Agile Project Management: Status Reporting

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A little while ago I wrote about agile project management and how agile project management alone is not enough.

One area agile methods don’t really address is project status reporting.

Obviously the daily stand-up (or daily scrum) is a good form of agile status reporting. It’s great for people with a close interest in the project who can spare the time to get to the scrum.

But agile status reporting really is no good for other stakeholders that can’t get to the scrum each day, either because they are interested in less detail, or because they have an interest in many projects and can’t be at all the scrums.

For people like this, a traditional project status report is still important. But traditional project status reports often have their problems too. In my experience, they are often too wordy, sometimes leaving you to find the essence of the report in a sea of useless information.

In my view, the answer is simple:

The burndown chart.

For a regular project status report, calculate the burndown chart using the entire product backlog for the project, not just for the current Sprint. Forecast what future Velocity you think can be achieved based on the team’s past performance. The forecast line will allow you to forecast the project’s likely end date.

The burndown chart gives a really clear indication of status. Particularly if the team is very disciplined about the definition of done. Importantly, the status is obvious at a glance. So it’s really good for stakeholders that can’t get to the scrum, providing the key information without losing the point in lots of words.

If the project is running behind, or facing key issues or risks, they obviously warrant a brief explanation too.

The other key dimension on most projects is cost. Why not create another burndown chart for the project’s costs? If the forecast line reaches zero before the planned line, you’re running over budget and (unless you finish early) you will run out of funds!


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