Reporting – it’s what a project manager does. No matter if you’re a journeyman or an apprentice in the field, you’ve made a report, either by hand or with reporting tools. However, you may not know that there are several different types of reports, or how to specifically address those reports to particular audiences.
Here is an outline of five of the more common types of project reports, but are nonetheless crucial to the successful running of a project.
1. Status Reports
“Can I have that status report in an hour?” It’s the kind of question project managers hear a lot. Maybe it’s from the project sponsor, or your Project Office manager, or a colleague. This is the most common type of project report and the one that you probably find yourself working on most regularly.
You can produce status reports weekly or monthly – and on one project recently I ended up producing daily status reports during the implementation phase. The frequency depends on where you are in the project and how much there is to say. There’s not much point reporting daily if your tasks all take over a week, as you won’t have any progress to report from day to day.
As you will spend a fair amount of time producing status reports, it is worth considering ways to make it faster to write them. Better yet, automate as much reporting as possible. Create a standard status report template or use the one that comes with your project management software (you can check out the reporting features of our tool here as an example), and use the data in your scheduling tool to populate the project progress. Even if you have to amend it afterwards, having some of the fields completed for you will still save you a lot of time.
2. Risk Reports
Many PMs report on risks at least monthly, and the report is normally the output that comes after a risk review meeting. Of course, you can update your risk log at any time, and you should be encouraging all your project team members to contribute risks to the log whenever they feel something needs recording.
Related: Free Risk Tracking Template
The risk report should include a summary of the risk profile of the project, but how you present this is up to you. A good approach would be to only include the details for the risks that have the potential to create the most problems for your project. Then, include a statement on the lower-level risks, perhaps summarizing how you are managing all of these.
You will also want the possibility of producing a report about all your risks, regardless of how significant they are. It’s probably easiest to do this as an automated download from your project management software, or if you keep your risk log in another format like a spreadsheet, by issuing a complete copy of that document.
3. Board/Executive Reports
Reports need to be tailored to the people who are going to read them. So the report you produce for the project board will have a different level of detail in it compared to the weekly status update that goes to your project team and key business stakeholders.
For the project board reports, think high level. They will want to read about things that are important to them, like issues they can help resolve, a summary of the budget position, and whether or not you are on track to hit key milestones.
Make sure that your board report is in a format that they can easily read. For example, if your executives are always on the road and use their smartphones to check emails, don’t produce your report in the form of a complicated spreadsheet that won’t display correctly, or include loads of large graphics that will take ages to download. A pdf will render across devices if you’re emailing a static report. Or you can grant licenses for board members or senior leadership so they can see real-time dashboard reports on the go.
4. Resource Reports
How do you know who is doing what when? You could go through the entire project plan and work out the resource allocations by hand. That would take a lot of time, and be mind-numbingly dull as well. Or you could use your project management planning software to work it all out for you. Most software tools, whether they are a standalone Gantt chart software or fully-featured project tools with integrated timesheets, will have the option to create a resource report.
The resource report will show you the breakdown of which project team member is allocated to which task on which day. They can also be used to pinpoint over allocation problems – where a team member is allocated to more than one task. Obviously they can’t work on two things at once, so if you don’t pick up these problems you’ll find that your project plan slips behind schedule. Use the resource report to ensure that you haven’t got clashes for individuals and reschedule those tasks as necessary.
Resource reports can also be useful for scheduling more than one person. You’ll be able to see when someone becomes available, and that is a good sign that they can be given more project tasks at that point. If you compare the resource availability to the project’s timeline you can also plan more efficiently. As one task done by one person ends, you can make sure that someone else is available to pick up the next thing that needs to be done, so that tasks don’t stop halfway through waiting for the next person to become available.
Overall, resource reports are one of the most useful types of project reports to be had as a project manager, although they can be a bit difficult to interpret at first. It really is worth spending the time getting to know how to read the reports so that you can make changes to your project schedule as appropriate.
5. Variance Reports
How can you tell if the project is in fact progressing as planned? That’s the beauty of a variance report: it compares the planned against the actual outcome, giving you a metric to measure if you’re on track, ahead of schedule or running behind.
The variance report will collect and organize the data on what you’re comparing, whether it be the budget, schedule or scope of the project variable you’re measuring. The variance report gives you the tool to many a variance analysis or a measurable change from the baseline.
There are several variance reports, such as cost variance, variance at completion (budget surplus or deficit), scheduled variance and others. Mostly, variance reporting is used in budgetary analysis, trend reporting and spending analysis.
The variance report is a great tool for the project manager, who needs a lens into the project’s progress so as to make intelligence decisions on allocating resources. But not only project managers benefit from the reporting. Stakeholders are interested in high-level reporting, and variance reports give them a thumb’s up or thumb’s down as to the progress of the project and whether it meet its schedule and budget.
How often you should run a variance report depends on many factors. For example, what kind of project is it? What’s its duration? Where is it taking place? The accounting methods a project manager uses will likely be different from project to project, but a regular variance report is a powerful metric to determine the health of your project.
Automated Project Reports with ProjectManager.com
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The right software is going to help you as a project manager. We developed the project reporting and dashboard features of ProjectManager.com to help project managers simplify this fundamental task. The template reports of our software will provide a needed head-start on monitoring your projects. If you need resources to see them, no problem—you can grant team members direct access, saving time by issuing them to the right people on a regular basis. Start your free 30-day trial now and start reporting smarter.
(This post was updated November 2019)