Friday, April 9, 2010

Re-writing Status Reports...

"A Test Execution Status Report a day keeps all the Stakeholders at bay" :)!!!!! - Very true. When your project enters the test execution phase, please keep sending every day status reports on progress, issues faced, blockers, etc. and all stakeholders would be pleased... at least, most of the time!!!

Now, some time or the other, all of us have written status reports... “Management Teams are known for asking Delivery teams periodic updates on status, status on progress and a progress on the update :) “!!! But, have we ever given a thought to RE-Writing Status Reports? What happens when you re-write a status report? The first report that we write would be a direct outpour of data in its current form. It’s only when you try to re-write it and tweak it, that you’d be able to create more visibility to what needs to be seen and ensure that the right information is present at the right place.

Few Important factors, which people keep forgetting, while writing a status report, oops… while “Re-writing” a status report ... -- Quantitative, Concise, Accuracy, Font Usage, Priorities, Risks with business impact!!!!! There might be a Zillion more, but I feel that these are 6 main “Forgotten Factors” while "re-writing" a status report.

Here is a list of common problems that I have seen in Status Reports:-

1) Forgotten Big Picture -- Forgetting the "Big Picture". Sometimes, we tend to forget the big picture and concentrate on talking about trivial issues, which may not form a part of the bigger picture.

2) It becomes an Essay instead of a Report -- Some Status Reports might run for a few pages. How many of us even try to scroll down a daily status report?

3) Hidden Critical Information -- Some reports may have the most important piece of information hidden somewhere in the middle, or in a corner. Nobody would end up seeing this, whereas, this needs to be the first information that’s seen.

4) 2 Hour Status Report -- I have seen some people spend at least 1-2 hrs every day trying to consolidate a status report. If you do this, then something somewhere’s potentially wrong.

5) Copy Pasting -- A common habit of the fake tester is to copy-paste the information from some text and circulate it. A true tester comprehends what's being sent before sending the report. A fake tester copies and pastes information without understanding what the information’s all about.

Having given the "gyan" of what's important while writing, oops.... re-writing, these daily status reports, let's try to see as to why they are important.

Why Quantitative?
Always say it with numbers. Compare the statements -- "Worked on Logout Test Cases", "Execution of 50% Logout Related Test cases. Unable to execute 20% due to show-stoppers. Pending 30%". Having a number in every statement in a report gives a very quantitative understanding of what's been accomplished.

Why Concise?
Most people do not spend more than 30 seconds on status reports. Most of them don't even scroll down. So, please use the top most part of the report to talk about Main issues, blockers, concerns, risks, etc. – Items that need immediate resolution.

Why Accurate?
Your status reports have to be accurate enough to reflect current status. People would not be interested in the status as of the day's morning or afternoon.
In the long run, you might end-up losing your credibility if your reports are not accurate.

Font Usage --- What for?
Fonts are available to be used. Use RED for Blockers, Green for Concerns, etc. With a different color, issues get highlighted more easily and are more readable.

Do-next Priorities ---- In a status report?
Yes. Assuming you have identified 3 blockers and 5 defects, ensure that you put the name of the person who needs to look into it against each one of them. It would ensure everybody would know who is looking into a potential issue and ask him for status, accordingly. If it is a group, please find out who would be replying to you on this, and include their name in the report.

Risks in a daily status report?
Yes. If there are some defects, which can result in a business risk, please highlight it accordingly. It always pays to highlight the business risk so that the right person would look into it at the right time.

Project Risks and a Business Risk are different things. Please understand the difference while highlighting them.

After you write and re-write your status reports, do a quick check as to whether the reports are Quantitative, Concise, Accurate, Usage of Fonts, Do-next Priorities mentioned and Risks explained clearly.

Other than the above, there are other factors such as System Health Check, Severe defects, Priority fixes required, Work completed in the current day and plan for the next day, etc. etc. etc., but, these would be a part of many status reports. I tried to talk about the above since those are very crucial factors, which can be easily missed…. Project Pressure does so many funny things… so does the late night cab that you have booked which keeps honking while you try to send this report in a hurry and catch the cab!!!

Try this if you want to… Write a Status report… And use the above checklist to re-write it --- See the difference… Keep doing it till they become a habit with you… Happy Re-writing :) !!!