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How to Use a Project Dashboard for Your Project-Progress Report

To make your written project-progress reports most effective, you can use a project dashboard to include the greatest amount of information in the least amount of space. A project dashboard is an information display that depicts key indicators of project performance in a format that resembles an instrument panel on a dashboard. This format can convey the project’s overall progress and highlight particular problems that require further attention.

When designing a dashboard for your project, take the following steps:

  1. Select the major categories of information.

    Typical information categories that reflect important aspects of project performance include

    • Results: Desired products your team has produced to date

    • Performance to schedule: Dates that your team achieved milestones and started and completed activities compared to the schedule plan for milestones and activities

    • Performance to resource budgets: Labor hours, funds, and other resources your team has used to date compared to their budgeted amounts

    • Risk management: Current status of factors that may unexpectedly impede project performance

  2. Choose specific indicators for each information category.

    Choose these indicators in conjunction with the project’s drivers and supporters. For example, a project that develops an operations manual for a piece of equipment may have the following indicators:

    • Results: The number of manual chapters written or the number of people who have approved the final manual

    • Performance to schedule: The number of milestone dates you’ve met and the number you’ve missed

    • Performance to resource budgets: The ratio of actual funds expended to those budgeted for all completed activities

    • Risk management: The number of original risks that may still occur or the number of new risks you’ve identified during the project

  3. Select the format for each indicator.

    You can display indicators in a table, bar graph, pie chart, or speedometer format. In addition, indicators often have a traffic light format:

    • Green light: The element is proceeding according to plan.

    • Yellow light: One or more minor problems exist.

    • Red light: One or more serious situations require immediate attention.

    Determine the specific criteria for green-, yellow-, and red-light status for each indicator in consultation with the project’s drivers and supporters.

The following illustrations depict the types of displays in a project dashboard.

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When creating a dashboard for your project, be sure to

  • Work with the intended audiences of a report to select the categories, indicators, and their display formats.

  • Always present actual indicator values alongside planned values.

  • Keep the project dashboard report to one page or less.

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