Everyone is striving for a world where we plan, manage and report on 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. For example:
Milestones: When you've 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:
Is double keying inevitable?
After 25 years of being involved in portfolios, my conclusion is that some level of double keying becomes inevitable – it is simply too difficult to avoid it, in fact I would encourage it! That's 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:
1. Typically as many as 20-30% of people running activities in the portfolio are operational employees with no project training, who don’t engage with or particularly understand PPM tools
2. 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 that tends to be "Let me know me in 20 seconds where we are and what I need to worry about."
The options here are:
Minimise your double keying time:
I believe it is realistic to target no more than 15–20 minutes of double keying effort every month. To achieve this, use an Executive level portfolio management platform like Perform, which enables you to re-key your ‘Level 1’ milestones once (at the beginning) and then update them through a simply monthly report, then escale your top three or four risks and issues.
Use engaging Executive reporting formats:
If you are going to be double keying information, make sure it 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. Watch our video below to discover how to deliver this:
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 so, you can at least ensure the output is accessible and in a format that executives will engage with. Then, it is more than worth it.
by Rupert Taylor July 2019
by Andy Parsons May 2019