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I lead the software development team at a mid-sized company. We follow an agile methodology with 3-week sprints, and use TFS for tracking all of our work. After considerable trial and error, I've been able to create a system that allows my team to stay on top of their work, while also producing live progress reports for upper management. For context, the progress reports update automatically every 30 minutes, and they also are saved as PDFs to a shared folder every day at 7am.

The problem I keep running into, however, is that my CEO and VP are in the habit of printing out the progress reports, then referring to the hard copy rather than the live reports. I've been in update meetings where our CEO has pulled out a month-old report, covered in handwritten notes and questions that were now obsolete.

How can I help upper management stay engaged with quickly moving projects? I don't think I'll be able to change their habit of printing hard copies, so is there a better way of communicating our progress and activity to them?

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Perhaps you could add the current date/time prominently to the screen or page with some text along the lines of:

"Valid as-at dd/mm/yy hh:mm"

That way its validity will be stored on any printed hard-copies along with the relevant data. It won't stop the seniors printing hard copies for meetings, making notes and then referring to that same page in the next meeting because that is how many busy senior people ensure they keep on top of moving subjects (they forget about it between meetings and just refer to their notes to remind themselves of what was important to them on that day). However it will give an easy at-a-glance way of determining how old the data is and perhaps you can get into the habit of prefacing any answer you give with "Well, I see that data is no longer relevant as it is x days/weeks/months old and you really need to see the latest..."

Even better if you also go into the meetings with new hardcopy printouts and hand them out before talking- the execs will almost certainly pour all over them before asking questions.

In summary, some people prefer to work from hard copy printouts, and you need to find ways to work with that but minimise the effect by providing newer data in a format they like to work with :)

  • +1 on the updated hard copy reports. I used to print out 25 copies of the status report and hand deliver them. This was time well invested as it meant all the key stakeholders were on the same page every week. They started taping them to their walls so they could look at them quickly. – Joel Bancroft-Connors Jul 7 '15 at 18:31
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I agree with Marv that these documents need to be dated; however, what is often missing is an expiration date. In aviation, the tools pilots use to navigate or plan or perform maneuvers such as approaches have a valid from and to date. This tells the pilot that, for example, the chart in his/her possession is valid or not and, in many cases, legal to use. We have adopted checklists from this industry; we should adopt a simple expiration date, too.

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Throwing raw numbers at the leadership is inviting trouble

Here is what should be in the report to the senior leadership:

  1. Release Plan: When are the next few releases planned? What key business goals will be accomplished in those releases?

  2. Velocity: Is the team velocity showing an upward trend? Also, you should educate the leadership that velocity cannot be compared across teams.

  3. Quality: Are the number and severity of bugs found in production per release showing a downward trend?

  4. Project completion: Based on current estimation of the backlog and the actual velocity, when do you expect to complete the project?

  5. Organizational impediments: What organizational impediments are constantly coming in the way of the team achieving higher velocity and faster releases? How can the leadership help overcome these impediments?

  6. Feedback from stakeholders: Highlights of the feedback from the stakeholders from the sprint demos/reviews.

I don't believe they can benefit from any reports that are more frequent than one per sprint covering the above aspects.

You, as the leader of the team, would be monitoring the burn-down chart, the WIP limit, open impediments, broken builds, extent of test automation and so on on a daily basis or even more frequently.

If there are follow-on questions from the leadership, after seeing the above report, you should provide more details. But just throwing some raw numbers at them, without the context, is inviting trouble.

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Either setup automated report delivery each week, or get them a custom dashboard. For execs, you have to find the right balance of information and ease of use. Is it easy for them to access the live reports? Are you giving them custom views or expecting them to sort through everything to find what matters to them? Make it easy for them to have the right info at the right time, and at least they'll have more up-to-date printouts.

One thing I'd worry more about are the questions they've got scribbled on their printouts. You may need to revisit your communication plan, and make sure that they are not hoarding questions that will come back and haunt you later.

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