Sunday, July 14, 2013

Effective Dashboards: Communicating Your Project Status

In the previous post, I mentioned about my upcoming tutorial ‘How to Build an Effective Dashboard for CXOs,Senior Management, and Business Leaders’ at the Annual Conference of Software Process Improvement Network, Bangalore Chapter (BSPIN Annual Conference 2013).  I am writing this post to share with you a very simple but an interesting aspect about communicating project status in status reports or dashboards.

How do we communicate project status?  In many organizations and project teams, I have come across the usage of traffic lights -   ‘Red’ - ‘Amber’ - ‘Green’.

Do you know? Using traffic lights to indicate project status is not a great idea because of two reasons.
  1. Project status is more than traffic lights.   In general the status of software projects do not turns suddenly from ‘Green’ to ‘Amber’ or from ‘Amber’ to ‘Red’.  Also, all ‘Amber’ projects do not mean the same ‘Amber’ and all ‘Red’ projects do not mean the same ‘Red’.  That’s why we come across the question ‘How Red is Red?’ - sounds familiar?
  2. Even if you prove to me that the statuses of your projects are as discrete as Green, Amber and Red, it is very important to consider those who are color-blind.   10% of males and 1% of females are color-blind.  When you include traffic light in your status report, this is how it appears to them.

Project Weather Reports
Learning from alternate sources can help us in coming up with a better representation of project status.  For example let us consider weather reports.  At a high level, weather status is categorized as ‘Sunny’, ‘Mostly Sunny’, ‘Partially Cloudy’, ‘Cloudy’, ‘Rainy’, and ‘Severer’. When we represent project status using this scheme, we have more than three level of classification and each of them can have a clear meaning and hence can help us do the right things. This is what Johanna Rothman says in her article ‘Sunny Skies or Storms? – Project Weather Reports'.

Project Status: Is it Binary?
Some of us claim that project status is binary – especially in case of agile projects.  The project moves forward in short iterations and we know if something works or does not work.  It is either ‘Green’ or ‘Red’.  Do you think it works that way?  Think!

Building effective dashboards involves many challenges.  What to know more? You are welcome to attend my tutorial, ‘How to build anEffective Dashboard for CXO’s, Senior Management, and Business Leaders’ at BSPIN Annual Conference 2013, Bangalore on 26th July 2013.

Takeaways and References
Do you want to download white papers and presentations (PDF files) to learn more about how to build effective dashboards?  Read 'Tutorial on Effective Dashboards: Takeaways and References'.   Happy Reading!

No comments: