Stakeholders are concerned with the progress of the project because they have a vested interest in its success. They want to stay in consistent communication with you and get reports on how the project is progressing over regular periods of time.
The way for a project manager to keep stakeholders updated is through reporting, specifically with a progress report. A project progress report sounds straightforward—it’s a report on the project’s progress. But how it’s structured makes or breaks a progress report.
What Is a Progress Report?
A progress report communicates what has been happening in the project, over a set period of time, to stakeholders. It shows whether the project is on schedule, and if not, the report is used to start a discussion on how to adjust the budget and project resources to bring it back on track.
Therefore, you can say that the purpose of a progress report is to persuade stakeholders that the project is sound and moving forward as expected. It does this by showing the work-in-progress, which allows stakeholders the opportunity to make any change requests.
These suggestions can then be managed and worked out to prevent any negative impact on the project scope. Project managers can also use progress reports as a means to address issues that they’re having and, in doing so, set more realistic expectations for the stakeholders.
Progress Report vs. Status Report
What’s the difference between a progress report and a status report, given that they are both communication tools and provide stakeholders with vital information on the project? Both progress reports and status reports summarize where the project is at in terms progress, costs, issues and any other information that is helpful to stakeholders.
There is one key difference, however. A progress report is a picture of the project over a course of a specific period of time, while a status report only captures the moment in which it was initiated. The progress report offers a larger amount of data, while the status report shows data from a moment in time without the larger context.
What Should Be Included in a Project Progress Report?
A progress report can be one page or several, depending on the depth of detail you wish to convey. They can be delivered as a memo, in letter form, or as a formal report when presented to stakeholders.
Whichever you choose, stakeholders will want to see where the project is and where it’s going. Therefore, you should include a list of tasks, milestones and whatever progress was made. This leads to the larger goals of the project and what has been accomplished in terms of its objectives.
This is usually structured by topic. That is, there is usually a summary first, which gives an overview of the project’s progress in terms of scope, tasks, etc. This should also include items such as:
- The date of the project’s start, when it’s scheduled to finish and the period that the project covers
- A list of team members and other project members, plus whoever compiled the report
- A list of the stakeholders, who are the recipients of the report
- An overview of the contents of the report
Next, you will focus on the status of the project. Here you’ll look at what work has been done, which is still in progress and what remains to be done. It should be broken into the task and could include the following:
- A list of milestones and deliverables related to the project
- A timeline of remaining work and when it’ll be completed
- Any problems or issues that have arisen and can impact the project
There should also be some mention of the budget, how much has been spent over the period being reported and how much is left in the overall budget. Note any unexpected expenditures and other anomalies.
How Do You Create a Progress Report?
If you’re running a project, you’ll have to produce a progress report periodically over its life cycle. To save time, it’s good to use a progress report template. ProjectManager.com has dozens of free project management-related templates on our site, including a free progress report template.
Start with Identifying Info
Whether you’re using our template or creating one from scratch, your progress report should begin with project top-line information. From there, it goes into a summary of the project. Our template breaks those high-level topics into five: status, scope, schedule, cost and risk.
Summarize the Data
The summary is where you can compare the status of the previous progress report to the current one. This provides a clear indication that the project is moving forward as planned. Beyond that, there’s room for a summary to explore the topic in greater detail.
Dive Into Finer Details
Once you’ve identified the project and summarized its overall status, you can then go into greater detail about each topic. For example, listing tasks and their progress, going into any issues that might have arisen and looking into your budget allocation.
List Your Accomplishments
On our free progress report template, we end with an accomplishments box to capture any that were not collected above. Finally, there’s an expected accomplishment box, which is a way to set expectations for the next progress report.
Best Practicing When Making a Progress Report
When you’re writing your progress report, one way to make sure it’s effective is to think your stakeholders’ perspectives as you write it. You want to relay what happened over the period covered if anything blocked that progress and what is coming next.
Don’t Be Generic
Stakeholders want specifics. They don’t want you to go into details about how you accomplished something, but they want to know what was accomplished. They want metrics, not narratives. Your answers should be meaningful and avoid unnecessary details.
Know the Frequency
That is, if you’re working on a very long project, stakeholders might want a progress report delivered to them weekly or even daily. Find this out first and deliver your progress reports when the stakeholders expect them.
Break It Up
It’s a good idea to break your progress report into sections. This makes the report more readable. Having a section headlining informs the reader what to expect and helps guide them through the document.
Use clear and simple language; avoid jargon that can confuse the reader. You want them to know what you’re saying immediately and not have to struggle through it (or worse, misunderstand) what you’re trying to convey.
Having project management software can facilitate the reporting process. Depending on what tool you’re using, you can get real-time data and easy delivery to your stakeholders. This saves time and presents better data.
How ProjectManager.com Lets You Create Progress Reports
ProjectManager.com is award-winning project management software that organizes your tasks, teams and projects. Our features help you plan, monitor and report on every aspect of the project. Our cloud-based tool means that you’re getting real-time data to create more accurate and timely reports.
Stakeholders want to see the big picture and our one-click reporting tools make it easy to get them just the data they want to see. Our reporting feature lets you make instant reports on task, time, costs, timesheets, project variance and more. Plus, sharing it with stakeholders is easy!
To get an instant status report, use our dashboard feature. The real-time dashboard is constantly collecting data from your team and automatically calculating it to display in easy-to-read project metrics that show the percentage complete on tasks, how much time is left, team workload and more.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based tool that delivers real-time data to help you make better decisions. Project managers get transparency into every aspect of the project’s life cycle and teams are placed on a collaborative platform that fosters better work. See why organizations from NASA to Ralph Lauren use our tool and take this free 30-day trial today.