Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Effective project status reporting and KPI reporting

The importance of project reporting

Transparency is key for successful project and program management—Problems that are realized too late can increase the cost significantly, or even lead to the failure of the whole project.

Successful projects managers therefore establish adequate status reporting right from the beginning with three goals in mind.

1. Understand the qualitative status

Communicating what happened since the last update creates a common understanding of the progress. Any risks and issues should be brought to attention early. And a common understanding about the next steps is the basis for smooth progress.

2. Track the quantitative progress

Sometimes, words can be white washed, and only hard facts tell the truth. On the one hand, you'll want to keep track of milestones and when they're achieved. On the other hand, it's a good idea to define Key Performance Indicators or KPIs which let you track the progress.

3. Trigger communication

Finally, project reports also serve as vehicle for communication. The regular exchange of information triggers interactions that otherwise wouldn't happen—or would happen much too late.

Status reporting doesn't have to be time-consuming

When asked about their experience with status reporting, most people think that it takes up more of their time than it should—for the project managers as well as for the respondents.

With, you can set up and run your project reporting in three simple steps. No installation needed. Let's take an example and create the project status report as shown below.

This report was created in a few minutes by filling out the cover letter

and then defining the data needed.

Our previous blog posts describe in more detail how to create a project reporting fetch and how to track and use the data.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How to never forget a password

Passwords are a thing of the past, or at least they should be. But as long as they are not, we have to deal with them. With many of them. You will agree that this is far from being an easy task. By now, we all know that using the same password across different web sites is a very bad idea.

But we can’t possibly remember a completely different password for every website or account? Yes, we can. Use a password manager! But choose wisely.

Monday, February 9, 2015

How to track, view, export the data you requested

With, it is really easy to request, track and consolidate ad-hoc structured data. In our last post, we showed you how to set up project reporting and send it out to your recipients in three simple steps.

Now let's have a look at how easy it is to track, view, and export the data you requested—and how you can download individual data from potentially hundreds of recipients in one, easy-to-process data set.

Status Overview

After logging in to, you see the list of fetches you sent and received. In the example below, you see that already 50% of respondents replied to your status report request.

Clicking on the fetch, opens up the details. You see all the recipients, and whether they replied or not. The envelope symbols allow you to send out reminders.

View individual data

To see what each of the respondents reported, just click on view data next to their name. You see their input in the same format that they filled it out.

Exporting data

More useful is probably to get all the data you received together, in one document, ready to be used and processed further. Click on the export symbol on the right. You have two options:

  • Classic format which is optimized to be easy to read.
  • Pivot format which has all data in one spreadsheet, for Pivot tables or DWH import.

 Let's look at the classic format. The file you download has one spreadsheet for all simple data elements, and additional spreadsheets for all data elements with dimensions.

The first data elements is a nice overview of the project names and managers.

The last spreadsheet, for example, contains the data of the three-dimensional data elements that we created to capture the financial data.

We prefer an easy-to-read format and create a Pivot table with a few clicks looking like this:

All data from all respondents is combined in one data set. In this example. we used only two respondents, but in real-world scenarios there can easily be hundreds. Imagine the amount of time, errors, and double-checking that this saves you!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Client example: Project reporting

Project reporting is painful. There's no way denying it. The project or program manager has to receive similar data from many recipients. Often, managing the process of getting the data takes up more time than actually analyzing the data. Not even talking about the work of consolidating all data into one file by copying and pasting. makes this task a breeze. Let's see how using a client example.

The author perspective

First, we create a new fetch by clicking on the orange Plus (+) symbol in the work space and fill it out with the purpose of the fetch (project status reporting) and the recipients (project managers).

After clicking on the orange "next" button, we start defining the data we want to receive. First, we just type down the names of all the data elements. We'd like to get the project name, the name of the responsible manager, their contact data, the project status and the financial summary of the project.

Now, we're adding some drill-down to a few of the data fields. Let's start with the contact data. We actually want that separated into phone and email contact data. In, this is very easy: we add a dimension (we chose the name type) to the data element contact data and add the value ranges phone and email. Note how the icon in front of contact data changes to indicate that we just create a table with one dimension.

Also the project status is more complex in our client example. They want the project managers to report it individually for each category (which is technology, business requirements, or resources) an for each quarter (previous and current). Again, easier done than said: just add the two dimensions and add the value ranges. Note how the icon in front of financial project status changes to indicate that we just create a two-dimensional table.

Many things involving finance tend to be pretty sophisticated, and so it is here. The financial data for the project has to be reported by budget type (CapEx, OpEx), by type (cash out, inter company), and by status (requested, approved, remaining). Add the three dimensions and the value ranges as in the previous examples. Note, how the icon in front of financial summary changes to indicate that we just created a multi-dimensional data cube.

That's all right? Almost! Not all the data we want is text. We change the data type of the project status to STATUS (which means it can only be red, yellow, or green) and the data type of financial summary to currency. This step is optional, but it ensures higher data quality by validating your users input automatically.

Clicking on the orange envelope symbol sends out the fetch. DONE.

The recipient perspective

The recipient gets notified about the fetch in his inbox. We'll show you how the fetch we created looks when it is being opened. Note how the data elements with dimensions have been converted in tables or collections of tables and how the data type STATUS offers a drop-down field showing the possible values.

How to track, view, use the data?

Read our next post.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New version of

Good news! We've just launched our updated site. Collecting data never was easier. Stop emailing spreadsheets around to consolidate your project status reports, sales reports, financial forecasts, ...

With, you collect ad-hoc data efficiently. Defining your data needs and consolidating data from various stakeholders is as easy as 1-2-3.

1. DEFINE the data you need in an easy-to-use, patent-pending interface.

2. SEND Enter the recipients and a cover letter— handles the communication.

3. USE Access and export the up-to-date, consolidated data in at any time.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Security vulnerability in bash

It was disclosed that Stephane Chazelas discovered a critical vulnerability in the GNU bash utility.
This problem is present on a vast majority of Unix and Linux systems. By using this vulnerability, any attacker can force the execution of arbitrary commands on an affected server. Although these commands may not run on root priviledges, a significant problem arises for future attacks on infected systems.

We immediately checked all our systems and updated nodes which were affected by the issue, to ensure the vulnerability is addressed.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Don’t rely on fake security.

What is the common denominator of the whole internet? You say the IP protocol or the Domain Name System? I say passwords.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to access your router, initiate a wire transfer, order a book, access your email or upload a photo—you need to authenticate with at least a password before you can do so.

And most password systems create a wrong sense of security.

Passwords are difficult.

Now think about your standard web service. When you created your account, they probably asked you to create a “secure” password, which is almost impossible because:
  • It’s hard to remember a different password for each account, users often have one or only a few passwords that they use for all services, which compromises multiple accounts when one password leaks.
  • Password rules differ widely (2 special characters here, capital letters there, no punctuation at another site) and are designed to make it hard for humans but easy for computers.

Passwords are open.

Of course, web services know that it’s impossible to remember all passwords, and that’s why they offer you an easy way to reset your password. Just click on the “forgot password” button, click on the link that they send to your email, and change your password.

Sounds easy, but it also makes any of your accounts no more secure than your email inbox!

And it gets even worse: The only information needed to change your password is sent over a medium that’s open like a postcard!

Maybe you use an encrypted connection to retrieve your email from your email provider (like Google, Yahoo or your company’s web server) but you have no control about how it got there, about which servers it traveled or whether the connections between them were encrypted or not. The opportunities for eavesdropping are virtually endless.

Why make it so complicated?

If passwords don’t really add to security anyway, can’t we just get rid of them? In fact, we can—by using one-time access tokens.

How it works is pretty simple: The system then sends a one-time token to your cell phone number (which was provided during sign-up)1. Entering this token grants access to the system.

This has a couple of benefits: The user doesn’t have to worry about finding a long and secure password, they don’t even have to remember a password at all. Even better: if an attacker gets to know one of the user’s access tokens, it’s useless to them because it cannot be used again.

[1] An alternative solution is to have a key generator (either as a software on your phone, e.g. Authy or Google Authenticator, or as hardware, e.g. RSA SecurId or YubiKey) which generates one-time codes which can only be used for 20 seconds after they’re issued and expire forever thereafter.

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