Written by Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM
You’ll rarely find any project that does not use a monthly report or dashboard to summarize its status and performance. These tools are critical for project management because they provide stakeholders with the knowledge and insight they need to make quick, well-informed decisions.
In spite of their importance, many organizations still use dashboards and reports created with data captured in Microsoft Excel. By relying on such rudimentary technology, huge amounts of time and effort are wasted collecting, consolidating, verifying, and preparing project data. Moreover, it can also lead to what’s known as “Watermelon Syndrome,” which occurs when the data contained in the report or dashboard fails to accurately reflect the project’s actual status and performance. Like a watermelon, the reports make the project appear “green” (no problems or issues) on the outside, but if you look inside, it’s actually “red” (serious problems and issues).
Oddly enough, as more organizations use sophisticated data visualization applications like Microsoft Power BI, Qlik, and Tableau, Watermelon Syndrome is actually growing more common. The problem isn’t caused by these applications, which are powerful tools for extracting valuable business intelligence; rather, the problem lies with the fact that the data these applications are reporting on is captured in Excel files.
To avoid Watermelon Syndrome, project data must be captured in the right format, at the right time, by the right team member. One of the best ways to achieve this is by using web-based project management solutions like PMWeb.
By providing accurate, real-time reporting on a project’s status and performance, PMWeb’s integrated project management information system (PMIS) significantly reduces the risk of Watermelon Syndrome. The software platform also provides numerous other benefits. It eliminates data silos by offering a single repository for all project data, it allows historical project data to be easily stored and accessed, it can trace the source of any shared project information, it can use data from past projects to analyze current performance trends and predict future results, along with many other valuable functions.
Ensure Project Data is Captured in the Right Format, at the Right Time, By the Right Team member
PMWeb comes with a wide array of pre-defined document templates that can be used to capture the data related to numerous project management processes, such as scope, schedule, cost, quality, human resources, communications, procurement, life cycle stages, and stage gates. Moreover, since organizations may require unique templates for some of their projects and processes, PMWeb also includes a custom form builder that allows organization to create their own customized document templates.
The screenshot below shows a PMWeb document template that captures the minutes of project meetings. These templates capture the details of what was discussed during all types of project meetings—pre-award meetings, kickoff meetings, safety meetings, stage gate review meetings, closeout meetings, etc.
PMWeb allows supportive documents to be attached to the various templates, and the templates can also be linked to other project records and emails to provide for a more comprehensive understanding of the data. The attached documents are usually saved in the PMWeb document management repository, where folders and subfolders can be created to upload, save, review, and redline the documents.
To ensure the templates are seen by the appropriate team members in the proper sequence, predefined workflows can be included with each template. These workflows, which are aligned with the project’s responsibility assignment matrix (RAM), detail the steps for submitting, reviewing, sharing, and approving each document template. Since the responsibilities for reviewing and approving the same document template might vary depending on the project’s authority and approval levels, conditions and branches can be added to the workflow to replicate the authority and approval levels assigned to a specific individual or committee.
With all of these valuable functions and capabilities, organizations that use PMWeb can rest assured that their project data will be captured in the right format, at the right time, by the right team member.
Obtain a Single Version of the Truth for Project Performance Reporting
With the ability to capture accurate, real-time project data and store it in a single database, PMWeb provides organizations with access to a single version of the truth for reporting on the performance of a single project, a program of projects, or a portfolio of projects. To this end, the software platform offers advanced business intelligence (BI) tools that can create a variety of tabular and graphic reports based on the captured project data.
For example, assume the risk document template is used to capture the project data for each identified risk, a qualitative analysis of the risks, the approved risk response actions, and how those actions could impact the pre-mitigation risk score. PMWeb’s BI tools can create the output form that’s used to formally document this record as well as create the risk register. Furthermore, the BI tools can create a risk and issues dashboard that analyzes the data captured in both the risk template and the issues template.
The same approach can be used to create dashboards for other project management processes, such as cost, schedule, quality, procurement, human resources, etc. Each of these dashboards are created using the real-time data captured by PMWeb’s document templates.
Since the data from all of an organization’s projects is stored in the same repository, PMWeb can also create dashboards for a program or portfolio of projects. This not only provides a real-time single version of the truth for reporting on the performance of these projects, but it also allows users to drill down and trace the source of the reported data. This is something that even advanced data visualization applications like Microsoft Power BI, Qlik, and Tableau are unable to do.
The graphic below, for example, shows how a user can drill down from a project portfolio dashboard to a specific project’s dashboard. From there, the user can drill down further to a specific project management area dashboard, such as document management. Next, the user can drill down to a particular data log, such as the Request for Information (RFI) Register. Within the register, the user can drill down to a specific RFI to learn more about its content, supporting documents, other project records it’s linked to, and the workflow steps that were used for its submission, review, sharing, and approval.
So what kind of dashboard do you want to rely on? If you choose Microsoft Excel to report on the performance of your projects, you’ll undoubtedly waste valuable time and effort, while increasing the risk of experiencing Watermelon Syndrome. But if you use a dashboard created using a web-based project management solution like PMWeb, you’ll gain the insight needed to make quicker, more informed project decisions, and know that if your dashboard indicates that the project status is green on the outside, it will also be green on the inside.