A project report is a document that communicates the progress of aspects of the project, containing data relevant to that part of the project and the audience it’s addressed to.
Project management reports are something that you’ll be generating regularly over the course of the project. They can sometimes feel tedious and frustrate you for the time and effort needed to step away from the project’s management to share information on the project with team members or sponsors.
But reporting for projects is crucial, so don’t fight it. While you might never love writing reports, you can learn how to produce them more efficiently.
Why Is Project Reporting Important?
Project management reporting is one of the ways you communicate with your project team and stakeholders. Whether it’s done daily or weekly, you’ve got a quick and easy way to keep team members on task and stakeholders informed. That means less micromanaging and interruptions.
A project progress report also serves you as it’s a paper trail documenting the project. You have a history to look back on and help you make decisions as you’re moving forward. They also give you a precedent when making those changes to back up your reasoning.
The status report keeps a flow of information moving through the various people in the project. This creates transparency, especially important for stakeholders, who need updates so they are confident in your ability to drive the project to a successful end.
How to Write a Project Status Report
Writing a report isn’t hard, though it can be stressful. You want to make sure you deliver all right data to the right person or else they’re ineffective. So, just like managing a project, you want to approach writing a report as a process, step by step.
Step 1: Follow the Plan
Always refer to the project back when writing your report. You define metrics in that plan, and your report should use those measurements as a baseline. It’s important that the report is rooted in the plan so that it makes contextual sense.
Step 2: Know Your Audience
This cannot be emphasized enough. If you’re writing to your team, then you’re likely going into greater detail than if you are writing to stakeholders who want a more general overview of the project’s progress. Communications are lost when you don’t know who you’re targeting. You’re going to frustrate and confuse, rather than instruct and inform. So, know what is expected from your audience, and then deliver upon those expectations in your report.
Step 3: Be Organized
Reporting for projects requires a clear and focused attention to detail. If you have too much data, or are discussing data points that leap from one slide to another, you’re not communicating, you’re obscuring. You have to take time to organize your thoughts and make a decision as to the through line when narrating the story you want to tell. Leave out what isn’t important, and structure your data so it makes logical sense. The more organized you are, the more effective your presentation.
Step 4: Share Results, Not Details
Again, you don’t want to bore your audience with too much detail. This goes for your verbal presentations as well as any reports shared out. Your audience only needs (in fact, they really only want) what’s pertinent to their interests. So, don’t hide the broader point of the report in minutia. In other words, serve them the meat and save the garnish.
Step 5: Be Concise
No one wants to read a novel about the project. You might love all the ins and outs of the work, but it’s unlikely your audience does, and even if they do, they’re too busy to spend time on details that don’t concern them. So, being brief and to the point is a good way to ensure that you’re only sticking to the basics and cutting out the filler.
Step 6: Don’t Neglect Attachments
After all that careful editing of your presentation, you might feel that there’s some background or other data that you left out which is maybe not critical, but still important. Of course, you’re not going to have the time or space to include everything in the presentation report, which is why you can later share the report and include additional attachments. Then if your audience has the time and interest to delve a bit deeper into your addendums, they have that opportunity, while keeping the actual report direct and to the point.
How Project Management Tools Can Help
Using an online PM tool will improve the report-writing process. You’re able to generate reports quicker and easier (literally the click of a button), as well as being able to monitor your team’s progress through the project.
PM tools that are cloud-based collect data in real-time. When your team updates their status or timesheet, that information is fed instantly into the tool, so when you want to generate a report you’ve got an up-to-date and accurate picture of the project.
Reports in One Click
Reports can be made from any number of metrics from the software. You can get data from project status, tasks, timesheets, team workload, expenses or any other project measurement. Best of all, the importing and exporting you’d have to do previously, particularly if you were using Excel, is eliminated. You can simply pick the data you want and with a single keystroke you’ve got an executive-ready report.
The various metrics you’re PM tool gathers can be vast, and you probably don’t want everything. You can get just the data you need, however, by filtering either by project or task or team member or any other number of variables. The progress report can be as general as you want, or you can drill down to deeper data, if needed.
Monitor Real-Time Progress
One of the many uses of a project reporting is that it can give you a snapshot of where you are at that moment in the project, so you know if you’re on schedule. A real-time dashboard is a series of always-on reports that help you do the hard work of calculating your planned versus actual progress across team members, tasks and projects. You can even share dashboards with stakeholders in a meeting, so everyone knows they’re looking at the latest data. Plus, with just one click, you’re able to respond quickly when the project is going off-track. Instead of working out these figures yourself, the PM tool does it for you, and it does it in eye-catching graphs and charts it makes from the dashboard view.
Great for Portfolio Management
As time-consuming as reporting on a project might be, imagine if you’re managing a portfolio of projects. That multiples your work by whatever factor of projects in the portfolio. Here, a PM tool with portfolio reports and dashboards is invaluable, as you can view your portfolio and see the health of the individual projects and their performances all in one place. Then you can drill down for greater detail depending on the report you’re generating.
Making reports has never been easier when you’re using an online project management software like ProjectManager.com. Because our product is cloud-based, your information is more timely, giving your reports an accuracy without the busywork of calculating all that data yourself. Try it for yourself and tell us what you think by following this link to a free 30-day trial.