The Fundamentals of PPM Reporting

Feb 28, 2006

Jeff Monteforte

The executive reporting materials supporting the PPM (project portfolio management) process must allow executives to dig into critical project details and answer important business questions, such as: the bottom line value of a project; are the company's resources allocated to the right projects; are the selected projects aligned with the company’s strategic direction; and will the project actually achieve the desired benefits?

The ability to capture, aggregate and present the project portfolio contents, of ROI, risk, resources, alignment to business goals, and project health status drives the investment decision-making process.

What follows are those reports essential to making the right decisions, allocating the right resources, and guiding the PPM process through insight instead of intuition.

Portfolio VAR Map: The portfolio VAR (value, alignment, risk) map is a “bubble chart” of screened projects in the portfolio. The use of a bubble chart (scatter chart overlaying a quadrant) is quite common though and can be produced using EXCEL if need be. It is a 3-D representation of projects mapping out their preliminary screening values. The most common dimensions I see charted for projects are: X-axis = alignment, y-axis = value (ROI) and size of bubble = risk.

Risk Report: The Risk Report allows for the quick recognition of issues when they occur, the contingency plan initiated to resolve the issue and the progress being made against the issue. This report also provides executives with insight to the impacts on ROI, schedule, budget and milestones caused by the high-lighted issue.

Investment Allocation Dashboard Report: The investment allocation dashboard report groups projects within a portfolio by their business theme and shows where money and resources are being invested.

In essence, we are graphing investment amounts against predefined investment categories and targeted levels of investment. This report provides the information that ensures resources are being applied to high-value work that is supporting and advancing defined business objectives.

Pie charts are the most common form used for this report and the graph is investment against the defined investment categories of the IT steering committee. This information assists the IT Steering Committee in attempting to keep the portfolio balanced.

Resource Planning Report: The resource planning report charts the company’s pool of resources against proposed projects. It takes into account constrained skills within the organization and answers the essential question of, “When can the organization deliver on the work that is important to the company?”

The net result of this report illustrates the impact on overall resource capacity of the company and allows executives to plan for portfolio impacts, such as delaying a project in the portfolio because of a constraint on capacity or pursuing other sourcing strategies based on project dollars and value.

Portfolio Health Monitor: The portfolio health monitor report is a comprehensive summary report bringing together all of the critical elements of portfolio monitoring and provides a high-level “health checks” for project budget, risk, schedule and benefits metrics.

At the individual project level, a green-yellow-red stoplight report summarizes the current health of the project and its critical components allowing for quick identification of a project going astray.

Program Summary Report: Many times a series of projects are combined into a program. The program summary report focuses on the progress being made within that program. Items of interest include an actual-to-plan budget review of the program, realized benefits of the program, and a review of the overall program schedule and resource requirements.

Benefits Reporting: A benefits report must allow an executive to gain an understanding of costs, benefits and ROI at the portfolio, program or individual project level. Moreover, during the execution stage of a project, the reporting of “actuals” (or the vital comparison of proposed costs and benefits vs. actual costs and achieved benefits) allows decision makers to continually evaluate the investment level being applied to the specified initiative.

In many cases the investment level is never changed from the initial decision, but often a project may need to be cancelled or deferred if major issues arise or business priorities change.

A major component of benefits reporting are the project value maps, which illustrates the amounts and timing of expected benefits accrual.

This information is normally represented in a spreadsheet that is “time-based” for the expected period of time required for a project to produce the anticipated benefits. The report maps out the accumulating benefits against the baseline that was determined before the project was implemented. A line-chart can be easily produced from this data for a powerful graphic.

Portfolio Cost-to-Value Map: The portfolio cost-to-value map is a simplified comparison of a project's raw costs compared to its anticipated benefits. Value is typically the highest priority when evaluating projects. This map is a bubble chart, but with two-dimensions (all bubbles are the same size). This graph “maps” all the low hanging fruit, per se, into a single quadrant for easy identification.

Clear and consistent reporting is the most enabling tool for decision making and provides the best information you can provide to the IT steering committee.

As usual, I suggest that you begin with a few essential, simple, and clearly understood reports and slowly introduce more as the decision making process of the IT steering committee matures.

You will quickly come to learn that managing and producing this portion of your PPM practice is the most manually intensive. In many cases it is the ongoing upkeep of this component that begins to overwhelm the people managing the PPM process and launches the thinking and search for an automated solution.

Jeff Monteforte is president of Exential, a Cleveland, OH.-based information strategy consulting firm, which specializes in IT governance, information security and business intelligence solutions. He can be reached at


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