As an engineering director, you’re responsible for communicating your teams’ performance to senior leaders and other important stakeholders.
A great report delivers a clear and concise picture of the state of your engineering org, including relevant information on your teams’ progress and any potential risks. Reporting sessions are just as valuable to you as they are to leaders, providing you with an opportunity to advocate for your teams and ask for resources and funding.
But building and delivering a great report can be tricky. How do you know which metrics and information to include? How can you create a clear narrative? And how can you use these sessions to build and maintain trust between you and your seniors?
As part of our series, ‘Engineering reporting at different levels’, we brought together a small group of engineering directors for a roundtable discussion hosted by Pat Kua. The session featured a presentation from James McGill, VP of Engineering at Code Climate, and a group discussion around common reporting challenges and best practices.
Here are the highlights!
‘If you’re not speaking a shared language, you’re holding yourself back.’
Have you ever had difficulty maintaining alignment with executive stakeholders – or explaining that engineering is not always the bottleneck – or agreeing on the state of a situation with senior leaders? In this talk, James McGill, VP of Engineering at Code Climate, explains why the secret to alignment is great reporting. Check out the video below to hear his practical tips for improving your reports.
What are the biggest challenges when reporting to different departments?
The pressure of reporting can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re worried you’re the only one facing certain roadblocks. We asked our participants to share some of their biggest challenges, and it turned out all of them were shared by the wider group:
- Identifying metrics that are relevant to different functions
- Figuring out how to tell clear, engaging stories around the data
- Finding the time to get all the relevant stakeholders together
- Setting the context without going too deep
- Navigating the lack of a ‘common language’ between different departments
- Dealing with a lack of consistency around tools between different departments
- Sharing enough information around engineering effort as well as business impact
What can engineering directors do to improve their reports?
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to reporting, but there are some agreed best practices that can help you to level up your skills. Here are our engineering directors’ insights on how to improve your reports:
- Track what you can measure already so you know what data is available (and automate this tracking if possible)
- Focus on consistency in your tooling and how things are tracked
- Always provide context around the metrics you’re sharing
- Only report on aspects of the work that you can control
- Make your reports impersonal by focusing on the processes and outcomes rather than individuals
- Focus on team/org metrics rather than individual metrics
- Pair quantitative and qualitative data for a fuller picture
The reports you give will have their own specific requirements depending on your organization, the state of your teams, the tooling you use, the data available, and of course, who you’re reporting to. But our discussion has surfaced a few ways all engineering directors can set themselves up for success. The next time you’re preparing a report, remember to tell an engaging story around relevant, consistent data, and focus on measuring outcomes within your control. Good luck!