What is an ideal reporting system. Is it realistic to understand what is happening in the company?

    What should an ideal reporting system look like in a project management system? Is it possible to bring real benefits to the company by unloading something from the management system, or will it always be just formalities? Is it possible to find something interesting and new in the data of the control system for the company itself?

    I am particularly concerned about these issues. I have been working on the YouGile management system for the past two years.

    The key reporting problem is that the information in any one data slice will always be incomplete, no matter how the company tries to mark and record everything. The simplest example is looking at the list of completed tasks for people, and this is true at best only by 80%. Not all tasks are fixed, not all are marked as completed, some metrics are systematically distorted.

    Moreover, the requirement for reports from incomplete information is very high - reports should form an objective understanding of what is happening.

    What we eventually did after studying this issue is below in a short video. And under the cut, a description of the process, how they came to this.


    Reality


    The reality in companies is slightly worse than just 20% of incompleteness in each specific report. Usually the situation is such that in general “at least somewhere” only half of the tasks are fixed, and at the same time in different places: in messengers, in the mail, in oral conversations ...

    When a centralized management system appears and at least some kind of culture of setting goals is formed, the situation is a little improves, but the information system cannot and should not become a control and accounting system. The more strict rules there are regarding what should be recorded in the system, the more accurate the reports. But less will voluntarily use the system. The circle of struggle for transparency closes.

    What about a company that develops a management system? How to create an objective picture of what is happening without the condition that all information will be recorded?

    Our reporting history


    2 years ago - we are starting to make a project management system with a focus on communication. We are implementing an approach where each task is a chat and we try to tighten teams into project activities through communication. Ignore reports. We believe that such a tool does not affect the use of the system, but rather only repels the real team from a free planning tool.

    1.5 years ago- regularly receive a number of requests for reports. The most common request is a list of tasks for people. We are starting to learn how reports are used by our customers who are moving from other systems. We understand that there are reports there. In the most popular systems, you can get several different summaries: by people, by time, by completion, by project. BUT, talking with users, it turns out that no one really uses it. Exceptions are only cases of initially strictly regulated processes, such as HelpDesk or BugTracker.

    1 year ago- we release such a function as a configurator, which allows you to write your own scripts inside the system. Including uploading any data. From time to time to large clients we configure unloadings directly under their requests. And a little strange situation happens - sometimes companies manage to get real benefit from it - they tell us that they unload a bunch of data, analyze it and make any decisions. And sometimes it becomes ballast that no one uses.

    8 months ago- we follow the requests from clients and make several summaries as in most other systems: a tape of all events and a special board with tasks for employees. The function is rarely used, but those who use it are satisfied and want more of this information. They explain that they would like to see more details on one or another process.

    5 months ago- we start immediately supplying all large customers with a system with all kinds of reports on scripts that were developed earlier. There are a lot of them, they are very different, but not very convenient, since there are no normal interfaces. But at the same time, this approach is quite suitable for customers. We notice a very simple truth: when there are many reports, for some reason they begin to work. Companies report that they are able to extract information from which to make decisions. There are requests for reports on project views from employees and the distribution of team attention.

    3 weeks ago- Once again we are talking with clients and we come to a simple conclusion: the number of reports from different sides is justified by the fact that some kind of understanding can be created only if the picture is viewed from many different sides. Moreover, these parties in different situations can be very different.

    We release the report designer. We try to make it so that you can get anything, but at the same time keep the interface simple.

    What system of reports and summaries we built in YouGile


    Let's start with a simple one. Everything that is in the system can be filtered, sorted and displayed in a table. Download in Excel format or configure regular receipt by mail. All information, of course, changes dynamically with changes in projects.

    The report generation interface looks like this:



    You can generate a report using 15 parameters and configure multisorting rules. There are a couple of unusual parameters: the date of the last move and the date of the last message. For example, you can select and view tasks for which there was the most active communication. If we take into account that each task is a separate chat and we communicate a lot, then the download is very interesting.

    As a result, the report looks like a table with the ability to multisort.



    And here, frankly, there is nothing supernatural so far - just a good flexible system for receiving reports on tasks with accessible interfaces. Yes, there are a couple of interesting parameters and a scheduled reporting system. But a really powerful tool for creating transparency in the company is the “summary”.

    Dashboards

    Dashboards are all the same as reports, but tasks are not displayed as a table with many parameters, but as a column on the board. That is, along with the usual columns, you can create a special column on the board where tasks according to the given filtering principles from other projects and boards for arbitrary periods of time are displayed. The tasks in the bulletins are read-only, they cannot be changed, but you can participate in chatting.

    Here is the simplest example of several of these columns:



    Such a tool, together with a reporting system, had many application options for creating an understanding of what is happening in the company. You can make separate boards for observation, you can add a list of urgent tasks from the neighboring department to the work board, you can display all important tasks for yourself, one column for each project, etc.

    A few case studies


    1. We want to find out what the team is doing.

    In a normal situation, we would have to unload a report on completed tasks and maybe on new set tasks.

    Now we can make a summary: in the first column, display completed tasks in the last 7 days, in the second column all new tasks in the last 7 days, in the third column all tasks in which there were movements or dialogs for the last 7 days, in the fourth column just everything with the highest priority.



    And, of course, such a summary is far from telling all teams what the department is doing. But after observing the dynamics for a couple of weeks, conclusions will definitely appear about where the bottlenecks are in the process and ideas on how to improve monitoring.

    2. How to understand who is busy with what

    In a normal situation, it would be possible to derive all open tasks for people.

    Now you can make a separate column for each person, display all his open tasks there and sort them by the date of the last message. At the top are those cards in which there is an active discussion. If you, for example, are a photo studio and have messages or files in all tasks, then this approach will work well.



    3. How to understand what the team decided not to do.
    In the first column, we display all the open tasks for the project and raise the oldest ones to the top. In the second, output archived, but not marked as completed.



    These are the simplest examples that apply even in small teams. When it comes to a company of at least 100 people, there are much more interesting sections for different departments, but the picture is still quite clear. And most importantly - all this without additional data collection efforts. A team can work as it is accustomed to, and at the same time it remains possible to create an understanding of what is happening without being directly in the processes.

    Practical conclusion


    In order to create an objective picture of what was happening in the company, where to spend resources, to assess the risks that await the company ahead, it is necessary to generate many different reports from several sides. Carefully analyze, draw conclusions, and if there is not enough information - generate new reports and observe them. It always takes time. For example, a week you can watch a column with tasks from all projects by priority. But after that a magical feeling is formed that you understand what is happening with the company without direct participation in the process.

    In large teams this is more complicated, in small ones it is simpler, but somehow the reporting system can really be a decision-making tool.

    PS At 8.00 A small fragment of a discussion of reports at a construction crane manufacturing plant.


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