Value-driven Status

If you work in a professional environment, you inevitably have to communicate the status of your work to your manager. If you are in the professional services business, then you have an even tougher “manager” – your client.

Systems Flow consultants typically provide status to clients either weekly or monthly. As with most things that are critical to success in consulting, we’ve developed standards for status reports. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to readers who know how meticulous we are, even about seemingly mundane things.

The most important status report is that given to our client sponsors – the individuals who contract with us, and manage our engagement and relationship with the rest of the client’s employees. We typically do client work on behalf of these individuals, so proving to them our value in this work is critical to retaining their trust. That’s where whiz-bang status reporting comes in.

Value-driven status should highlight both:

  1. Accomplishments: Things worth bragging about. These are completed activities that brought value to the client in specific ways (see below).
  2. Challenges/Risks: These are “time-bombs” that may go off, which may necessitate our sponsor engaging to help sort out. Typically a Systems Flow consultant will diffuse them, but sometimes escalation is required. It’s important to alert on these as early as possible – once these have matured into problems, it’s too late!

What’s an Accomplishment?

In a nutshell, a real accomplishment must have either:

  1. Saved the client time and/or money
  2. Materially forwarded the client’s mission
  3. Helped the client avoid risk (or be aware of it, at least)
  4. Incidentally improved the quality of a process or deliverable aka.”proximity value” – just by having you engaged something beyond your own responsibility was improved (e.g. the project as a whole, a design process, an application feature, etc.)

Everything can be boiled down to one of these four.

Examples Accomplishment – Before & After

Here’s what a fictitious accomplishment status looked like before and after improvement:


“Jeanine provided guidance to the project business sponsor on the impact proposed requirement changes would have on solution design”

Jeanine is an IT architect, and while its great that she is being a good adviser and “fact broker”, this status still leaves me wondering: So What? How did the guidance Jeanine provided save the client time or cost, forward their mission, avoid risk, or improve the project’s quality? Its lurking there just under the surface. With some prodding, she came up with this:


“Jeanine delivered analysis showing that new requirements would require a complex design, increasing the project timeline and cost, while touching only 2% of the scenarios currently in scope, providing little benefit. The requirements were dropped.”

This obviously saved the client time, cost and project churn. We also frequently see this confusion in a project where stakeholders refuse or are unable to focus on facts. Without factual analysis around a design problem – which in this case proved that the team was focusing on the thorniest problem which would deliver only 2% of the benefit once solved – people will become paralyzed in analysis until all possible problem scenarios are addressed. This is frequently the wrong approach, as Jeanine proved once again.

In conclusion, be and be seen to be valuable to your clients, colleagues and managers. Use every opportunity – even a “mundane” status report – to put your accomplishments in the best possible light.

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Ben Sommer

was a Principal Consultant with Systems Flow, Inc.

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