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Andy Parsons

Andy Parsons

September 2018

PPM

Everyone is striving for a portfolio world that plans, manages and reports the portfolio without double keying or double entry for delivery teams. What do we mean by ‘double entry’?  Most people would say it means that they don’t want to key the same project information into two separate data sources and then maintain them both separately. Examples:

  • Milestones: when you have loaded your MSP or PPM tool with a detailed project plan including tasks and milestones, reloading onto a slide format every week/month for the regular review meeting.
  • Risks & Issues: maintaining a RAID log on a spreadsheet or in your PPM tool, re-keying the Risks or Issues you want to escalate to your Sponsor or key stakeholders onto your Monthly Report.
  • Project Financials: allocating your costs under a project code in your core finance system and then re-keying the same numbers into the Monthly Report for your project or cutting and pasting them into the finance slide for your regular update.

Familiar scenario? No-one likes the thought of double keying as outlined above but is it right, wrong……………or simply unavoidable?

Is it right or wrong to double key?  No-one wants to double key, it is a duplication of effort (however small) and is inevitably frustrating. However, there are situations when it is clearly right or at least becomes necessary to do it:

  • When you need to escalate something and you need to cut and paste/re-key onto a slide for your next review meeting.
  • When senior management demand information that requires double keying because it doesn’t automatically pull through from your PPM.
  • When your senior management team are NOT logging onto your PPM tool, but they are demanding information via a different format (slides, spreadsheets etc.).
  • When your PPM tool is not being used correctly and universally across the delivery portfolio so that the ‘roll up’ doesn’t work for execs but they still expect the information they want.

Is double keying inevitable?  After 25 years of being involved in portfoliosmy conclusion is that some level of double keying becomes inevitable – it is simply too difficult to avoid it, in fact I would encourage it! …………  "But why?" I hear you say......because the fundamental structure of most PPM tools is that they are built from the bottom up, which means everyone in the portfolio has to input all the details correctly in the detail layer to roll up anything sensible at the Executive layer. There are two reasons that this is such a challenge:

  • Typically as many as 20% - 30% of the people running activities in the portfolio are operational people with no project training, who don’t engage with or particularly understand PPM tools.
  • As many as 30% of the trained project delivery team are external contractors who don’t know the PPM tool and therefore don’t engage with it.

With this in mind, I would encourage people to start thinking about it being necessary and valuable to separate the detail layer, where you focus on ‘running the project/programme’ (detailed plans with tasks and milestones particularly), from the Executive layer, where you focus on providing high level information and an Executive style which tends to be “let me know me in 20 seconds where we are and what I need to worry about………”. Generally, Execs don’t want the ‘faff’ of a detailed report:

So what are your options?

1. Minimise your double keying time: What you can do is minimise double keying and I believe it is realistic to target no more than 15 – 20 minutes of double keying effort every month. 

  • Use an Executive level portfolio management platform like Perform where you:
    • Re-key your ‘Level 1’ milestones once (at the beginning) and then update them through a
      simple Monthly Report
    • Escalate your top 3 or 4 Risks and Issues

2. Use engaging Executive reporting formats: if you are going to be double keying some info, make sure the information you are double keying is read! The output of the double keyed information should be visual, engaging and easily accessible to the Executive – if they are reading your information, you will derive value from it and the double keying is worthwhile:

 

In summary, some level of double keying is probably inevitable because of practical issues more than anything else. That might be a little frustrating, but there are ways to minimise double keying and if you are going to be double keying, at least make sure the output is accessible and in a format that Executives will engage with…..then it is more worth it!

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