Project Management Reporting (PMR) will never teeter on the brink of being X-rated, but it shouldn’t be painfully boring, either. One thing is for certain, though: The planning, timelines and other pertinent information in a project management report, which are critical to the project, need to be effectively communicated to appropriate managers.
My friend Tom talks about “sexy-ing” up reports by making them look attractive. He has a point: when a report is ugly, it’s hard to look past the aesthetics and grasp what (very important) information is being relayed.
So, what can you do to develop sexy reports?
- Use color
Printing or publishing color reports from a PDF file is no longer a technical or expensive problem. Color jumps out and grabs a reader’s attention. For example, red means “critical” for timelines and “alert” for status reports. Remember to include a legend that clearly explains the colors.
- Pictures & Diagrams
The old cliché “a picture is worth a thousand words” is absolutely true. Architectural drawings, equipment diagrams, plot plans and job progress pictures are all helpful visuals to present your report.
A word of caution, however: Don’t let the pictures get in the way of the important information you’re trying to convey. Although pictures help tell a story and are excellent support components, the key takeaway for managers is the information you’re trying to communicate.
- Font Selection
Try to keep the number of fonts you use in your report to a minimum. In most cases, three fonts is the max. If you divide the report into different levels or section, keep each section’s font in the same family. Also, always use both upper-case and lower-case letters. It’s very difficult to read reports that have all upper-case letters, especially if they have a lot of data.
- Paper Size
Reports should be designed to fit on letter-sized paper. All users have access to a printer that prints on 8.5 by 11-inch paper.
- Use Subtotals
In large reports that contain data, subtotal the results. Most readers want to see the big picture. Then, drill down the details.
- Graphics Packages
When building a “sexy” report, programs that utilize and showcase graphics, like Microsoft PowerPoint, are excellent tools to communicate project data. You can also make far greater presentations with these programs than with many project management tools.
- The Truth
Always reflect the truth in your project reports. The tendency may be to “fudge” or exaggerate information. For instance, no one likes to show that a project is behind schedule. Avoid the temptation! Reports should closely mirror what is in your project management software. The truth will always come out eventually…so don’t lie.
Communication is the most important part of project management and effective PMR will help a project by getting better buy-in and participation.
How do you make your reports informative and sexy?