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5 Top Project Planning Reports and When to Use Them

24th Oct 17

Topics: Project Scheduling Software

Information is key to project control and management. Without the ability to communicate relevant and timely information to key stakeholders there is no control over the project and, ultimately, it will fail. To achieve project success, it's imperative to acquire and share information effectively, and the best way to do this is using reports. 

Reports are created throughout the project lifecycle, and, while many view them as time-consuming, laborious, and painful, they are one of the most essential resources a project manager has at their disposal.

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In this post, we are going to look at the top 5 project planning reports and when to use them, focusing on their value to project managers and providing relevant examples.

In project planning and scheduling, there is a vast amount of data, but alone it may not necessarily supply any value. To be useful, it must be presented in meaningful reports. In project management, a single report may give key project stakeholders and managers information, but a set of reports gives them control.

A vast number of different reports can provide value for a project. Reports can be used to:

  • Show what's planned
  • Assist the planner/scheduler in creating a schedule
  • Show project progress and status
  • Help forecast 
  • And more

The examples delivered in this blog post are all created quickly and easily in Safran Project using its powerful built-in report generator engine. In Safran Project, the reports can be generated one by one or run in batches as a reports package which, again, can be manually triggered or run automatically.

Gannt Chart (Schedule Bar chart)

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The Gantt Chart or Schedule Bar chart is an illustrative way to display a project schedule. Gantt charts illustrate the start and finish date of all project activities and provide a summary of all project elements. It is these activities and summaries which often comprise the work breakdown structure (WBS). Modern Gantt charts usually contain dependency relationships between activities, as well as additional information like project status, as shown above.

This particular example shows a variant where the Frontline is introduced. The Frontline indicates whether an activity is ahead, behind, or on schedule (as planned) and provides project stakeholders and management with a good understanding of project status, down to individual activity level. In Safran Project, you can add an almost unlimited amount of information, both in the tabular area to the left, and in the Gantt Chart itself. This example includes, among others, information about the Baseline Value, Earned Value and Actual Spent Value in the tabular area.

 

Bulls-eye Chart

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Senior management and stakeholders are often very busy and won't have a great deal of time available to read reports. A Bulls-eye Chart is the perfect report to provide a quick overview of your project or project portfolio.

The Bulls-eye Chart shows both the Schedule Performance Index1 (SPI) and Cost Performance Index2 (CPI) and the trend of these indexes. Shown in the report above, for example, are the SPI and CPI for each project in the portfolio, for each monthly cut-off. Including multiple months provides the trend throughout the project lifecycle, and each colour is used to represent an individual project for enhanced readability. In this example, we've included a threshold (Bulls-eye) at +/- 15 % confidence limit, as any "hits" within the Bull's-eye don't require any immediate mitigations – hence the name of the report.

[1] SPI =   | SPI > 1 = Ahead of Schedule | SPI < 1 = Behind Schedule |
[2] CPI =   | CPI > 1 = Under Budget | CPI < 1 = Over Budget |

 

Progress Summary Report

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Throughout the project lifecycle, it's recommended that project managers perform periodic project progress and project status updates. The shorter the periodic intervals, the more control managers have over their projects and the faster they can discover irregularities and perform immediate mitigations. Report intervals are often monthly, bi-weekly or weekly, but more time-critical projects like a Shutdown/Turnaround may have a daily report interval or even multiple report intervals per day.

As many project managers consider report generating a real chore, they will often favour monthly reporting even though it gives them less control of their projects. Periodic reporting is quick and easy with Safran Project, and most Safran Project users follow our recommendation of using weekly reporting.

One great report for periodic reporting is the Progress Summary Report. The Progress Summary Report is a tabular report that provides great insight into the progress and status of the project, both for the last period and from project start to project status date. It shows the budgets as well as the periodic and cumulative progress (and other key data) at any selected level. The example above is grouped on Project Phases and shows the key data on each discipline level, summarised on both group level and total level. The Planner/Scheduler will use this as part of the periodic reporting. It's easy to configure and covers lots of different detail levels of the project WBS.

 

Histogram/S-Curve

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Histograms are one of the most popular ways to display project data in a report. A histogram is an accurate graphical representation of the time distribution of data  usually cost, hours, or manpower. This histogram also includes S-Curves for cumulative values – hence the name Histogram/S-Curve. 

The bars in the example above indicate the periodically Planned-, Earned- and Actual-value for each project month, while the lines indicate the accumulated Planned-, Earned- and Actual- value for the project overall. The planner will use the Histogram/S-Curve as part of their periodic reporting as it is a valuable way of showing Planned vs Earned vs Actual over the project lifecycle. 

 

Manpower Histogram (Resource Capacity and Demand)

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Another type of histogram is the Manpower histogram, which shows the number of personnel needed to perform the planned work. When including an availability curve, the manpower histogram helps the planner clearly understand overall resource capacity against demand. The example above shows bars stacked into the different resource types. When the planner understands the resource capacity, it's far easier to avoid resource overloads which can lead to project delays. In Safran Project, this histogram is real-time and will reflect any changes in schedule and/or planned resources as they happen. 

 

Powerful Project and Portfolio Planning

An understanding of these 5 methods of project planning reporting is vital to communicating relevant and timely information to key stakeholders. Proper project planning reporting affords project managers more control over their project and helps reduce time spent balancing resource requirements with resources available. It also helps ensure that project managers have the necessary resources and skills available at the right time and in the right place, enabling greater project success.

While almost every planning and project management tool on the market can create a Gantt Chart, the reporting engine in Safran Project offers more than 30 different report types including Gantt Chart, Histograms, S-Curves, Pie-Chart, Bulls Eye Chart, various tabular reports and many more.

Safran Project software can help you gain visibility into project progress and status, resource conflicts, and provide an accurate forecast across your projects from initial planning through to execution. For a free 30-day trial, follow the link below.

Safran Project Report Samples for Project Professionals