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How to Develop Issues Status Reports: Why Dashboards Dodge Big Problems

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 3/18/2012

Although dashboard features in the latest project management software platforms offer unprecedented insight into team activity, they don't replace the role of issues status reports in an organization. In fact, a project management dashboard might give your team a false sense of security.

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    Can Flashy Dashboards Save Your Project?

    Photo credited to ThisIsRobert via Flickr Many project management software tools feature dashboards that report, in real-time, the status of tasks and personnel in an organization. At first blush, many dashboards appear to negate the need for issues status reports and project status meetings. However, it’s up to dashboard users to make the decisions that really leverage the power of instant analytics. Instead of replacing a tedious task, dashboards can actually hasten the demise of a project.

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    The "Check Engine" Light

    Americans have become accustomed to a curious trade-off of risk and convenience. The “check engine” lights on our car dashboards have been rigged to pop on every few thousand miles, to encourage us to let our dealers discover if anything nasty lurks under the hood. Because we know about how the system is gamed, we’re more tolerant of the light. As a result, it’s harder than ever to find an airport taxi without a “check engine” light -- drivers simply wait for a more sinister alert, like a knocking engine or smoke emerging from the hood.

    Many modern workplaces aren’t very distinct from that overheated taxi. With a push for efficiency, some managers have replaced their issues status reports and meetings with dashboard tools that weren’t meant to drive a team’s focus. Unless they have been designed with actionable items as their focus, dashboards simply report problems with late tasks, missed milestones, and squandered resources. Smart project managers have discovered that dashboards can help put some of their responsibilities on auto-pilot by highlighting key issues that deserve to be placed on an issues status report.

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    Using Dashboards to Generate Issues Status Reports

    If your organization really wants users to make their own decisions based on dashboard updates, your issues status report might look a little bit different from that of a traditional project. In addition to highlighting the most urgent issues, experts recommend placing some attention on a few of the most persistent “check engine” lights. In many cases, you may be able to turn those red and yellow lights to green by reaching an agreement to change a deadline or to reallocate resources. In some instances, you may even discover that tasks have been completed and not reported to the system.

    Visit the Project Management Media Gallery to download a copy of Deanna's Status Report Template in MS Word.

How to Develop Issues Status Reports

Go beyond the formatting of a simple status report to learn how to select the right items to highlight for managers and stakeholders. Discover how to use issues status reports to influence organizations without getting a reputation for being defensive.
  1. Project Issue Status Report: The Basics
  2. How to Create an Effective Issue Status Report
  3. How to Develop Issues Status Reports: Why Dashboards Dodge Big Problems
  4. How to Develop Issues Status Reports: Getting the Most from a Status Report Meeting