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Developers Hate Status Reports, Manager’s Love Them

Pavel Simsa, PMP Bellevue, Washington, USA

Working in the biggest software company in the world, I can attest that developers hate status reports. It makes them spend hours each week writing down what seems to them to be obvious, redundant information.

For you as a software project manager, however, this is data used to get a bigger picture of your project progress, and then passed on to upper management. On average, a project manager helms five to seven projects at a time. Both you and your senior management team need you to collect and pass on this project data.

Here are tips to make developers less resistant to sending their “whatever-frequency-you-need” status reports.

• Help them understand why this report is important to other team members or other departments who need to plan based on team progress. People work harder to help their peers.

• If the project progress was slow, know what the team was doing. Were they learning a new tool or language? Were there unexpected problems and challenges this week? When you compile the status reports, add the explanatory information to help others interpret the numbers.

• Give proper recognition. If you know what the problems and challenges were, you’ll be able to make sure that no significant achievement is masked by the progress report metrics. For those who have made helpful, unplanned contributions, offer a latte coupon to a nearby coffee shop. Try a “Great work, thank you <name>” email that goes to the entire division. Create a direct link between the work and the importance of how it relates to the “big picture.”

• If you’re managing more than one developer, create a group incentive. “If I get all status report by 3 pm every Friday from all of you for one month, everyone gets the next Friday afternoon off”….or, “I’ll bring in food for a group lunch”. Nobody wants to be the one who keeps their team from the reward.

• Make it easy to write the report. Provide a template or an electronic tool to submit status. Be prepared to rewrite the verbiage in a way that will be understandable to everyone. Your Vice President most likely won’t understand “lcl check-in to main build lab”. You can change it to “feature milestone 2 achieved, project on track.”

The point is, make sure you look at the task of completing periodic status reports from the other person’s perspective. Status reports are important. Everyone needs to know what’s going on. Senior management cares about milestones, while business management cares about budget. Your job as a Project Manager is to make sure that every stakeholder understands what’s going on with the project – but also to realize that not all stakeholders are able to fully analyze all the technical nuances of what is transpiring without your help.

Find an effective input tool and work to achieve as much understanding of the underlying tasks as you can. You are the liaison to create a comprehensive status report which meets the needs of all stakeholders.

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