The amount of data that is collected nowadays is quite astonishing. Using appropriate metrics to monitor and evaluate business activities helps companies to amass a staggering amount of valuable data. Moreover, project management tools make this process so much easier and faster as everything can be tracked in real-time. As your business expands and you discover new ways to generate information, the amount of data you need to interpret continues to grow. This can feel very overwhelming! Sometimes it’s a challenge knowing where to even start, or how to leverage data in order to make your business more successful. In this article, we will explain how real-time reporting can be used to your advantage.
Table of contents
1. What is real-time reporting?
2. Real-time reporting vs. static reports
3. Different ways to leverage real-time data
3.1 Make executive decisions
3.2 Track project progress
3.3 Increase profitability
3.4 Improve employee productivity
3.5 Keep track of budgets
3.6 Improve collaboration and trust
4. The importance of PM software for real-time reporting
5. Conclusion: real-time reporting has many benefits
The business intelligence practice of real-time reporting means up-to-the-minute data is collected while the related activities are still happening. This allows users to view the status of projects and activities at any given time, in the most current form possible.
Naturally, the biggest difference between real-time- and static reporting is that the former is based on up-to-the-minute information, while the latter holds historical data. Static reports are usually generated periodically, often giving insights per day, week, or month. These reports are very useful for evaluating results within a certain time frame in the past.
Real-time reports on the other hand, are updated continuously. This allows users to view data that is relevant to that exact moment. These reports illustrate how results develop before the activity is completed.
Once you have established a way to generate real-time data by implementing project management software, for example, you need to know how to turn it into a competitive advantage. To help make your business even more successful, take a look at these six different methods that you can use to leverage data.
Gone are the days that it could take weeks, or months before managers were able to spot trends within their organizations and take action. Real-time reporting now gives them the opportunity to turn valuable insights into actionable business improvements.
Imagine planning a long-term project, only to find out in hindsight that the used framework, resources, or budget are incompatible. Then imagine already having multiple similar projects moving in the pipeline, now knowing they will probably share the same undesired outcome. All of this can be prevented if managers can detect developments in a timely manner, taking action immediately.
Sometimes even the smallest difference between real-time data and static reports can make the difference between profit and loss. When the price of a resource suddenly goes up for example. Decision-makers need to be able to determine if it shouldn’t be used anymore and look for a replacement ahead of time before the project exceeds its budget.
This is just one example out of all the operational and tactical changes that can be based on real-time data reports. It can also help managers decide whether to add on extra team members, increase expenses, change the direction a project is heading in, or scrap it altogether.
Besides internal factors, managers must also respond rapidly to external factors. Market trends for example, can influence the needs and wants of the target market.
Whatever managers decide to do, the point is that real-time reports provide an opportunity to make truly informed decisions, instead of just basing them on a hunch. Furthermore, they can do this in a timely manner, before potential damage is already done.
One of the key factors in determining the success of your project is delivering it on time. This means making sure the deadline is met, by keeping track of all the activities that should be completed within a given time frame.
Monitoring the progress of each activity at all times means that you can pinpoint which ones are ahead of time, or taking too long. Some project management tools offer different viewing options, such as the percentage of a project that is completed. This way you can benchmark the progress against similar past projects, to identify variances.
If you are able to estimate what still needs to be completed before the deadline, you can still take measures to ensure the project is delivered on time.
Another advantage is that you will always be able to give your client detailed updates. You have probably had clients spontaneously call just to ask how things are going. Often much to your dismay, as you frantically skim through data to find something substantial enough to mention.
Some of the most intuitive project management tools such as Rodeo, allow you to pull up project data within seconds through the Quick Views feature. This shows relevant data at any given moment, to be relayed to your client. You can show that you know exactly what you are talking about, even when asked unexpectedly. This will positively influence your client relationships.
With all the relevant data analytics at your fingertips, it’s easy to spot what is adding on the most costs. Real-time updates will allow you to continuously see the effect of each activity on the profit margin of each project. Especially when you’re using an Agile project management method such as Lean, you can determine exactly where to cut non-value-adding activities in order to increase profitability.
Besides cutting costs, data also shows you which activities are adding the most value. Before the end of an accounting cycle, it's also very important to see which type of projects are making the most profit. This will give decision-makers the opportunity to act quickly, by pitching the services or goods provided by the company differently or coming up with special deals to increase the volume sold.
Detailed employee productivity reports provide an overview of who’s taking on a lot of work, while others might not be working to their full capacity. Usually, these reports are based on each employees’ availability versus hours tracked.
The last thing you want is a seriously overworked team member, while others don’t have enough to do. This could potentially cause reduced morale and frustration within the team, leading to a higher staff turnover. Real-time reporting prevents this as it helps managers to manage the workload and divide it evenly among their teams.
We have discussed how real-time reporting can increase profitability, and keeping track of budgets is an important part of this. There is a multitude of ways to keep your projects under budget. Again, it’s real-time reporting that shows the effect of each activity on the budget while the project is still running.
With Rodeo, you even have the option to see each update converted into a cash value. Being confronted with the effect of each action converted into cash, will really help you think twice about every move you make.
Full transparency is essential to instilling accountability within your team. Thanks to real-time reporting, the whole team is constantly aware of what each team member is working on and how they progress. This improves trust and collaboration as team members can see instantaneously where they can assist each other. Moreover, it supports a sense of ownership as the results from each individual’s efforts are visible right away.
This extends beyond the team. Being able to share performance insights with your clients also improves their trust in you. It will feel more like a collaborative experience for them instead of just awaiting results once the project is closed.
If you are currently not utilizing project management software, you are wasting way too much time estimating and calculating data yourself. Needless to say, it becomes near impossible to generate anything close to real-time data. You can’t keep recalculating things after each update manually, it’s too complicated and time-consuming.
The point of implementing project management software is to minimize manual work while eliminating the possibility of human error. Having software that’s built to track data related to common KPIs, is indispensable to any organization.
To be more specific, a highly intuitive all-in-one project management tool will bring you infinite benefits. If you rely on multiple tools and systems to collect the data you need, you will still find yourself figuring out how all the information correlates. However, with just one single system, every piece of information entered will automatically update the data from other related activities and departments.
For example, when an employee sets the timer of the time tracker in Rodeo, the recorded hours will be instantaneously added to their productivity report and the corresponding project. This automatically updates the percentage of the budget that’s used and the number of tasks that still need to be completed. Like a chain reaction, everything is updated up to the second.
By now, many of the benefits are illustrated by the examples given above. The most important benefit of real-time reporting is that it saves everyone -the team, managers, clients, and other stakeholders- a lot of time. It speeds up overall processes as well as decision-making, while obstacles and changes can be dealt with in a timely manner.
Besides this, the benefits of real-time reporting we have talked about so far are:
Faster decision making
Faster implementation of operational and tactical improvements
Faster response to market trends
Speeds up the overall business processes
Supports time- and deadline management
Improves the success rate of projects
Helps benchmark progress to similar projects
Ability to give clients detailed updates at any given time
Improves client relationships
Helps to identify non-value-adding activities
Increases profitability of projects, as well as overall profitability
Improves employee productivity
Improves employee morale
Improves team collaboration
Improves team accountability
Optimizes workload distribution
Prevents projects from exceeding budgets
Minimizes the amount of manual work
Do you want to implement real-time reporting to experience these benefits yourself? Our experts would love to hear all about your organization, in order to demonstrate how Rodeo can be used to optimize your specific business processes. Schedule a free demo (no credit card required) and enjoy a free 14-day trial.