express and 150+ Power BI prepared reports for an entire portfolio will help you track and mitigate risks, coordinate budget and schedule resources, and separate access specialists in the organization management in one single source of truth.
You can get a better understanding of how your projects and portfolios progress with the PPM Express reporting suite with 150+ Power BI reports that give a thorough picture of all project statuses, including risks, resources, issues, and milestones, as well as information on epics, stories, features, and project financials.
PPM Express transforms your business management processes by giving users valuable insights into the overall performance and valid indicators of changes in budget baseline, schedule, performance, and development parameters.