Beyond the Frozen Pizza
Nearly 25% of all the requests that the Projector support desk fields involves helping people find, customize, or create a report to give them visibility into a particular piece of information. That’s not surprising as when we designed Projector’s reporting engine, we intentionally wanted to put a lot of the tools and raw ingredients into the hands of our users to allow them to shape reports to their liking, sort of the gourmet kitchen and well-stocked pantry of the reporting world. With all of those tools, however, come a lot of options.
To help out those users who just want some quick information without having to understand all the options, we provide several dozen pre-designed reports that cover many of the metrics that are most important to services organizations. Those reports cover topics ranging from availability, utilization, and project performance to revenue, profitability, and account balances, and everything in between. Many users, however, never use anything but those pre-packaged templates, which is a shame since beyond the frozen pizza lies a vast culinary (and reporting) landscape.
Within the space of this blog post and the next, we’ll talk about some of the basics of how to create reports from scratch and arm you with some of the core concepts to allow you to make best use of those tools. Make sure to connect with us (on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn) if you’d like us to update you once we do publish our next post.
Just like asking yourself “what do I want for dinner?,” before you can start creating a report from scratch, you first need to answer two fundamental questions:
- What sort of information do I need?
- How much detail do I want?
Projector’s reporting engine is based on several base report types, and answering the first question above is key to selecting the correct report type. If you want to design a report that tells you who will have some free time next week to work on a secret skunkworks project, you’ll need a report such as the utilization report that understands the concept of a whole resource and how much of each resource is available for more work. If you’re about to visit a client and want to see how their project is doing versus budget, a baseline variance report is the ticket.
Once you’ve selected the right base report type, figuring out how much detail you’re after will give you some insight into how you will need to configure the report. The same report type can be used to look at a high-level comparison of revenue for EMEA versus the US as well as detailed insight into hours logged to various tasks on a particular project—the difference is in the configuration.
We’ll tackle an explanation of the different report types today, and talk about configuring reports in our next installment.
The different report types in Projector really represent different diagonal slices of data, and are generally intended to serve several different purposes.
- Ginsu Report
Projector’s Ginsu report is our workhorse report that oftentimes is a great place to turn to if you don’t know where to start. Named for those really, uh, memorable, Ginsu knife infomercials that aired in the 1970’s, the Ginsu report is one of our most powerful tools to “slice and dice” your data.What the Ginsu report excels in is providing either high-level or detailed insight into operational data (including hours, rates, revenue, costs, etc.) for a particular time period. That time period may be in the past (giving you insight into historical time and costs logged to a project), in the future (providing visibility into scheduled hours and projected expenses), or both.
- Engagement Portfolio Report
The engagement portfolio report was designed to provide executives and delivery managers with a high-level overview of the performance of current engagements, regardless of when they started or when they are projected to finish. Like the Ginsu report, the engagement portfolio report will show actuals to date using historical time and costs, as well as estimate to complete using projected data.The other way the engagement portfolio report differs from the Ginsu report is in the level of detail that is available. The engagement portfolio report was intended to be a high-level view, and as such, wasn’t designed to give you detailed information such as time-phased data (e.g., week-by-week breakdowns) or detail below the engagement level. Rather, the engagement portfolio report was intended to allow you to identify engagements that are in trouble that you want to drill into in more detail.
- Engagement Report
One of the ways that you’d drill into an engagement in more detail is by running an engagement report. The engagement report lets you gain detailed visibility into a particular engagement, regardless of when it started or ended (somewhat like the engagement portfolio report), but provides the additional detail available in the Ginsu report.
- Utilization Report
Projector’s utilization report is the primary report that understands the notion of a “whole resource.” What this means is that this report can tell you not only what your people are working on (e.g., what percentage of their time did they spend billing versus selling?) but also what portion of their time is as yet unaccounted for. This unaccounted for time could represent availability (when it’s in the future) or a missing timesheet (when it’s in the past). The utilization report also understands what it means to be a salaried employee…that you’ll get paid the same amount whether you worked 6 hours last Monday or 12. As such, while the utilization report is obviously a good place to start if you want to understand utilization, it’s also a great source of information about “whole resource profitability,” availability, and time entry compliance.
- Variance Report
The one thing that all the reports discussed so far have in common is how they treat historical and projected time. That is, they will show you historical actuals from the start of the project through an “actuals cutoff date” and then show you projected data from that date through the end of the report. This is incredibly useful if you’re looking to understand how metrics such as revenue or utilization are trending starting in the past and flowing into the future.The variance report turns that relationship on its head and shows you historical actuals and projections in the past. While that may sound like an odd thing to do, it turns out to be quite useful if you want to compare what you were projecting to do versus what you actually did. For example, if you projected you were going to generate $12 million in revenue last quarter, but you only did $10 million, you might ask yourself a few questions. Was it because your implementation teams worked fewer hours? Were you able to bill fewer of those hours than you expected? Which projects, clients, teams, or departments were responsible for the majority of the shortfall? Answers to all of these questions are at your fingertips with the variance report.
- Baseline Variance Report
While the variance report provides information about how actuals compared to projections, the baseline variance report compares actuals and projections to budget baselines. Budget baselines in Projector give you the ability to establish a budget at the start of a project or at various points in time after a project is underway, such as after a major replan.These budgets can be an overall project-level budget, or they can be configured to be more detailed. For instance, a project manager may choose to subdivide the $100,000 she has for a web redesign effort into portions allocated for creative design, copywriting, development, and testing, and further divide that budget into buckets for each of the three months the effort is expected to take. The Baseline Variance report provides great visibility into how the project is doing with respect to those budgets.
- Task Analysis Report
For organizations using Projector’s project management module, especially the detailed task management features, the task analysis report provides detailed visibility into performance on those tasks. The task analysis report can highlight how project teams are doing on tasks with respect to performance to budget or performance to schedule and can show earned value information for organizations who have adopted the earned value management model.
- Accounting Analysis Report
Projector has two main accounting reports that provide users with an understanding of the financial transactions that result from activities such as approving expense reports, invoicing clients, or recognizing revenue. The first, the accounting analysis report, provides a detailed breakdown of the transactions that will be sent or have been sent to your accounting system, thus giving you detailed justification and reconciliation capabilities. The accounting analysis report is one of the principal tools that you can use to fend off your auditors when they start asking for backup for transactions that Projector has sent over to your accounting system.
- Accounting Balances Report
The account balances report is the second key accounting report. While the accounting analysis report provides an understanding of the financial transactions that have been created during a period, the balances report provides justification for the net balances left in key accounts at the end of a period. If you want to understand which engagements are responsible for that unbilled WIP balance left at the end of last fiscal year, the accounting balances report will provide you with the answers.
- Listing Reports
One of the things that all the reports mentioned above have in common is that they all are formatted as Excel pivot tables. Pivot tables are great when you want to see summarized, aggregated, and subtotaled data and are fantastic when you want to do some additional on-the-fly analysis.There are times, however, when you want just a nice, simple, listing of information on things like users, invoices, or timecards. The listing reports won’t provide a lot of analytical capabilities, but make up for that lack by being extremely detailed and very easy to understand.
Once you’ve decided on the right base report type to start with, you can create your customized report in one of two ways. You can start with one of Projector’s pre-built report templates and modify it to suit your needs. On the Reports tab, clicking on the Report Type column header will allow you to sort the list of existing report templates by report type, allowing you to zero in on pre-built reports that may come close to your needs.
Once you get more familiar with Projector’s base report types, however, it’s often faster to just create a new report from scratch rather than search through all the existing templates. Doing so is as easy as selecting Create New Report on the right hand side of the Reports tab and selecting the base report type that you’re interested in starting with.
If you’re interested in learning more about taking full advantage of Projector’s reporting engine, make sure to sign up to get updated whenever we post a new article on our blog. In our next post, we’ll talk about how to design a report now that you have selected the right type of report to work with. We’re also planning on starting up a series of educational webinars that will cover selected topics such as reporting in the coming months, and we’ll probably announce those webinars via our blog as well.
Whether your preferred method of staying up to date is Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or e-mail, we’ve got you covered. We’d also love to hear your thoughts about these educational opportunities, other topics you’d like us to cover, or any hints and tips that you’d like to share by leaving a comment below.