Project Management Institute

Reporting done right

creating reports for the C-suite is no small task; knowing what to look for and offering the right context makes all the difference

Creating reports for the C-suite is no small task. Knowing what to look for and offering the right context makes all the difference.


The project management office (PMO) has a weighty task: keeping executives informed so they can make proper business decisions. Appeasing executives is complicated by the varying needs of the C-suite.

Matching project reporting to these needs is a constant endeavor of the PMO: Some executives eschew detailed project information in favor of concise, candid statements; others prefer high-level updates; and some seek face-to-face briefings. Nevertheless, the crux of the issue rests on two key reporting elements: content and presentation.

Reporting the right content is a perpetual battle between high-level information and finer details that help others understand the issue at hand.

PMO staff often struggle to define what constitutes an intelligent report. Err on the side of gathering too little information and the PMO is unable to measure the quality of the information. It must depend on other departments for project updates. Repeat this approach frequently and others begin to perceive the PMO as an executive aggregator, merely embellishing reports submitted by others and adding little value.

Diving into the project details lets the PMO verify the quality of the information, but doing so is burdensome and time-consuming. Moreover, some departments may perceive this as an unwanted intrusion into their affairs, which may complicate the working relationship for future projects. For instance, IT departments often do not like to be told how to deliver software solutions. However, they do appreciate the role of PMOs in clarifying business requirements.

The smartest approach is to make an effort at the beginning of the project to understand—in detail—the business case, project rationale and scope. Then, conduct cursory follow-ups to ensure the project is on track. Reserve deep dives for topping up any information gaps in status reporting, as well as safeguarding the alignment of the project objectives and benefits with the wishes of the executive suite.



Once the report's content is settled on, it's time to present it to executives. Presentation of project reports is often misunderstood by PMOs. The primary purpose of these presentations is to provide executives with context. The PMO needs to arm executives with the right information to make the right decisions for their organization. Political correctness and neutrality have to be sacrificed. The PMO is expected to smooth out any opposition ahead of the executive steering committee, lobbying stakeholders and influencing decision makers when necessary.

Failure to do this may relegate the PMO to the periphery of the organization. If executives find themselves lobbying to get the right support from stakeholders for their decisions, the PMO won't seem useful.

Getting the right balance between content details and the context is something PMOs have to master if they are to remain relevant in the eyes of the executives. PM

img Abid Mustafa has worked with project management offices for eight years. His book In the Age of Turbulence: How to Make Executive PMOs Successful is available in paperback and on Kindle.
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