Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Efficient reporting

Problem: Inefficient reports are not read, hence wasting effort in the development organization.
It has become evident to me that reporting, and especially efficient reporting in becoming paramount in software development projects. Complexity is higher than ever and deadlines are tight, leaving little room in the organization for reading, understanding and reflecting on huge reports.
Solution: Write reports that deliver information refined for the receiver.
An effective report presents and analyses facts and evidence that are relevant to the specific problem or issue of the report, and does so brief and precise. All reports need to be clear, concise and well structured. The key to writing an effective report is to allocate time for planning and preparation.
I suggest that following steps are applied:
Understand the purpose of the report and the recipient group - Consider who the report is for and why it is being written.
Gather information for the report - Your information may come from a variety of sources, make sure that you know them. In addition to this you need to consider how much information you will need, depending on how much detail is required in the report. Keep referring to your report purpose and recipient list to help decide level of information.
Organizing the materials – Organize your content so it makes logical sense, for a test summary report it could be test preparation, execution and finally test results.
Writing the report – Start by drafting of the report, take time to consider and make notes on the points you will make using the facts and evidence you have gathered. What conclusions can be drawn from the material?
Review your work – It goes without saying that a review is needed, like any other workproduct it pays off to read it twice and weed out the spelling mistakes and contradictions that entered the report while writing it.
Present it to the world – A report not reaching an audience looses it’s meaning. Make sure that you communicate the report to the stakeholders. And make sure that you make it easily available.
Other tips:
·         Be careful with reporting templates, their generic nature often include all kinds of information that might not serve you. Make sure that you critically review the template to lose anything that does not support your report.
·         Your management summary must be short and to the point – Often this is the only thing read, by the recipient. The more manager-friendly your report is, the bigger you chance of creating awareness in the organization. If distributing the report by mail, then consider including the management summary in the mail body text.
·         Be very clear about conclusions and recommendations – I often include in the management summary as bullet lists, to ensure that they are communicated unambiguously to the reader.
·         Avoid Cover My Ass (CMA) clauses all over the report – CMA clauses blur your message, and hurts your creditability with the reader.
·         Remember that test is all about dealing with information about the delivery, meaning that the reports and communication of same is paramount for documenting the results of your hard work.
Happy Reporting!

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