7 main features of good Project Portfolio Report

Project Portfolio Report (Portfolio Report) is usually in a form of a document (electronic or paper one) that enable monitoring progress of the Projects gathered in the Portfolio. It is used as a basis to make proper decisions within the Portfolio and maintain good balance between projects. In result, it should lead to achieve strategic goals of the company.

1. Clarity is everything

The most important feature of the report is its clarity. The raw data have great significance and good Portfolio Report build up on them. But at the end the report must be easy to read and understand. Clear presentation of data may be achieved using charts, color codes and other methods. It should enable in a few moments identify the crucial issues that have to be taken care of on the Portfolio level. It also should give crucial information about condition of the company to the Higher Management.

2. Brief and Extended version of your Portfolio Report

There are many different approaches to presenting Portfolio in Report. The presentation form will differ depending especially on the number of projects that your Portfolio gathers. Usually there is a brief version of the report that includes the most important aspects in the Portfolio and the extended version when you can find more detail information and data connected to each project. The brief version has usually a lot of charts and color codes to be clearer. It enables to identify the projects that must be further analyzed and discussed on the basis of detail data from extended version of the Portfolio Report.

3. Everything up to date (reasonably)

The key to have a good Report is data from projects gathered in the Portfolio. Everything starts with data. Unfortunately, in projects, data have ugly tendency to change a lot in time. You can see that especially if you compare your plans in initial project documents with the actual ones from the project management tool logs. That is why we must take care of time aspects and make sure that our project data are not coming only from initial plans but is actual and quite recent. Of course, we want to have almost real time data. But gathering data, preparing report, analyzing it and interpret everything also takes time. We will have to freeze the data for a moment to prepare the report and even though a lot still changes in the projects in almost every hour, we must base on freeze data in the report. Then we will of course take all those events from the freeze point into account in following Portfolio Report. Now we can see that we need to update project data and update our Portfolio Report as well.

4. Project importance and status

The Portfolio Report usually uses categorization of projects. There are different approaches to that aspect and it depends a lot on the specific of the company. In general, projects can be divided considering their importance. Many times, it takes into count how important is this project to fulfil strategic goals of the company or how important it is from financial point. Another parameter that may be used is status of the project. It is often a combination of many smaller parameters with different weights assigned like project progress comparing to the schedule, project actual budget comparing to the planned one, etc.

5. Most important MEASURABLE data

It is a component of the Portfolio that often makes a lot of problems to be well defined. But it is very important one. It is a place that enables to shorten a lot understanding of what is going on in the Portfolio for the Higher Management and for you. It must be carefully prepared and thought through. For example, you can present here projects in which milestones are delayed by more than 30 days. To make excellent Portfolio Report is to define it well. In some projects and for some industries 30 days are a lot and for some of it is still acceptable. But in some cases, 7 days is a red flag and big financial penalties. Of course, you can also present it in form of % delay comparing to the whole project duration. Everything depends on company and situation.

6. Financial data with details

Some people think that money is not everything and I am not arguing with that. But in Project and Portfolio Management finances are very important. The financial condition of the separate project must be reflected in the Portfolio Report. It can be done on different level of detail. But still as Portfolio Manager you need to know what was initially assumed in the project (profits and costs) and what is current financial situation of the project. The best way is to have finances divided into categories which gives you more insight.

7. Milestones and actual progress

In Portfolio Report you must present progress of projects within the Portfolio. It may be presented in many ways. You can do that by comparing schedules initial to the current one of each project. In many cases it will be too detail as there are many tasks in the schedule of each project. Better approach will be focusing on Milestones or Phases of the projects which enable monitoring of project progress on more general level. Usually there is few milestones and phases. Much less than tasks so it is easier to present project progress in this aspect. Summing up – the Portfolio Report is about:
  • current and real data,
  • analysis and intuitive visualization,
  • prediction,
  • giving recommendations,
  • making Aware Business decisions which together builds up to the Success of the whole Portfolio.
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