Once stakeholders have approved the project plan, the execution phase begins. At this point, project monitoring, tracking and reporting become the core responsibilities of project manager. But everyone on the team must also be aware of monitoring and tracking, so if issues arise, they are addressed. Project reporting documents show how things are progressing.
Effective project reporting requires clear, simple and concise communication. This communication flows in two directions. Not only top-down, from project sponsors and external stakeholders to team members, but also in the opposite direction.
How Tracking Builds a Successful Project Reporting Plan
Many types of project reports are created during the execution phase in order to track the progress of a project. Project status reports act not only as an important communication tools during project execution but also as important historical documents that inform the development of future projects. This makes estimating the scope of future projects less of a shot-in-the-dark, and more of an educated guess.
Project status reports have a few key objectives, including:
Making communication across the organization seamless
Simplifying the communication process
Keeping stakeholders in-the-know as the project moves forward
Delivering the right information, to the right stakeholders, at the right time
Enhancing organizational support for everyone involved
Project monitoring, tracking and reporting are a highly-collaborative process. Without monitoring and tracking the progress of a project, the reporting is not accurate. Therefore, teams must collaborate when creating reports, so communications are clear. This collaboration and communication is facilitated by the right project management tools.
ProjectManager.com Helps Teams Collaborate on Projects
Using tools that help with collaboration when monitoring and tracking makes evaluating a project easier. ProjectManager.com has a visual, timeline-driven Gantt charts, drag-and-drop kanban boards and interactive task lists to help teams collaborate on tasks in the way that works best for them. These three views empower teams to collaborate and execute effectively.
The Three Views for Project Execution
Using the Gantt chart, team members can check out an overview of how the project is going:
ProjectManager.com Gantt chart.
Or, filter the Gantt chart to see tasks only assigned to them:
Gantt chart with tasks filtered.
Clearing filters so you can see the whole project view—instead of just your own tasks—is as easy as a single click on the funnel icon in the navigation bar:
Gantt chart with cleared filters.
The task list view also allows anyone working on a project to filter tasks down to just those for which they are responsible:
Filtering tasks by user in the list view.
The third view to check out is the fully-customizable kanban board. The standard kanban comes with three columns named “to do, doing and done.” You can change the names of columns and add as many as you would like:
A standard Kanban board.
As you open up a task card in the kanban, you have the ability to upload a file, and do an @mention which invites specific people to collaborate on a task:
Card customization in the Kanban.
Expansion of cards opens options to add a to-do list within the task, add files, change progress of the task and even add comments to give a status update:
Expanding a card in the Kanban to customize.
Any changes made in the three standard ProjectManager.com views automatically populate to the other two views. This makes the project management process as seamless as possible for your entire team.
As the execution phase progresses, it’s important to report on progress so the schedule doesn’t go astray. Comprehensive project reports include six elements:
Start with the basics. What is the project’s name? Who will be managing the project? What are the available resources? Effective tracking requires detailed information. It’s an unsafe bet to assume stakeholders share your familiarity with the project. Instead, provide information you know they will need, even if it seems like overkill. This helps things run smoothly, and also sets groundwork for the project to be referenced as a precedent when future projects are being planned.
Report dates are the most important status information, and should always be front-and-center. Also, data separating status reports from other reports crossing stakeholders’ desks should be visible to grab attention.
Milestones are major touchpoints for your project. They serve as a guidepost for remaining work, and the timeline for it to get done. Conducting a milestone review lets stakeholders see actual progress versus what was estimated in the project proposal.
The project summary includes a projected completion date, as well as resources and costs expended. Inclusion of issues causing delays is an important summary component. There should be a clear explanation of how these issues could affect budget and timeline, and work being done to ensure things are corrected to get the project back on track.
Issues and Risks
This section is straightforward. List issues and risks you have encountered. Note how these are being resolved. Finally, outline how resolutions are positively impacting project execution.
Back up statements with hard numbers and data points. Project planning details should have outlined these metrics. Show how data illustrates the success of your project to date, or, highlight needs for immediate improvement.
Project Monitoring and Reporting Using ProjectManager.com
ProjectManager.com provides a bird’s-eye overview of the project’s health, including: the progress of individual tasks, overall project progress, expected time consumed versus actual time, planned versus actual cost, and the workload of individual team members:
Project overview dashboard with high-level view of health, tasks, progress, time, cost and workload.
You can also create a task report to drill down and see how individual team members are doing, and monitor their progress:
Fully-customizable tasks report.
The tasks report generated can be high-level, with an overview of the entire project:
Or, it can be drilled down to the individual level to see how one team member is doing on their tasks. In this case, we’re checking out all tasks to which Kieran Duncan is assigned:
Task list for one member of the project team.
It’s also easy to check out the milestone view of the Gantt chart to see how the project is tracking against the milestones set during the project planning phase:
Gantt chart filtered to show milestone tasks.
Project Reporting Best Practices
With these elements in mind, there are some project reporting best practices to consider:
Communication is the cornerstone: Status reports are a key element of your communications plan. However, these reports don’t have to cover everything, and be all things to all people. Writing reports in a way that delivers the right information to the right people, at the right time, should be the overarching goal.
Be consistent: Consistency is key. Find a format and distribution method that works for your stakeholders, and stick with it. They’ll appreciate the predictability of the information they receive.
Set targets and measure against them: Establishing metrics is an important part of project reporting and monitoring. Accordingly, these metrics should be how you project progress is measured against goals throughout its life-cycle.
Keep things simple: Keep reports simple to ensure effectiveness. Don’t pull in details unrelated to the issue on which you’re reporting.
Always verify what you’re reporting: It’s a bad idea to assume information is correct without doing due diligence to ensure it is.
Have some standards: Reporting simplification is made easier through creation of standards defining report structure, and how information is presented. Given this, building templates to make the work easier is a great first step.
Throughout any project, it’s important to evaluate reporting to avoid scope creep. As project teams start to work, and silos of activity develop, it’s vital to keep everyone aligned. This ensures project scope doesn’t creep.
Monitoring Scope Creep
There are five ways to avoid scope creep:
Document all project requirements: We’ve covered this at length, above.
Establish change control processes: If scope creep happens, it’s important to have change control processes in place to bring things back on track.
Create a clear project schedule: A thorough project schedule outlines project goals. It outlines tasks to be done to reach those goals. This schedule is referenced against the project plan’s requirements document to make sure everything is moving forward. If not, the schedule sets the course for tweaks or changes.
Verify scope with stakeholders: It’s worthwhile during a project’s lifecycle to review scope with all stakeholders. Reviewing the schedule together, and making sure all tasks stakeholders are expecting to be done on a given timeline is also a good idea.
Engage the project team: Make sure your project team is happy with how things are going throughout the project. As the change control process starts to take hold, let the team know how it will affect them. Weekly 1:1 meetings or team meetings to review tasks, and also overall project progress is a great way to keep your team engaged.
Project reporting can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Taking things step-by-step can help ease anxieties among everyone involved, and ensure a winning result.
Project reporting can be tough, but also efficient with the right tools. ProjectManager.com offers tools that make collaboration and development of project reports less time-consuming and more intuitive. Check out our reporting capability in action by taking a free 30-day trial.