Talk:Reports 11May13

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Reporting successes and failures against plan in the Chief Executive's Board Report[edit source]

At the February board meeting there were a few related commitments:

"Fae was concerned that staff reports did not have measurable actions in them, nor do they contain reports of failures and corrective actions. JD pointed out that this will be done via a traffic light system in the program planning grid, and would raise exceptions to the board in his report rather than the individual staff reports."
"JD will ensure that staff reports report failures as well as successes in future. MP raised the point that he cannot use the programmatic planning report as it is formatted as a word doc with very thin columns, and as such he cannot review and provide feedback/ask questions about it. He recommends using a wiki page and bullet points, or a spreadsheet. DT requested not using google docs as he can't access them."

Reading the latest CE report as a printout (it is a pdf) and comparing to CE report to Feb 13 board (an on-wiki page), the deliverables that were planned for the last quarter but appear, based on the evidence I have to hand so far, to not have been delivered, at a minimum include the following:

  1. finalizing QRpedia agreements and moving to WMUK maintaining the system
  2. [Train the Trainers] "Review in April By CE with Education Committee"
  3. being a payment processor for the 2013 fund-raiser (an expectation given at the last board meeting), no mention of this being rejected by the WMF
  4. closing books for 2012-13 Audit

These have not been listed as in the report as exceptions or failures, and though the CE report lists "current issues", none appears reported as a failure, with some items that were listed for delivery in last quarter now appearing as "projects in the next three months" without this context.

There was a commitment to "Monitoring risk register". Though a summary of a top 5 risks have been given to the board (yet another in-camera report, not available for our members), with a new analysis, though without a set of measurable actions, the original register has not been amended or updated on the office wiki since 18 February 2013.

I note that the minuted comments from MP and DT above, do not appear to have been taken on-board as the planning report is still a Google spreadsheet and no export is available. [See MP's comment on embedding GDocs at #CE Board report as an example]

Thanks -- (talk) 12:01, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

Open reporting[edit source]

At every board meeting this year, it has been pointed out that staff reports were published using closed formats. There is nothing to stop the wiki being used natively to publish these reports as they are almost entirely plain text with the odd table. As the year has progressed we have moved from some of the reports being presented on-wiki, to the current situation with none of the reports being available in an open standard, instead they appear to have been printed to PDF files from open office documents as a way of making them less open, guaranteeing they will not show up in on-wiki searches, almost impossible to comment on, difficult to cut and paste from, or share actions from.

This may be considered a very minor issue, but as it has been highlighted as an issue over so many meetings, I believe it now requires a vote of the board of trustees in order to either adhere to the underpinning value of openness, or to remove it as one of our top level values, that would be expected to guide the way we work together as a charity. -- (talk) 16:43, 1 May 2013 (UTC)


"Just because we use PDF files for staff reports,surely doesn't mean we are no longer being 'open', and thus the charity should remove this as a value."
PDF files are an open standard: Adobe officially released the PDF as an open standard in 2008 (ISO 32000). We use PDFs for several reasons:
  • They're viewable on any system, be it a mobile phone, a Windows PC, a Mac, or a Linux-based system. Many volunteers do not have OpenOffice - some trustees do not have it either. Being open is not just using an open-source writing program or an easily copyable file - it's making sure that the highest number of people possible can read the file, in any format, anywhere in the world.
  • Reports are meant to be 'frozen in time' - a snapshot of what the staff have been doing. They are an important record of the charity and it would be a risk if people were able to go back in and change them.
  • PDFs are an international standard which are used throughout the Wikimedia movement, and accepted for upload on Commons.
  • Although PDFs are not searchable on mediawiki at the moment, there is an open bug which will allow them to be searchable in future: https://bugzilla.wikimedia.org/show_bug.cgi?id=6422. The PDFs are easily readable and it is easy to copy and paste from them. It is also easy to comment on them.
This issue is not a strategic one, it is based on what is practical, I don't think that file formats are something that trustees should be deciding, frankly. When we have complicated documents, including tables and spreadsheets that are living documents we need quick and easy access and the ability to change things quickly. I hope that the community and the rest of the board will agree.
We could place the majority of the reports on-wiki as wikitext as well, but I am hesitant to do so for the following reasons:
  • They will not be viewable as easily on all systems.
  • They will not be frozen in time, allowing people to make changes after the report deadline (or even during the board meeting!)
  • There will be two versions of the reports in circulation - the PDF, and the on-wiki version. These will end up differing (inevitably).
  • It's more work for staff, for very little benefit. We need to use our resources wisely.
The most important thing is to share the information as openly as possible and I think we are. Jon Davies WMUK (talk) 13:33, 2 May 2013 (UTC)
I have no idea how writing the textual reports on-wiki natively is more work for staff than introducing a more complex workflow using other editors (open office?), exporting the documents to pdf dumps and then uploading them on-wiki. This process loses the edit history, and makes it opaque as to how members or trustees ought to raise comments, corrections or even view these easily on-wiki (the preview function is naff, meaning that any reader has to specially download the file and then use some other unspecified reading application).
Symptoms of being opaque:
  • Lack of clear or consistent integration between staff reports and the actions, budget, or risks that will be reviewed during the board meeting. As there is no systematic numbering or identification, I cannot work out if actions or risks raised at the last board meeting are being addressed in these reports, without doing a significant amount of unnecessary spadework.
  • Hyperlinks to evidence and other reports and policies are almost completely pointless in the pdf documents. Presumably they were added when the text was drafted in whatever editor was used. I certainly cannot use them when embedded on-wiki.
There may be an ISO standard for people to develop tools against (such as printing tools), but Wikimedia has no current plans to make MediaWiki integrate these better, or to introduce a native editor or even comment tool. This is aptly demonstrated by the Bugzilla report you refer to, which was raised 7 years ago; it is a safe bet it will never happen.
With reference to the usability of reports to trustees not being "something that trustees should be deciding, frankly", as a trustee who is finding my personal volunteer time being wasted by the choice of the format of these reports, I would have expected to have the opportunity to explain why this wastes my time and see the situation improve in response. The fact that I have been raising concerns about the format and content of staff reports quite consistently over the last 6 to 12 months, might indicate that it is an issue that concerns trustees, rather than being none of our business. Thanks for being frank. :-)
Rather than finding complex reasons for avoiding being more open, why not actually be more open? -- (talk) 11:22, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

CE Board report as an example[edit source]

Section moved from #Reporting successes and failures against plan in the Chief Executive's Board Report to keep that thread on-topic. -- (talk) 11:08, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

I have created CE Board report, May 2013, by spending my volunteer time reverse engineering the text. As a trustee, I do not have access to the original document, only the public pdf dump and a printout of this report I was posted this week. -- (talk) 12:23, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

With regards the use of google docs, access has improved since the google extension has been made available on the office wiki (I hope it can be made available on this wiki soon), and also the provision of PDF documents as per my suggestion to the office. This makes it somewhat easier to leave comments, although it's still far from an ideal process. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:28, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Great, though the biggest failing of the WMUK wikis is the inability to find things through simple searching (I recall Johnbod reminding us about this at almost every board meeting when he was a trustee). Both embedded pdfs and now (sigh) Google docs, will remain unfindable using the search engine unless people make the effort to add abstracts, in my view a somewhat pointless increase in work if the documents in question (staff reports) could just as easily be published natively. 90% of this situation is unnecessary complexity and avoidable bureaucracy, rather than ensuring accessibility, transparency and openness are at the core of why and how we make choices of tools and publication methods. -- (talk) 11:05, 8 May 2013 (UTC)

2013 programme planning grid[edit source]

The column "3 month target APRIL" needs a clarification. The version of the report presented in February 2013 included this column but its contents seem significantly changed. As the original and the latest documents are Google spreadsheets where I have only been granted read access, I cannot confirm the edit history. At what date were the targets frozen for reporting purposes? At the moment, this does not logically seem possible to claim as 3 month targets as they must have been set less than 3 months in the past, and may have been amended several times.

The column "Lead" needs an explanation, as this does not appear to be the agreed budget holder.

The column "WMUK KPIs if applicable" would more meaningfully read "Metrics" or similar. These are not agreed key performance indicators for WMUK and items such as "Monitor their reports" are neither metrics, nor KPIs, but appear to be activities without specific or measurable deliverables. -- (talk) 14:02, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

Development spend[edit source]

In the last quarter, I can see that the charity invested something like £5.5k in contract development. From the unofficial organogram that Rock Drum produced (the trustees have no other document that defines the up to date reporting structure, such as one might find in the charity's Resource Plan), this would appear to be suitable to be included in the CE Report as all contract developers report to the CE. In practice, the most relevant projects might be included in the fundraiser report, however:

  • specific areas that would have required some of this money are not mentioned in either report, for example preparations to support QRpedia
  • there is no way as a trustee for me to work out which projects required contract development time, or to deduce where the money went based on the other financial reports available to the trustees
  • it is not clear to me which staff member has authority and responsibility for managing the contract developers (as a trustee I should know this) and for different projects this may vary

-- (talk) 12:33, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

Hey Fae -
So, at the moment you can find a LOT of information out in Development and specifically IT_Development/Progress_meetings. There's no condensed/formal reporting system yet - but you can immediately get a sense that the work has been primarily system administration not project work per se, though there has been some work on QRpedia prep by Emmanuel in terms of setting up a parallel install, and Tom on the VLE. I could request estimated breakdowns of hours for those?
In terms of who has authority and responsibility for managing Tom and Emmanuel as staff, I'm working WITH Tom and Emmanuel to get things done on a practical level, basically by acting as the end user/client. Jon is contractually their line manager - that will not vary across projects. Who they work WITH to achieve outcomes might (its been me historically because a lot of the legal and technical infrastructure that has required progression is primarily in connection to our fundraising activities). As we've only just started to use Bugzilla this opens up the possibilities of logging tasks and projects from volunteers, the community, other staff. Tech Comm will meet in Lincoln so you can sit in if you are free (it will probably be early saturday evening in a pub) - the idea is we evolve a way for the community and volunteers to have input while also having someone who determines what projects are of highest priority - currently this is Jon, advised by me following meetings. That can change if there is a better solution.
Also, as we begin move out of this set-up stage, we can move to doing a more detailed breakdown of hours v tasks. I'll put it on the agenda for our update meeting on Thursday and I hope that we can recommend something useful - so I'll update here again on Friday? Katherine Bavage (WMUK) (talk) 15:08, 7 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the update. Is there a document, such as a project brief or a project plan, that defines this development work from the high level budget given at 2012 Developer budget? I can see that IT Development has a list of topics and a to-do list, but this gives me no sense of how priorities are pragmatically set for these against the outcomes that one might find in a project brief, or how tasks are defined (i.e. not just by whom (only Jon?) and in ways that are testable and against the measurable outcomes). If this is run as a type of Agile development rather than a more classically planned technology project, there should be a way of setting the water margin against a product backlog, and we should be able to see time-boxed outcomes. I get the monthly spend figures on contractors, but none of the reports coming to the board meeting on Saturday appears to tell the trustees any more than this. As two trustees already sit on the Technology Committee, I doubt I can add much value by sitting in the the meeting. Thanks -- (talk) 17:20, 7 May 2013 (UTC)

Hi Fae - no there isn't a project brief or plan. If you cast your mind back to last year, the Charity was unable to recruit a full time developer, so we went with contractors to pick up sysadmin work which was pressing. That's still where we're at. We're about up to speed with that now and at a point where we need to look at a more long-term approach. Perhaps best to discuss with Mike and Doug or as a board ask the Technology Committee to examine, as that's what it's there for. Its well beyond my remit/experience/responsibility to deliver this kind of work - I've essentially been drafted in to make sure sysadmin work didn't languish any longer. I'm sorry if you were under the impression things were more advanced than that. Katherine Bavage (WMUK) (talk) 10:14, 8 May 2013 (UTC)