Agile Project Reporting: Are You Doing It Right?

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Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

As a project manager, you probably eat, sleep, and breathe project reports. If not, how else are you going to communicate project progress to the higher-ups every Monday?

In the world of agile where project requirements change frequently, you need to get your reports locked and loaded, even before the start of a sprint cycle. Only then will you be able to capture the full effort of a sprint.

However, in the frenzy to churn out reports on time, you may inadvertently overlook the fundamental aspects of project reporting.

Are you even reporting your project status right? Or better yet, what value does reporting bring to your project and team quality?

We don’t want project reporting to be yet another task that PMPs do just because it’s expected of them.

In today’s blog post, we’ve listed out four important questions that PMPs must ask themselves to get to the fundamentals of agile project reporting.

Continue reading to know how these questions make your project reporting more accurate and relevant.

1. Why Are You Reporting?

Why?” It’s perhaps one of the most dreaded questions of all time. But asking why can help you determine the reporting purpose.

Some of you may be guilty of preparing a reporting dashboard just for the sake of documentation or formality. Consequently, you’re unable to pinpoint the actionable outcomes from it.

Worse still, agile reports like velocity charts may even be used inaccurately to compare effectiveness between teams; subsequently, hampering team morale.

In actuality, one of the key purposes of project reporting is to assess the team’s performance against objectives. You can then leverage these findings to discover and tackle any obstructions as well as to increase velocity moving forward.

Most importantly, you need a single source of truth to communicate progress and results, not just with the higher-ups but also with your immediate team members.

When you understand the true value that comprehensive reporting brings to project management, you can work out any kinks for enhanced project quality and team efficiency.

Poor Practice: Preparing a project report without understanding its purpose and using it as a comparison tool between teams.

✔️ Good Practice: Leveraging project reports to initiate workable conversations and set internal team standards.

2. What Are You Reporting?

Not to be nosy, but what are you reporting actually? We understand that singling out data that is report-worthy can be tricky; after all, it can all seem equally important!

So, if you’re lost in a sea of data, rely on agile metrics to anchor your reports. These metrics focus on valuable and actionable data that depict actual project progress and team productivity to stakeholders.

Most importantly, these reports can be quickly analyzed to pinpoint any impediments. Staying true to the essence of agile, teams can reflect on their performance and work towards continuous improvement.

Take a look at Atlassian’s commonly used agile metrics to understand how they can help you create insightful reports.

For better clarity, we’ve grouped some of these metrics into two major categories: metrics that measure the effectiveness of the development process and metrics that measure the quality of product developed.

Effectiveness of the Development Process

Project effectiveness metrics provide insights as to how resources (e.g. time and team members) are expended to deliver a product that meets the defined user standards. Metrics that are commonly used to determine the team’s productivity are:

📈 Velocity: It is the key metric in scrum which measures the average story points that a team delivered over the past few sprint cycles. With a velocity report, you can calculate the amount of work your team can handle in the upcoming sprints.

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An example of a Velocity chart.

📈 Sprint Burndown: The best way to monitor project accomplishment is by using a sprint burndown report. It provides a visual and almost real-time update of how many story points your team has completed throughout the sprint.

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An example of a Sprint Burndown chart.

📈 Epic and Release Burndown: This metric offers a big picture view of your project status as sprints usually address tasks from different epics. Most importantly, this big picture project reporting helps to keep scope creep under control.

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An example of an Epic and Release Burndown chart.

📈 Cumulative Flow Diagram: For an overall and highly visual report, this metric works best. With it, you can monitor the progress and changes of user stories, across different statuses — done, in progress, and in review. Ideally, the curve of the chart should be smooth; a jagged diagram indicates project bottlenecks like inadequate resources.

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An example of a Cumulative Flow diagram.

Product Quality

Though quality is a subjective parameter to measure, it’s important to determine whether the new releases will be well-received by customers. Some agile metrics that can reflect product quality include:

📈 Defect Trend: Defect here refers to coding bugs in the codebase that could affect the way a software performs, and how customers perceive it. Using this metric, developers can focus on improving code quality as the software release deadline approaches.

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An example of a Defect Trend chart.

📈 Escaped Defects: However, when the bugs are not addressed properly, and they’re found during production or after release, they’re known as escaped defects. Ideally, it should be zero.

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An example of an Escaped Defects chart.

📈 Net Promoter Score: We all know that one of the principles of agile methodology is to deliver working software that satisfy customers. And that’s what this metric reports on: customer’s satisfaction and if they’ll recommend the software to others.

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The way to determine Net Promoter Score.

Another important consideration when you’re deciding what to report on is to use actionable data, instead of recapped static information. Stakeholders want to know what has changed in the project compared to the previous meeting and how did that change alter delivery outcomes.

So, focus on compiling reports that offer actionable insights — from obstacles faced during the development process, steps taken to counter the pain points, to changes in business value — to everyone involved in the project.

Poor Practice: Reporting static information to project teams and stakeholders.

✔️ Good Practice: Using agile metrics to highlight relevant project data in a workable manner to relevant people.

3. Who Are You Reporting To?

Now that you know the purpose and types of information necessary for relevant reporting, let’s move on to the next important question: Who is your report intended for?

Knowing your audience means that you can fine-tune your project reports in a “language” that they’re most proficient in.

Stakeholders and managers who’re agile naïve may not be able to fully understand the gist of agile reports. The last thing you need is to confuse your higher-ups with alien agile terms!

A good solution would be to incorporate a universal and highly visual project progress report. And what better way to do this than using a Gantt chart?

You may think that it’s jarring to incorporate Gantt chart’s linear reporting in a fluid and highly iterative agile environment. But it couldn’t be further from the truth.

While most agile metrics visualize project progress iteratively, they may not provide a long-term big picture view. However, C-level executives prefer prospective view of projects to track business outcomes. With Gantt charts, this is possible!

Supplementing agile report summaries with updated and familiar Gantt charts is the epitome of efficient, calibrated reporting.

And since Gantt chart is a malleable feature, you can slot it into modern agile-based project management software like Jira easily.

Poor Practice: Disseminating agile reports to agile naïve project stakeholders.

✔️ Good Practice: Supplementing your agile reports with highly visual project progress markers like Gantt charts.

4. When Should You Report to Them?

Since most project reports delve deep into resource allocation — time being one vital resource — to address project requirements, our fourth question is critical.

Ask yourself how often you should be reporting project progress. Also, do you report to different levels of stakeholders at different times?

To know when you should be reporting, pay attention to the type of reports that you’re preparing. For example, burndown charts may require multiple, daily inputs; but a velocity chart is only reviewed every sprint. The type of reports that you’re preparing can help set your reporting schedule.

Once you have established the frequency level, do your reporting consistently to standardize the internal workflow. Most importantly, regular reports help to ensure that your project is, in fact, right on track. And if there are any hiccups, you can correct them before your team and project sail in the wrong direction.

Poor Practice: Irregular report timing may cause teams to continue making project mistakes.

✔️ Good Practice: Let agile metrics and regular reporting cycles guide you for significant and timely project reporting.

Project Reporting Done Right

With strategic reporting, you can communicate actionable project information that brings significant business value.

So, before you embark on yet another reporting cycle, ask yourself the four questions above and deliver insightful project updates to your team and stakeholders.

We hope that you’re inspired to make your project reporting more meaningful. Do let us know your foolproof project reporting practices!

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